Saturday, September 06, 2008

"Good peasant food"

Years ago, Alan S----, who introduced me both to De Danann and the very baroque ins-and-outs of certain kinds of psychosexual politics, also taught me some cooking principles, most crucial of which he called "good peasant food." He cooked rice, or pasta, or pesto, or corn and beans, and usually based those recipes upon poor-folks' food from around the world: Mexico, South Europe, the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, etc. And typically they reflected the same basic ideas: use local food and avoid costly stuff that travels; avoid expensive meat and fish; combine grains, beans, and greens to maximize effective protein results; learn the particular spices that provide the feel of particular regional cuisines (cumin, garlic, and cayenne for Mexico; turmeric, cumin, garlic, and chile for India; lemon, garlic, basil, salt and pepper for the Med; sage, thyme, onion, and garlic for Ireland and the British Isles).

He called it "good peasant food" because he had already sussed out, like generations upon generations of poor people the world over, that these principles yielded good, healthy, tasteful food at low cost.

It's thus no revelation that both the "slow food" movement and the various types who are now, finally, belatedly, 30 years too late, talking about lowering food costs are talking about these same things. Beans are cheaper than meat; dried or local food is cheaper than imported or animal food; cooking for yourself is cheaper than eating or taking out.

Hence this:

Dr Coyote's "good peasant food" chickpea pasta

Soak, pressure-cook, or open a can of chickpeas. Wash carefully but save the canning water.

If/as possible, immerse the chickpeas in water. If they're soaked or pressure-cooked, the hulls will gradually float to the surface of the water and can be scooped away (hulled chickpeas are much nicer--Tom Binkley used to insist upon them).

Meanwhile, boil water, with a splash of olive oil, sufficient to deeply cover however much pasta--you can never have too high a proportion of water to dried pasta. Bring to strong rolling boil.

Add pasta, stirring once or twice to keep the pasta from sticking. Turn heat down and cover the pot with the lid (but leave it cracked open so steam can escape): make sure a light boil continues. Do NOT let the water come off the boil.

Meanwhile, heat canned or jarred tomato sauce. Split the amount of your chickpeas. Roughly chop, food process or blend 1/2 chickpeas--leave them crumbly. Add to tomato sauce and stir.

Then add second 1/2 of whole chickpeas. Simmer sauce until warmed through.

Cook pasta until still relatively al dente (chewy). Remover from heat, drain, return to pot, and add a splash of olive oil. Stir and return to the now-shut-off (but still warm) burner. Cover for 2 to 3 minutes (this completes the cooking and infuses the pasta with the flavor of the olive oil). Add chickpea sauce and stir. Garnish with grated cheese (or perhaps pignolia or grated almonds).

Serve with a green salad, tossed with 7 parts olive oil to 1 part wine vinegar. Sprinkle with black pepper and a bit of salt.

Serve with crusty bread and a cheap red wine.

It's fed people in South Europe for 1000 years--since pasta came from China--and it'll feed you too.

1 comment:

sunshine said...

dr. coyote:
keeping graduate students fed for years to come.
thank you very much for that.