Tag Archives: Chickpeas

Farinata and a leap of faith.

Sometimes in life, you just have to take a leap of faith and believe that it will all turn out ok. I am not what you would call a worrier. I have discovered that the things you stay up all night angsting over usually never end up happening. It is those things it never even occurred to you to worry about that blindside you and whack you over the head. So I live my life somewhat like a turtle, not waiting for catastrophes to befall me. Disasters know where to find me if they need me.

Today’s blog post involves a recipe that takes a leap of faith to make. I was served Farinata (Italian Chickpea Flatbread) by my girlfriend Marla last week. I was visiting her in Toronto and she served me this unusual flatbread. It was a crispy and golden on top, and addictively chewy in the center. The bottom crust had a thin film of deliciously fruity olive oil and the flatbread was flavored with rosemary, salt and black pepper. She discovered the recipe on the lovely blog, Kalyn’s Kitchen.

My friend Marla is one of the brightest and accomplished women I know. She was recently named one of Canada’s Top Women Entrepreneurs. In addition to being smart as hell, she is also quite elegant and stylish. She drinks Champagne cocktails. And on top of all that, she is a fantastic cook. Everytime she cooks for me, I leave with exciting new ideas and recipes to try.

Farinata is a thin flatbread made from chickpea flour. It originated in the Italian region of Liguria. It is quite a popular snack there. Bakeries throughout the Ligurian region post the time in their windows that the farinata will be coming out of the oven and customers line up around the corner for a hot slice. I did not post a sign letting my family know when it was coming out of our oven, but somehow they knew exactly when to appear in the kitchen to devour it.

It is the perfect appetizer to serve with drinks. Marla suggested topping room temperature slices with arugula, shaved slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh figs and then drizzling the whole thing with a good aged balsamic vinegar. I was unable to find the fresh figs, but even without them, it was amazing. My friend Josh said it tasted like summer!

The leap of faith for this recipe comes when you mix all the ingredients together and look at the “dough”. Chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt are mixed together in a large bowl. I ended up switching to a whisk to make the batter smooth. The batter was so thin and watery I just couldn’t believe that this would turn into a flatbread.

After mixing, the batter is left on the counter to rest for several hours. I was quite busy and did not get back to it for about 8 hours. When I returned, it looked exactly as it had that morning. For some reason I had expected it to have thickened or at least risen or bubbled. But it still resembled a very thin crepe batter. I preheated the oven to 475° F and once it was hot I placed a 12 inch round pizza pan in the oven for about 10 minutes to get it blisteringly hot. While I waited, I chopped up some fresh rosemary and mixed it into the batter. You could also use a 9 x 13 inch baking sheet with sides.

Once the hot pan comes out of the oven, cover the bottom with a thin film of good olive oil. I used about a tablespoon. Pour in the batter, sprinkle with some freshly ground black pepper and prepare to take a second leap of faith, that you will get the pan from the counter into the oven without spilling any batter. I placed my pizza pan on a sheet pan, but still managed to spill some on the bottom of my oven when I was sliding it in.

I kept turning on the oven light to see if anything was happening. I was convinced I was going to end up with chickpea soup. Sure enough, at around the 10 minute mark, it started to solidify around the edges, and after a further 10 minutes, I had a golden chickpea flatbread!

This is wonderful served plain without any toppings, but let your imagination go wild. Pecorino Romano, pears and honey would be fantastic. I would also love to try it with burrata, basil and ripe summer tomatoes!

Click here to print the recipe for Farinata.

Crisp Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas, Lemons and Carrots

There has been quite a bit of buzz (well in the culinary world at least), about New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark’s new cookbook, Cook This Now. My kitchen shelves are bulging with cookbooks and I resolved not to buy anymore, but I did order one to give as a gift to my sister. When it arrived, of course I had to look through it. Melissa organizes the book by month, which ordinarily irritates me. My husband can provide anyone interested with the entire litany of little things that irritate me, but let’s  keep it pleasant and not go there today. As I was saying, ordinarily, I prefer when cookbooks are organized by traditional categories (ie: appetizers, breads, chicken etc…) However, Melissa had me hooked from the very first January recipe, “White Bean Stew with Rosemary, Garlic and Farro.” She had me at farro!

So of course, I kept the cookbook for myself and ordered another one for my sister, plus a bonus book (Momofuko’s Milk Bar) as my penalty for being late. Bo, if you’re reading this, now you know why your gift was late.

And rebel that am, I skipped right past the first 2 January recipes and boldly tackled the 3rd one first!  Full disclosure here, I’m really not that much of a rebel, I just happened to have a whole chicken defrosting in the fridge.

Melissa likes to play a game when she looks through food magazines. She doesn’t read the recipes. Instead, she looks at the photos and imagines what she thinks the recipe should be. She says that her track record is pretty good at guessing accurately, but sometimes she’s way off base. And that’s how the recipe for crisp Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas, Lemons and Carrots was born. Melissa explains:

“The photo was of a roasted chicken on a bed of chickpeas and what I thought were tiny cubes of carrot. I could taste the dish in my head. The chickpeas were crunchy and salty next to the melting, sweet carrots and everything was suffused with chicken fat from the roasting bird.

    In fact, the carrots turned out to be bits of orange bell pepper (definitely not in season in January in New York) and the chickpeas were added to the pan during the last few minutes of cooking so they would stay moist and soft, without the time to absorb much in the way of chicken essence. I’m sure it was a perfectly good dish. But I liked my own idea better.”

