Hara Chana or Green Garbanzos

Hara Chana or Green Garbanzos

Hara Chana, Garbanzos, Green Chickpeas

Until then I had seen them only naked, brown and dry; but on Saturday I got to see them dressed, green and fresh! How on earth did I miss seeing fresh chickpeas in their full regalia until  that day? I am a little embarrassed to admit to it, but as the French saying goes: un moment de honte est vite passé —a moment of shame is soon over! & the excitement makes up for the embarrassment!

We had planned to meet our BlogoBung friends Larry Litt and Eleanor Heartney for a food tour in Jackson Heights, Queens —their neighborhood for 10 years, and often called one of the most exotic places in New York City. After a delightful & tasty two hour aperitif of talking, munching — on Larry’s appetizing homemade Hummus & Salmon patés — & sipping Lillet at their house we went out for a wonderful Indian meal at Mehfil a Gujurati style restaurant.

Dhal

I had Dhal Makhini —creamy black lentils sautéed in butter with freshly ground spices— a restorative dish full of flavors with wonderful fresh coriander overtones that helped me get over my jet-lag. I got a taste of Eleanor and Larry’s delicate Tandoori Salmon & of Pierre’s rather bland Lamb Pasanda. Then we went for a walk and stopped at Patel Brothers —37-27 74th Street, (718) 898-3445 —“the granddaddy” of Indian groceries as quoted by the New York Times. That is where I discovered the fresh chickpeas. First, I saw them in the freezer, I grabbed a bag as I had never seen them green before, but Larry said “Wait! they’ll have them fresh in the produce section”. Larry knows the store like the palm of his hand and sure enough, here were the little green pods of hara chana —green chickpeas.

repackaged

I filled up half a bag while Pierre, guided by Larry’s expertise, selected Garam Masala & Curry powders. We also got mustard seeds, fresh turmeric, black lentils & Arrow Root flour—I like it  to make beurre manié, it is much lighter than wheat flour and gives the sauce a smoother consistency (a good option for my friend Anne B.!). Anyhow we took leave of our friends, our minds —and stomachs— filled with colors & scents.
Tuesday I finally got around to shell the peas for lunch. I am glad Pierre assisted me because unlike any other shell beans I know of, chickpeas have one pea per pod, only very occasionally two! A time consuming task that I would recommend doing while watching a good documentary or hire your guests while having aperitifs! (the fresh chick peas take no time to cook at all)

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Once shelled,  it turned out to be a small quantity so I decided to improvise a version of  a Hara Chana (green chickpeas), Aloo (potato), Patha gobi (cabbage) and Gajar (carrots) curry that turned out to be best vegetable stew I ever made. I think I was still very inspired by the tastes of the lentil dish I had. The fresh chickpeas are very tender with a subtle nutty flavor and a very smooth texture. Enhanced by the fragrant –medium hot—spices, this combination brings up a remarkable and specific savor. Once again I have to say that the decision of what to put in was made by default! Except for the chickpeas and the spices I literally gathered what was left over in the fridge and that was:

Vegetable

½ onion, diced
1 big carrot , diced
¼ cabbage, cut thick julienne
1 potato, diced
2 garlic cloves, slivered
½ bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 small piece of fresh turmeric, minced),
1 small piece of fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon of Garam Masala
1 tablespoon of Curry powder
Salt/Black pepper
/Water or vegetable broth.
Coat a skillet with olive oil —ghee would have been better but I didn’t have enough butter in my fridge to make clarified butter,— and under medium heat sauté the onions until soft.
Add all the vegetables including turmeric, ginger and garlic, sauté for a couple of minutes.
Add the garam Masala & Curry powder, salt and pepper. Mix well and add water to barely cover the veggies.
Once the liquid starts boiling, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15/20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
I served it with brown rice —Indian style rice would be obviously better, but that is what I had available— and garnish with fresh cilantro.  Namasté to Larry  Eleanor!

Nicole's Vegetable curry

En Route!

En Route!

Fear Factor by Nicole Peyrafitte (Nov 3rd 2004)Fear Factor Nov. 3, 2004 painting by N.P
(part of the Angoulème performance)

I really miss writing the blog regularly but a couple of deadlines have kept me totally busy. One of them is the preparation of the performance with Pierre Joris & Miles Joris-Peyrafitte that will happen this coming Thursday in Angoulême (France). No Thanksgiving for us! We are off tomorrow and below is the info about the show in case you are around this area. This is my first trip to the Poitou-Charente region and I am looking forward to discover their food specialties and have some of the delicious Pineau des Charentes — a mix of wine and cognac. It will be my pleasure to report if I have any time to do so. But right after, I am off to the Pyrenees for more work on Augustus Saint Gaudens.  I am leaving you with a few posts from last year, and please do dig into the archives and the categories.

