Pan-fried Chickpeas with Chorizo and Spinach

April 24, 2010

I know. I know. I get it. I’m a flaky, good-for-nothing butthead. But seriously guys, ME SO BUSY!!! Between the inexorable schoolwork and the fruitless job hunting, I’ve let the blog fall by the wayside. I haven’t even had a chance to cook, let alone flog.

Alright, enough with the apologies. Let’s get to the meat of this article. What meat you ask? Chorizo! Chorizo is a heavily seasoned, spicy sausage. It’s Spain’s answer to the Polish sausage. Most of the chorizo you’re gonna get is cured, so the sausage is ready to eat. But this is Chorizo, not some run-of-the-mill Slim Jim. It’s distinctive flavor (which comes from Pimentón—Spanish Paprika) adds incredible depth to a dull dish.

Fried Chickpeas and Chorizo! This recipe comes from Mark Bittman’s “The Minimalist” segment on “The New York Times.” This dish is pretty straightforward, and requires no extra seasoning, thanks to the deep flavor of the sausage. The crunchy breadcrumbs and crisp chickpeas contrast well with the soft spinach. The recipe only called for 4 ounces of Chorizo, so I had leftover chorizo to put in my eggs the next morning. As the Spainards would say, está para chuparse los dedos.

On the topic of Spain, I’ve decided to study abroad next year for both semesters. While there, I will flog about Spain’s food culture. My hope is to use my blog as a platform to discuss Spanish gastronomy, similar to David Lebovitz’s Parisian food blog. After all, I’m sure there’s a lot more to Spain than tapas…

Recipe courtesy of Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist (February 24, 2010)

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, as dry as possible. We will be shallow-frying them, and we want them nice and dry before adding them to pan
Salt and black pepper
4 ounces chorizo*, diced
½ pound spinach, roughly chopped
¼ cup sherry
1 to 2 cups bread crumbs, enough to cover the dish.

1. Heat the broiler.

2. Put three tablespoons of the oil in an oven-proof skillet large enough to hold chickpeas in one layer over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add chickpeas and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until chickpeas begin to brown, about 10 minutes, then add chorizo. Continue cooking for another 5 to 8 minutes or until chickpeas are crisp; use a slotted spoon to remove chickpeas and chorizo from pan and set aside.

4. Add the remainder of the 1/4 cup of oil to the pan; when it’s hot, add spinach and sherry, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook spinach over medium-low heat until very soft and the liquid has evaporated. Add chickpeas and chorizo back to the pan and toss quickly to combine; top with bread crumbs, drizzle with a bit more oil and run pan under the broiler to lightly brown the top. This should take at most a minute. Mark says you can serve it either hot or at room temp, but I personally think it is far superior when served hot.

Yield: 4 servings. Great as a side dish or even a light main course.

*Note: I used the brand Palacio’s when choosing my chorizo. They carried it in spicy and non-spicy. Don’t be intimidated by the label—go with the spicy. The spinach and the chickpeas help to diminish the spiciness. I made the dish with someone with a low spice tolerance, and she was fine.


There Will Be Blood (Oranges)

March 2, 2010

The other day, I was strolling through the cafeteria when something in the “produce section” caught my eye. The cafeteria’s fruit options are normally pretty mundane (bananas, pears, apples), but I had just spotted some maroon-hued spheres nestled amongst the pedestrian oranges.
Did my eyes deceive me? Were there actually blood oranges? Like a nineteenth-century Californian prospecting for gold, I sifted through the fruit pile, and ended up with a trove of citrusy treasure. I snatched one or two (or seven) blood oranges, hid them in my backpack, and absconded from the cafeteria. All without raising the suspicions of the eagle-eyed lunch ladies.


As I walked back to my room, I mulled over my culinary options. Should I make a blood orange sorbet? Or maybe some marmelade? In the end, I decided on a tart—a perfect Valentine’s treat. The recipe (courtesy of Food and Wine via Smitten Kitchen) seemed relatively easy.

