Thursday, November 8, 2007

Pasta with Chickpeas, Chorizo and Bread Crumbs

Here's another modification of a New York Times recipe. This one comes from Mark Bittman's Oct. 17, 2007, Minimalist column where he recommends forgetting all the advice you've heard about adding just enough sauce to pasta to coat it and quadrupling the amount of sauce instead. "What do you wind up with? Pasta more or less overwhelmed by sauce, which you can view as a cardinal sin or as a moist, flavorful one-dish meal of vegetables with the distinctive, lovable chewiness of pasta." Or, in words he doesn't use, a casserole. Fine by me. I never get that light saucing to work out right anyway.

When his column came out I saved the chorizo and chickpea example and I've just now had the chance to try it out. Bittman's schtick is very simple recipes so I usually end up adding a few ingredients and steps. Usually adding them back into a recipe he simplified, I figure. This time I halved the recipe, doubled the sausage back to where it was, added onion and tomato and some spice. I strongly considered adding some smoked paprika, but this is a Bittman recipe: if there was pimenton, he would have left it in. He can't get enough of that stuff and I can't say I blame him at all.

Here's what I came up with:

Bill's variation on Bittman's Pasta With Chickpeas, Chorizo and Bread Crumbs

Extra virgin olive oil, as needed

1 teaspoon butter

1/4 pound cooked Spanish chorizo or kielbasa, chopped
(really, since this supplies the only cuisine-specific spices in the dish, you could use any sort of cooked sausage you like, but you'd probably want to make further changes if you go far afield. I could see a version with Chinese sausage and rice stick pasta. I used a Portuguese chourico this time, but it wasn't as spicy as advertised. Next time I'm likely to switch to a linguica or andouille.)

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1/4 cup onion, finely minced

1 small tomato, chopped (The tomato doesn't get cooked so use a nicely ripe flavorful one. I like Campari for this sort of application.)

1/2 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs or one thick slice of hearty bread chopped to 1/4" cubes or smaller

2 cups cooked chickpeas, with their liquid

1/4 pound cut pasta, like ziti or penne (Use the small bore versions of these. Shells would work, too. Nothing too much larger around than the chickpeas.)

copious amounts of Vulcan salt
(This spice blend from Spice House includes Salt, Louisiana Chile Mash, Garlic, Habanero Chile, Shallots, Tellicherry Pepper, Lime Peel, Pimenton de La Vera, Picane, Cumin, allspice and Vinegar. Regular salt and a good bit of Tabasco would probably be a fine substitute. If you go that route, go light on the chickpea liquid to compensate for the extra water.)

1. Set a pot of water to boil and salt it. When it comes to a boil add pasta and cook until not quite tender.

2. Meanwhile, put 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add chorizo; heat, stirring occasionally, until chorizo is lightly browned, add onion and garlic (and some Vulcan salt), cook until onion has softened then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add tomato to bowl with chorizo and onion.

3. Lower heat to medium. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter. When the butter has stopped fizzing add bread crumbs and sprinkle with Vulcan salt. Toast, shaking skillet frequently, until bread crumbs turn golden brown and crisp, 10 minutes maximum. If necessary, add a little more olive oil. Remove to a bowl.

2. Add 1 more tablespoons olive oil to skillet (or, as I did, drain pasta and add the oil to the pot. I was using a pretty small skillet for the previous steps) and, over medium heat, chickpeas and their liquid. Bring to boil, then add pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender; stir in chorizo mix, heat through, and taste and adjust seasoning.

3. Serve chickpea-pasta mixture in bowls, garnished with crisp bread crumbs and, if you've got any handy, a sprinkling of parsley. A salad and a glass of red wine wouldn't go amiss either.

Yield: 2 large servings.

So, how did it turn out? Pretty tasty, I think. I'm glad I used whole wheat pasta (according to reviews, Ronzoni is the best brand) because it kept a firmer texture to contrast with creaminess chickpeas. The added onion and tomato added nicely to the body of the sauce so I think they were good additions. Without them, you'd be completely dependent on whatever flavors leaked out of the chorizo to add interest to the sauce. Despite having a fair number of ingredients, it was a quick and simple recipe to make so I could see keeping chickpeas around to make this a regular weekday option.

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