Her description was very persuasive. I set to work right away. Lemons are sliced into little wedges and then mixed with chickpeas and garam masala, an Indian spice blend. I happened to have rainbow carrots and some parsnips, so they got thrown into the pan as well.

More garam masala is rubbed all over the chicken and then the chicken is seasoned with salt and pepper and then stuffed with more lemon and some fresh thyme. Melissa suggests rubbing the chicken with softened butter, but I left this step out as I didn’t want the extra fat. The stuffed chicken is placed on a rack, above the carrots and parsnips and roasted in a 400° F oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, the chickpea-lemon mixture is added to the bottom of the pan and the chicken gets about another hour in the oven. While it was roasting I prepared the gremolata garnish.

This dish is pure roast chicken goodness! Moist and succulent and intensely flavourful.The carrots and parsnips turned dark brown and had a wonderful sweet caramelized flavour. The chickpeas turned all crispy from roasting in the chicken juices. The only part of the dish we didn’t love was the roasted lemons. Melissa says they are edible, but we found them to be too bitter. Next time, and there will be a next time very soon, I will add only the zest of the lemons to the chickpeas.

Click here to print the recipe for Crisp Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas, Lemons and Carrots.

Beetroot and Chickpea Salad

I am very fortunate that I get to spend my summers at our cottage by the lake. We entertain guests all summer long and really enjoy being hosts. However, there is something so nice about being a guest every once in a while. Last weekend we got to play the role of guests as we headed off to visit friends at their cottage in The Muskokas.

For the purpose of this post, I will call our friends, “Mr. and  Mrs. Monkey.” Of course, that is not their real names, but I am reluctant to reveal their identity for fear that once everyone learns what generous hosts they are,  they will soon be over run with guests and will no longer have space for us.

I have nicknamed them “Mr. and Mrs. Monkey” as they share a certain personality trait with that animal.

“Tests in Capuchin monkeys showed the animals consistently chose to share food with another monkey if given the option, suggesting they are capable of empathy, the team at the Yerkes Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta found.

“They seem to care for the welfare of those they know,” Frans de Waal, director of the Living Links Center at Yerkes, said in a statement.

His team tested eight female brown Capuchin monkeys in pairs. They could choose a token that gave only themselves a treat or an option that rewarded both of them, called a pro-social option.

“The fact the Capuchins predominantly selected the pro-social option must mean seeing another monkey receive food is satisfying or rewarding for them,” said de Waal.

Our friends are indeed generous and gracious hosts, just like those Capuchin Monkeys. When we arrived, hot and tired, after a 5 hour drive, Mrs. Monkey had the Prosecco chilled and ready to open. She immediately ushered us to the dock for cocktails.

While we were in the kitchen, getting the Angus Bear Paw Burgers ready for dinner, I noticed that the fridge had a chalkboard panel where Mr. Monkee had written “Dad’s 10 Statements”. One of his rules to live by is further evidence that my friends are caring about the welfare of others.

“In life there are givers and takers, always be a giver!”

The next morning, my husband and The Monkees decided to go for a 60 km bike ride. I opted out and offered to have lunch ready when they returned. When I mentioned that I was going to go out for a power walk, Mrs. Monkee loaned me  a hat, some sunblock, headphones for my i-pod (I had forgotten mine), some Bounce dryer sheets (excellent to clip onto your hat as the scent keeps the deer flies away) and a bear whistle.

WHAT??? A bear whistle? She explained that there had been a bear citing a few weeks ago so runners were advised to blow a whistle every so often to keep bears away. Like I said, she is so giving and generous. Off they went on their bike ride and I went for my walk, blowing that whistle every 30 seconds. While I did not have a bear sighting, I did attract every dog within a 30 mile radius!

After I got back from my walk and cooled off in the lake, I got to work on lunch. Mrs. Monkee had thoughtfully left the recipe out for me. I looked at the open page of the beautiful cookbook she left out for me. “Beetroot and Chickpea Salad.”

Okay, here was my dilemma. I hate beets. I want so badly to like them, because they are so beautiful, but every time I try to eat one, I gag. They have a certain earthiness that I just can’t deal with. I have tried them roasted,steamed and grilled. I have tried, golden beets, candy cane (striped)beets, and baby beets.  I just can’t stand them.  So, what to do? Do I accidentally throw the beets out, and say I couldn’t find them or do I just suck it up like a gracious guest and make the beet salad.

Of course I did the right thing and made the salad, beets and all. (Mom, you raised me right!) Mrs. Monkee had already gone to the trouble of roasting and peeling the beets, so all I had to do was slice them up and prepare the dressing and other salad ingredients.

The dressing was the most unusual combination of ingredients I had ever seen. Chickpeas, beets, lemon juice, garlic, mint, sugar and olive oil, all blended to make a smooth dressing. It was just so strange that I had to taste it. Say… I do like beets, well beet salad dressing,… after all. The other ingredients mellowed the beet taste and just a hint of beet was all I could taste in the dressing.

I added some water and a bit more oil than the recipe called for, to thin out the dressing. I also pureed the heck out of it so it was quite smooth. I washed some spinach, diced some celery and cucumbers and soaked some red onions to add to the salad.

The salad is topped with additional chick peas, beets and some feta. Mrs. Monkee arrived home just in time to toss.

At lunch, I politely ate around the beets, leaving a little hill of them at the side of my plate. Mrs. Monkey, politely ate the beets off my plate. After 38 years of friendship, no words were necessary.

Click here to print the recipe for Beetroot and Chickpea Salad.