Quick Dinner from a Greek Island

December 16 – 22, 2019

Glazed Carrots

Monday:                   Leftovers with glazed carrots

Kale Soup

Tuesday:                   Lemony Lentil-Kale Soup with Sweet Potatoes (Milk Street)

Image result for pictures of city hall philadelphia

Wednesday:            Philly

Welcome Home

Welcome Home from Philadelphia

Thursday:                 Dunnings Group

Nicoise platter

Friday:                       Giant Nicoise Salad

Chickpeas

Saturday:                  Greek Braised Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Oranges (Milk Street)

Meatball plate

Sunday:                     Neapolitan Meatballs with Ragu, Spaghetti with Ricotta and Lemon, Salad (Milk Street)

NOTE:  Remember that this blog is always a week behind.  So our Christmas dinner will be in next week’s post.

We live in a world where, at the click of a mouse, you can access scholarly editions of the Church Fathers, read Shakespeare or see scenes from his plays, order food to be delivered now and clothing to be delivered tomorrow, and get recipes for anything from Roast Pig with Poi to Pressed Duck to, well, Sweet and Savory Braised Chickpeas in the style of Ikaria.

And, not so oddly enough, those chickpeas were one of the things we cooked last week, along with the best meatballs I have ever had.  The chickpeas, however, not the meatballs will be this week’s ‘keeper’ for two reasons:

  1. You’ve had meatballs at least once in the last year – so explore a little. A world of recipes is at your fingertips, use them.
  2. The taste of these chickpeas is exotic – in a good way – and might help you to expand your own cooking. Oranges do indeed go with chickpeas and tomatoes, as does honey, and a few herbs that you probably have in your refrigerator – I mean, your refrigerator at home, not the one in your winter place on Ikaria.

Please understand – if you’re of Italian extraction, you should cook pasta and meatballs to your heart’s content,* if Syrian, keep up your Schwarma, if Irish, make lots of stew.  But, occasionally, you ought to get out of your rut, venture outside your comfort zone, make dinner more exciting and learn something new.

*I’m Irish but Italian is, far and away, my favorite cooking tradition.

I have been big on Greek flavors (Beez a bit less so) ever since I tasted a lamb roasted over a wood fire at the summer home of Virgil Cantini, a local artist.  I was eighteen, and that memory plays strongly in this whole cooking exercise of mine.

But roasting a lamb is a big deal, requires a big fire, and a big crowd to eat it.  These beans are perfect for a week-night meal for you and one or two others – easy to cook, finished in 30 minutes, and, if not as satisfying as the lamb – something you can eat on a regular basis without upsetting PETA.

Chickpeas pot

IKARIA’S SWEET AND SAVORY BRAISED CHICKPEAS

(adapted from Milk Street magazine, January-February, 2020)

Timing:                                              30 – 35 minutes

Ingredients:                                         Serves 4

3 cans (15.5 oz.) of chickpeas drained – ¼ to ½ cup of the chickpea liquid reserved
28-ounce can of diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon grated orange zest, plus ¼ cup of orange juice

1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced (we halve each half and slice into quarter moons – we find it easier to spoon the onions up that way)

3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 sprig of rosemary
5 bay leaves
½ cup lightly-packed, chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
1 tablespoon of honey, plus one more for garnishing
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnishing
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Prep:

Drain chickpeas into sieve over bowl – you want to capture the liquid for use in the recipe.

Slice onion and garlic

Chop parsley and oregano

Open the can of tomatoes and measure out other ingredients

Cook:

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the oil, tomato paste and 1 tablespoon of honey and cook, stirring often, until it begins to brown – 5 to 7 minutes

Stir in the chickpeas, and then the tomatoes with their juices and bring to a simmer over medium-high.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated – about 11 minutes.

Now stir in the onion, garlic, bay, rosemary, orange juice, ¼ cup of the reserved liquid and 1 ½ teaspoons each of salt and pepper.

Bring to a simmer again, then cook over medium-low, stirring from time to time, until the onion has softened – about 13 minutes.  Add more of the chickpea liquid if it looks too dry.

Remove from the heat and correct seasoning as needed with salt and pepper.  Stir in the oregano and the orange zest.  Transfer to serving bowls and sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with a bit of honey and olive oil.