A wine bottle = makeshift rolling pin

If I make this again, I’ll be buying one of those Pillsbury pie crusts, because the dough took way longer than I thought. Due to my shoddy knife skills and the absence of a countertop, the peeling/cutting of the oranges was frustratingly messy and time-consuming. Once the genocide of the blood oranges finished, I meticulously assembled the tart by artfully arranging the sections on the pastry. All that was left was to let it freeze overnight. Unfortunately, the tart didn’t fit in my freezer, so I decided to put it in the dorm’s communal freezer. No big deal, right? After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

Then things got ugly. I checked on the tart after about thirty minutes, only to find the aluminum foil covering balled up on the ground outside of the fridge. Upon opening the fridge door, I was greeted with the mutilated remains of my Blood Tart. Someone with a bad case of the drunchies (drunk munchies) had obviously checked the fridge for goodies and found my uncooked tart. I was angry that I had put three hours into putting this tart together, only to have some drunken douchebag tear it apart in the course of thirty minutes.

I suppose it was karma. For all I know, this guy (or girl) had seen me steal the oranges from the cafeteria and was angered by my epicurean injustices. Gastronomical vigilantism is rare, but not unheard of.

Luckily, there was enough dough and fruit left behind for me to reassemble it. I shoved the citrusy innards back inside of the tart and patched up the gaping holes with some newly made dough. By the end of the evening, I had a passable Franken-tart.

While it wasn’t the prettiest looking dessert, it was damn delicious. After cooking the tart, I drizzled some homemade caramel on top, which also helped conceal the tart’s reconstructive surgery scars.  Everyone said it was tasty; the caramel was probably the best part.

So collegiate cooking lesson for the day: Don’t trust the people you live with, particularly when it comes to delicious food.  And never put something of value in the communal kitchen.

Flaky Blood Orange Tart
Adapted from Zoe Nathan, via Food and Wine

This crust was delicious, but if you’re pressed for time (or just lazy) then buy a Pillsbury pie crust. They are cheap, fast, and versatile.

Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, the stick cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
3 tablespoons ice water
8 to 10 blood oranges (about 5 ounces each) [I only needed 7]
1 large egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons of water

Preparing the dough
In a food processor, pulse the 1 cup of flour with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the baking powder and salt. Add the stick of cold butter and pulse several times, just until it is the size of peas. Sprinkle the dough with the ice water and pulse just until moistened crumbs form. Turn the crumbs out onto a work surface, knead once or twice and pat the pastry into a disk. Wrap the pastry in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to an 11-inch round, about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the pastry to a parchment paper–lined flat cookie sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until chilled.

Preparing the fruit
Peel the blood oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Thinly slice 2 of the oranges crosswise; remove the pits. Transfer the orange slices to a plate. Working over a sieve set over a bowl, cut in between the membranes of the remaining oranges, releasing the sections into the sieve. If you (like me) lack a sieve, a gentle squeeze with your hand will suffice. Remove the pits and gently shake out as much juice as possible without mashing the sections; you will need 1 cup of sections. Reserve the orange juice for another use.

Assembling the tart
Arrange the orange sections on the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the oranges. Using a paring knife, thinly slice the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over the oranges. Fold up the pastry over the oranges, leaving most of the oranges uncovered. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Arrange the orange slices on top, leaving a 1-inch border of pastry all around. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar on top. Freeze the tart until solid, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. This allows it to firm and and hold its shape in the oven.

Baking the tart
Preheat the oven to 375° and position a rack in the center. Bake the tart directly from the freezer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the pastry is is a golden brown. Let the tart cool for at least 30 minutes before serving it. When ready to serve, pour Caramel sauce on top.

Deep, Dark Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

Makes about 1 1/3 cups of dessert sauce

1 cup sugar
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) salted butter,

1/2 cup plus two tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature

Melt the sugar over medium high heat in a large pot (at least two or three quarts) whisking or stirring the sugar as it melts to ensure it heats evenly. If the sugar begins to clump, then you’ve been over-stirring. Should this happen, let it sit for about twenty seconds, before you continue to stir. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice, dark copper color. Add the butter all at once and stir it in. Once you turn off the heat, pour in the heavy cream (The sauce will foam up quite a bit when you add it; which is why you want the larger pot), whisking it until you get a smooth sauce. If any pieces of hardened sugar remain, they can be strained/picked out.

You use it right away or pour it into a jar and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you take it out, it will likely have thickened a bit but 30 seconds in the microwave brings it right back to pouring consistency.