Search Everything Tasty


Welcome to Everything Tasty

Welcome to Everything Tasty!
We hope you will add your comments, restaurant reviews, recipes, or whatever else you like, and make this blog as much your own as it is ours.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pantry Power: Surviving the snow with a braised chickpea and mushroom dish that uses no fresh ingredients.

One of the most remarkable things about living in the modern world is the remarkable array of fresh produce available in supermarkets. At the Shaws (by no means a fancy grocery store) within walking distance from my house in Somerville, I can reliably buy such varied vegetables as fennel, arugula, habaneros, multiple kinds of kale, and sometimes even tomatillos, all shipped from across the world to New England while still at the peak of freshness–to say nothing of the wide variety of meat and seafood available. Such ingredients are exciting and inspiring, a privilege to be able to cook with.

However, the availability of this fresh produce, coupled with the increasing interest taken by the public in high-quality ingredients in general, has produced an unfortunate false dichotomy in many people’s minds– that if fresh ingredients are high-quality, natural, and healthful, preserved ones must conversely be low-quality, artificial, and unhealthful. Restaurants marketing to a certain type of consumer (largely semi-affluent and white) tout the freshness of all their ingredients as proof of their superiority, and the use of anything that isn’t perishable is seen in some quarters as proof that a dish is “unnatural.”

In fact, this view runs counter to actual history. In some respects of course, our ancestors were more likely than we are to use certain very fresh ingredients–they were far more likely to grow their own vegetables and raise their own animals for instance. However, they were also perpetually concerned with how to make that food last, to keep themselves fed through winter months and in the days before refrigeration. Only a small fraction of produce was eaten fresh–the rest was canned, dried, pickled, smoked, or otherwise preserved against spoilage. Some foods, in fact, are better when preserved–just imagine a Jewish deli without corned beef, lox, or dill pickles, or contemplate the fantastic flavors of Spanish baccalau (salt cod) or Mexican carne seca (dried beef, reconstituted with lime juice and tomatoes). When making pasta sauce, Italian-American chefs very often reach not for the often bland fresh tomatoes in the produce aisle, but for canned San Marzano tomatoes, ideal for the purpose and preserved at their peak for sauce making. This recipe makes use of them in their crushed state, as well as an ingredient I’ve come to obsess over for just this reason–dried mushrooms, which for sautéed applications pack more flavor than fresh mushrooms do (in part because you can buy highly flavorful varieties like porcini, and in part because the drying process concentrates flavors) and because the rehydrating liquid then becomes a useful ingredient in and of itself.

More than the particular flavor advantages of certain preserved ingredients though, I wanted to highlight them here because they serve a vital interest–they protect you, and they make it far easier to cook at home. How often have you eaten mediocre takeout because you had enough time to buy food or cook, but not both? How often have you picked up ingredients for a recipe, been delayed a couple of days in making it, and had everything go off? I’ve had both happen to me with embarrassing frequency. And then there are days like today, when the snow comes down by the bucketful and the grocery store is a long trudge away. With a well-stocked pantry, as in the days of old, you can be secure in the knowledge that you’ll always be able to feed yourself. When you have fresh ingredients available, they can play starring roles, supported by what you have in the cupboard. And when you don’t, like today, you can still turn out a delicious, healthy meal entirely out of things you can keep on hand indefinitely. 

Well, I suppose the parsley garnish is fresh. Or it was anyway, when I bought it two weeks ago. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well its held up.

Braised chickpeas and trio of mushrooms over couscous
Approx. 30 minutes (plus mushroom soaking time)
Serves four

(As usual, measurements are approximate. And, in any event, the whole point of this is to make use of what you have on hand)

2oz by weight of dried mushrooms. I used 1 oz of Maitake, 1/2 oz of King Trumpet, and 1/2 oz of porcini 
1 can chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
~1/4 cup crushed tomatoes 
10 oz plain couscous (you could also use rice, especially short grain, or even pasta) 
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter 
1 small yellow or white onion, sliced fine or diced (optional–i actually didn’t have any on hand and it came out great, but it would be nice) 
2 cloves garlic, minced (again, optional. I actually used a big clove of some nice black garlic [preserved via fermentation] from Trader Joes that Annie’s mother had given us, which was lovely)
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted (Optional as above. Wasn’t necessary, but I’ve used it in couscous before and it’s very nice. You could also use pistachios.) 
1 oz sherry. 

Flavorings and spices (all optional–use what you like/have): 
1 teaspoon za’atar  (if unavailable, use dry thyme or oregano, along with some sesame seeds if available)
Large pinch five spice powder
Large pinch red pepper flake
Large pinch sumac
Dash smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Generous splash Worcestershire sauce 
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
~1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Salt and pepper to taste.

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

  1. Place mushrooms into any small bowl or container which you have a second one of. Cover with warm water, place the second bowl into the first, and put something in the second bowl to serve as a weight, such as a can of beans . Soak for roughly 30 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and pliable to the touch. (if you can’t do this setup, feel free to weight the mushrooms down another way, or just let soak longer and stir regularly).
  2. When mushrooms are ready, drain through a strainer with a bowl underneath to catch the soaking liquid. Wash mushrooms thoroughly to remove any grit. Pour soaking liquid through a coffee filter or cheesecloth and reserve. 
  3. Grind the cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds in a spice grinder/coffee grinder and reserve. If desired, quickly toast the seeds before grinding in the toaster oven or a dry pan, but be careful not to burn them. 
  4. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the za’atar, five spice powder, pepper flakes, and paprika and heat for approximately one minute to infuse the oil. If using the onions, add at this stage and stir regularly until they begins to caramelize. Otherwise proceed directly to step 5.
  5. Increase heat to medium high and add the chickpeas.  Salt and stir frequently until they begin to brown and crisp. 
  6. Add a splash of vinegar and scrape to deglaze the pan. Add the mushrooms and sauté until juices begin to bubble out and they taste cooked through. When this process is almost complete, add 1 tbsp of butter and stir well to coat.
  7. Add the sherry and scrape thoroughly to deglaze. Add the mushroom liquid, some or all of the chickpea soaking liquid (I went with roughly two ounces), and the crushed tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and maintain a steady simmer. Add the Worcestershire sauce,  pomegranate molasses, and vinegar to taste along with salt and pepper and continue to simmer until you’re happy with the flavor and the chickpeas are tender but not disintegrated. 
  8. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan or pot, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and add the ground fennel-cumin-coriander mixture. Cook stirring until fragrant, then add 2 cups of water and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then add the couscous, cover, and remove from the heat. Let stand five minutes.
  9. When couscous is done, fluff with a fork and stir in 1 tbsp of butter, along with the almonds if using and more salt to taste. Serve mushroom-chickpea sauce over couscous and top with feta and parsley. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let us know what you think, add your own recipes, etc.