Cabbage: a Winner for the Winter! (I)

A Winner for the Winter (II) : Cabbage Roll

Preview Recording & Thanksgiving

Angoulême Performance

Thursday November 25th 2:30Pm
L’art, L’éducation et le politique
Colloque International, Angoulême
Salle Nemo

Description of the show:

A multimedia performance of texts, videos, music, paintings commenting the “years of lead” (2000-2008) in the USA  and examining the relation beetween art, politic & education.  Pierre Joris, Nicole Peyrafitte & Miles Joris-Peyrafitte propose individual and communal attempts at resisting & criticizing the “Pax Americana.”

Ragoût Express

Ragoût Express

ragout express

A râgout express is a contradiction in term. A stew should cook as long as possible. This being said let’s move on!
The term râgout covers a lot of territory. A good definition would be “a  well-seasoned meat or fish stew usually with vegetables.” The word ragoût comes from old French ra-gouster “to revive the taste”. We already find several ragoût recipes in Apicius’ cookbook De Re Coquinaria (25 AD). The Latin name for ragoût is: offella – a diminutive for offa which means “piece of meat, morsel”. As the name indicates, all those recipes call for some meat cut up into small pieces, a lot of spices and marinating in liquid, often wine or garum. The English equivalent is stew —from middle English stewen, to bathe in a steam bath; from old French estuver, possibly from vulgar Latin extufare, and from the Greek tuphos, source also for typhus and typhoid which provokes very high fevers.
Every cultures have some sort of ragoût. To name but a few: the Italians have ragús, the Mexicans have moles, the Spanish guisados.  They all emphasize the use of produce of their area, an  illustration of the local food culture. For example let’s take daube,  a typical french ragoût made with beef and red wine, in New Orleans it became: “daube de boeuf Créole” where the wine has been replaced by rum.  Have you tried it? I have not, but below are Elizabeth Davis ‘ words on it:

“The meat is studded with olives and cooked with rum instead of wine, and the curious point is that although the result is a very rich-tasting dish I think very few people would be able to detect the presence of rum, or to say in what precise way the stew differs from the French original”.

A big advantage of stews is that you can use the less expensive cuts of meat. After marinating over night or for several hours, and after the long simmering on top of the stove or in the oven the meat will be tender. If you use poultry, like in my recipe today, the meat is much leaner and will cook faster. It had too in my case!

So back to the story behind today’s recipe. We had to be out of the house at 7:30pm; it was 6:10pm. Pierre wanted to order out and I really didn’t. Any decent take out in our area takes 45 minutes and it’s expensive. I had a 2 lb turkey breast  in the fridge and I had planned to cook and eat it that night! Granted we ate a little fast and to be really honest the dish tasted better the next day, but that’s true of any stew.  Please look at the short video below for the recipe. I am still trying to find better ways to cook/film at the same time. Thank you for your patience and suggestions are always welcome!

Purple Cabbage & Gromperen Plaâ

Purple Cabbage & Gromperen Plaâ

Red Cabbage Salad

When we took off for France in mid-July I left a purple cabbage (red cabbage is actually never “red”) in the fridge. I was pretty confident it would keep until our return. It was a beautiful purple cabbage from our CSA share and I actually wrote a post and took pictures about that particular share — click here for details. It was a very firm,  bright, shiny and freshly picked purple cabbage.  I must say I was a little surprised to find it in the CSA box so early in the season.  When we returned mid-August, the cabbage was holding great, no obvious signs of aging. It was not wrapped, or in the crisper, but just decorating the middle shelf of the fridge. I still was not ready to eat it; summer veggies were still plentiful and I assimilate cabbage more with a fall/winter food. I became so used to see it in the fridge that I almost forgot to eat it.  But a few nights ago I pulled it out of the near empty fridge to accompany Pierre’s Bay Ridge version of a Luxembourgish dish: the Gromperen plaâ. Only the first layer of the cabbage leaves where a little limp, the rest was still crisp. Before I tell you a little more about the Gromperen  plaâ this is how I made the cabbage salad:
1/2  red/purple cabbage head sliced thinly
1 diced onion
1 diced apple
1 diced celery rib
Chopped walnuts and/or almonds

Moisten all the ingredients with olive oil. Drizzle with vinegar — it can be: apple cider, or rice or light wine vinegar. Add a dash of sesame oil —very little, the goal is to use it to outline the ingredients  not to really taste it (do you  know what I mean?). Then add  fresh  chopped Italian parsley, salt & pepper to taste.

