The Dumpling Diary

Dis cooking so you cooking too.

So good, a clever title isn’t even necessary. March 27, 2011

Readers, I am, in this moment, reveling in a feeling that can only be compared to the first recognition of love. A dizzying feeling that for me, is often brought on by a slowly cooked, lustrous, tomato-y, pasta-y, legume-y foodstuff. Always cooked in a big, heavy pot. Oh, and did I mention, fatty pork products are involved too? The only thing this is missing is wine, and I may as well pour myself a nice, well-deserved glass now.
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If done right, I could easily say that Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta Fuh-zoo, if you’re a Marcella) is my last-meal-ever/death row dish, that or Pasta and Cauliflower (Macaroni and Cauliflower, if you are my immediate family). However, if this was my last meal, I’d die a very happy glutton.  I’ve been doing lots of research this past week on Molise, and learning about the use of chestnuts, legumes, and today’s ingredient, chickpeas (garbanzo beans if you’re a snob). I have never been a huge fan of chickpeas, and I am sworn against hummus, so help me (it tastes fine, but nobody is getting turned on but smushed up chickpeas being presented to them by some pretentious jerk who can open an aluminum can and a jar of tahini. There are only so many ways to make hummus, and your mint garnish does not impress me). But, anyhow, I thought I’d give chickpeas another try.  So, need a change from fagioli? Try chickpeas. The dish has now become the ever-loved, humble and shoulder-to-cry-on (if you need it for that), Pasta e Ceci. There are a million and eight ways to make Pasta e Ceci (or Pasta e Fagioli, for that matter), some are simply pasta and chickpeas tossed together with olive oil, salt and pepper, or in a light broth, other times tossed with pasta, and in this case, cooked as an almost-soup, stew-y, I-don’t-know-what kind of lovedish.
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To go along with this, I decided to carb it up (not that it needed carbs, but I felt like making non-“bread”-bread) with some pizza. That is to say, more of a focaccia bread, but as I have learned in recent days, Molise seems to call all of their flatbread/focaccia concoctions, “pizza.” Which I can get down with. Mostly-cheeseless (and sometimes entirely), not dripping with orange pepperoni grease and actually seemingly healthy? Pizza? Don’t mind if I dooo! This page has been blowing my mind today with all the non-bastardized, non-North-American pizzas, and I decided to make one. Jon and I bought some fairly impressive-looking olive oil this week, after watching Jamie Oliver and Gennaro Contaldo glug/drizzle it on everything, very excitedly, in glorious excess. This was a nice outlet to show ours off, along with some sundried tomatoes and black olives. So, let’s have at it.
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Pasta e Ceci
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Ingredients
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4 oz smoked pancetta or bacon, diced
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1 stalk celery, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 oz (2 Tbsp) pimento, or diced roasted red peppers
1/8 – ¼ tsp cayenne pepper or hot pepper flakes
1/ 4 tsp anchovy paste (optional)
1 796mL can diced tomatoes (3-4 cups)
1 156mL can tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
1.5 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
1.5 tsp dried basil (1 tsp oregano, sage or marjoram would work nicely as well)
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
1.5 cups small-cut pasta, or broken long-cut pasta (shells, ditalini broken spaghetti, etc)
salt and pepper
water
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Method
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In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add olive oil, and begin to saute the pancetta or bacon over medium-high heat. When sufficiently browned/not chewy fatstuff, remove all but 2 tsp or so of the fat. Add onions and celery, sweat three minutes or so until they soften, add garlic, cook 1 minute or until fragrant. Add pimento (or roasted red peppahs), cook for a minute or so, then stir in hot pepper flakes (or cayenne), and anchovy paste, if you’re using it.
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Add tomatoes, paste, and chicken broth, stirring until tomato paste is smooth. Add sugar, bay leaf and herbs (I used basil because I think it is glorious). Make sure it comes to a simmer if it already isn’t, then turn heat down to medium-low, cover and let simmer for at least 40 minutes or so, stirring fairly frequently. I happened to have dry chickpeas, so I cooked them (not long enough) in the pressure cooker, and finished them up in the pot on the stove, so it took 1.5 hours or so for me.
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Add pasta, and a little extra water if needed (I went with a bit under 1.5 cups of additional water), stir, and simmer, till pasta is tender. You will need to stir pretty frequently, or else surrender yourself to bottom-stick-stew. But do not worry, I believe in you! Anyhow, when the pasta is cooked, check for seasoning, and you’re done. Top with some Parmesan or Romano, and let it’s hearty succulence envelop whatever soul you have left.
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Pizza con Olive e Pomodoro (Molise-style flatbread with olives and tomatoes)
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Ingredients
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For the dough:
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3 cups flour
1.5 tsp instant yeast
¾ tsp salt
1.5 tsp honey
1 ¼ cup lukewarm water
1 Tbsp olive oil
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For the toppings:
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Cornmeal (enough for a sprinkle)
Fresh garlic
Salt
Black olives (good quality, I recommend something delightfully sodium-enriched and stored in oil, NOT water)
Sun dried tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes
Red pepper flakes
Herbs (rosemary, oregano, or basil)
Good Italian cheese (I went with Pecorino Romano, because it was what I had around, opened, but Bocconcini, good Mozzarella, or Scamorza would be equally acceptable)
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Method
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Combine dry ingredients for dough in a bowl, mix lightly, and add remaining ingredients. Mix together until a slightly-sticky and soft dough forms. Knead for 5 minutes or so, until smooth and elastic. If using a mixer with a dough hook, 2-3 minutes until end result. Lightly oil the bowl with olive oil, a teaspoon or so, and rub it around the bowl with the dough (use it as a sort of mop), then flip the dough over, so it is coated on both sides. Cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in a warm place. When dough has doubled, sprinkle a pizza pan (or cookie sheet, whatever you have) with a little cornmeal, and punch the dough down in a bowl. Put it on the pizza pan, and press it out with your hands until it is about 1/2- 3/4 inch thick. Let rise 10 or 15 minutes again.
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Preheat oven to 375 degrees F., and then rub the dough with a little fresh garlic, sliced in half. Drizzle a little olive oil over the dough, then very lightly, sprinkle a small amount of salt. Just scatter it, nothing fancy, nothing excessive. Place some olives over the dough (whole, don’t worry about pits, you’ll get to them when you eat it), you may want to indent them into the dough a bit. Sprinkle sun dried tomatoes or place thinly sliced fresh tomatoes sporadically around dough as well. Sprinkle with a small amount (or a lot?) of red pepper flakes, and a good amount of whatever herb you’re using (I used basil, derrrp). If you wish to, go ahead and use fresh basil, or whatever herb, by all means! Then, place some slices of the cheese around the pizza (or grated, if you want). Add a little glug of olive oil, if you feel like saluting Jamie and Gennaro, and place in the oven, bake 15-20 minutes, until cooked through and top is golden-brown. Cut into slices any which way you want, e mangiare!
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So, that is what you get for today, i miei bambini! megohm, over and out! Alla prossima!

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