Friday, March 21, 2008

Taking on The Minimalist

This weekend I had big plans to clean my apartment. I'd crank up the music, bust out my do-rag, and make sure everything shone like the top of the Chrysler building. This was of course the third weekend in a row that I'd tell myself that cute little story with no actual success whatsoever. Rain or shine, somehow the weekend came and went and my zeal to clean went right out my dirty windows. Since I was already wasting away on the sofa, I figured the least I could do was go through my recipe folder and convince myself that I'd cleaned something. And it's a good thing I did, because I came across recipes so old they were actually out of style--and I didn't even know that could happen.

The fortunate byproduct of all this was that I was able to rediscover some great recipes that were tucked away between an ancient recipe for chicken satay and Martha Stewart's ultimate birthday cakes (which is interesting since I don't bake). Among the excellent recipes that made the cut was an October 2007 recipe from Mark Bittman, The New York Times' Minimalist. Although rarely agree 100% with his paired down approach (particularly where Spanish food is concerned), I do often clip out his recipes and give them a go. This week I came across a pasta dish with chorizo, chick peas and bread crumbs, all wonderful ingredients. I was intrigued by the prospect of adding texture to pasta with breadcrumbs, in addition to the idea of chickpeas in pasta. I use both of those ingredients constantly, and never once considered using them in this way.

The final dish was good, but I thought it lacked a little something in the way of flavor. Maybe a little acid in the form of lemon juice or wine to cut through the flavors and elevate the dish, or even a bit of zest. It had nothing in the way of herbs and spices until the finishing of parsley, so maybe some fresh herbs could brighten up the flavor. It was definitely tasty, and I would use the garlic/breadcrumb technique again for sure, but I would have to figure out what that missing element was so I could be convinced to make it again. It certainly has potential, but I'd like to find a way to keep it from falling so flat. Here's the recipe, maybe someone else out there can figure out exactly what it's missing (and let me know!).

Pasta with Chickpeas, Chorizo and Breadcrumbs

Salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1/4 pound cooked Spanish chorizo or kielbasa, chopped (I used a bit of both)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
4 cups cooked chickpeas, with their liquid
1/2 pound pasta
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish.

1. Set a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Put 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add chorizo; heat, stirring occasionally, until chorizo is lightly browned, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and then the garlic; cook until it colors lightly, then add bread crumbs. Toast, shaking skillet frequently, until bread crumbs turn golden brown, about 10 minutes; if necessary, add a little more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and remove to a bowl.

2. Add 2 more tablespoons olive oil to skillet and, over medium heat, chickpeas and about 1 cup of their liquid. Cook pasta until it is nearly but not quite tender; drain, then add it to chickpeas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender; stir in chorizo, heat through, and taste and adjust seasoning.

3. Serve chickpea-pasta mixture in bowls, garnished with crisp bread crumbs and a sprinkling of parsley. Enjoy!


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