Pierre was supposed to give me the detailed recipe of the Gromperen plaâ but as you can check on his blog he is not home very much these days. In Luxembourgish Gromper means potato & plaâ means dish —plat in French. This is the first dish Pierre’s sister Michou makes when we visit. All the ingredients go into a terrine or a lasagna type dish. As I indicated I don’t have an exact recipe but I think I am right to say that Pierre never really follows one either. This is the kind of dish that is adjustable to what you have and how you feel. I personally encourage this kind of cooking and would like to have the guts to write such a cook book! Now here are the indications for you to make your own potato dish:

Butter  the bottom of the pan.
Line with one layer of sliced parboiled potatoes.
Sprinkle with  diced sautéed onions.
Cut slices of Mettwurscht the “national” sausage of Luxembourg.
In Bay Ridge we don’t have Mettwurscht so Pierre decided to make the Gromperen plaâ with the Turkish sausage sujuk— a beef sausage usually spiced with cumin, sumac, garlic, paprika and other red pepper —we always get it at Aunt Halime’s Halal Meat Market on 3rd avenue and Ovington in Bay Ridge.
Repeat layers until there is no more room in the dish.
Then fill the dish with seasoned
heavy cream—with salt, pepper and a touch of freshly grated nutmeg—  until the top of the pan is barely covered.
Top with a generous layer of shredded
cheese – can be Swiss , Emmental , Gruyère or even cheddar! 
The result was superb; I had forgotten to take a picture of the dish before we started digging into it and next thing we knew is that the three diners around the table cleaned it up in a flash! The combination of the textures and tastes were perfect. Thanks Pierre and this menu is a keeper! The only disappointment Pierre had is that he thought he was going to have some left over for lunch. Sorry!

Gromper Pla

Green Tomatl Salsa

Green Tomatl Salsa

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As a seasonal occurrence let’s taste another distinguished native American food: the tomatillo, miltomate or husk-tomato.  Pierre had bought the 2 lbs of them I had ordered last week  —a good thing that they keep well— and today I finally got to make a salsa verde.  This green-husked fruit is a close relative to the tomato. Also member of the Solanacea family, it’s Latin name is Physalis philadelphica. The Latin name for what we know as tomato today is: Solanum lycopersicum. Both fruits’ names (yes! they are fruits) derive from the Nahuatl word: tomatl. Sophie Coe in her book America’s First Cuisine gives an important precision:

Tomatillo

“Nahuatl is an agglutinating language, which means that the root of the words were modified by adding prefixes and suffixes. To find out exactly which plump fruit was being eaten one must distinguished between a miltomatl, a xitomatl, a coyotomatl and many other kinds of tomatl. Some Europeans, who did not understand the structure of the language they were dealing with, thought they were simplifying things by shortening the name of the larger fruit which we know as the tomato from xitomatl, meaning plump things with a navel to plain tomato”

I have read that Tomatillo husks are used to help retain the bright green color of the cactus when boiled with the latter. But this is not something I have yet tried; if you have, please share your experience.
The Salsa Verde recipe I made today is very simple and can be used in many ways. The picture shown above is a pan fried fillet of sole with Salsa Verde & brown rice.  I made enough salsa to serve tomorrow with chips and cocktails. I also froze a container for later in the season.

Recipe:
2lbs of TomatillosSalsa Verde
Remove the husk.
Wash thoroughly with hot water to remove the slightly slimy coat.
Meanwhile boil water & blanch the tomatillos for 30 seconds.
While they cool:
chop 1 onion very small.
1 jalapeño pepper
1 bunch of fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)
Salt to taste
Optional: lime juice, olive oil.
Blend your tomatillos in food processor or chop by hand.
Add your chopped veggies.
Keep in the fridge until serving time, or save at room temperature if you are going to serve it with fish or poultry.
How to cook your fillets:
Heat your pan coated with a dollop of butter and a table spoon of olive oil.

Dip your fillet in milk, drain excess and dredge in lightly salted flour, drain excess.
Cook your fillet about 3/4 minutes each side over medium heat.
Remove and serve over a bed of green salsa and steaming brown rice.

Yum! Healthy, fast and tasty!



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