Thursday, October 11, 2012

The coolest

If you have been following this you will know that the majority of the past month has been taken up by Jewish holidays. This means that the majority of my days have looked like this-pray, eat, sleep, wash, rinse, repeat (the exception being Yom Kippur which looked like this-pray, pray, sleep, pray, pray, try not to faint, pray). By the time the last day of Sukkot came around this past Sunday, I was pretty done with the whole holiday thing.
And yet, there I was Sunday night, hosting a group of good friends for dinner, all of whom, I suspect were also pretty done with the whole holiday thing. Normally, the last day of Sukkot (technically it is its own separate holiday, but we'll leave that discussion for another time) is reserved for my mother's stuffed cabbage [a favorite memory from my high school years-leaving synagogue in the middle of the evening's festivities with my two closest friends at my side to steal bundles of stuffed cabbage, hastily eaten, from the large pot simmering on my mother's stove] but this year, much as I love the dish, I had neither the time, nor energy to roll stuffed cabbage. Luckily, I was also hosting a vegetarian, which gave me an excuse. I went as simple as I could muster: my favorite soup, this corn bread, both from Jess; green salad, a cabbage salad, brought by guests. And while I defrosted cookie dough for dessert, my sister threw together what we so lovingly call Erga's Chickpea Stuff.
 Erga is the older sister of one of my oldest friends and a friend in her own right. I don't see her nearly as often as I should, but I do think of her often, especially when I am making this dish. Erga was one of the first vegetarians I met. I was a teenager at the time, and for some reason her vegetarianism made her seem like the coolest person I knew.  Well, she's still a vegetarian and she's still cool (she designs jewelry!) and I'm forever grateful to her for giving me her recipe for chickpea stuff. It is one of the easiest, best recipes I know.
To clarify, Erga's chickpea stuff is really a chickpea stew. Why I decided to give it the ungraceful title, stuff, I have no idea. But the name seems to have stuck. It really is a pretty remarkable dish. It can be thrown together in under 10 minutes and is amazingly cheap to make. It's a vegetarian dish (duh) that's hearty enough to satisfy even the carnivores among us. Also, it's pretty gosh darn delicious. This is how it goes: onion and garlic, sauteed. Two cans of chickpeas. A can of tomatoes. Some dried spices. Some fresh cilantro. And that's it. It all gets simmer and thickened and then eaten. Make it on a weekday. Make it on a weekend. Make it when you can't possibly think you will ever want to cook or eat again. Serve it to guests. Drink many bottles of wine. Discover you're not so holiday fatigued after all.

Erga's Chickpea Stuff
Adapted from Erga Dershowitz Herzog

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cans of chickpeas, drained
1 14 oz can tomatoes +liquid
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chilli powder, depending on how hot you like your food
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bunch cilantro, divided and roughly chopped.
1/2 teaspoon cumin
plain yogurt or sour cream for garnish

1. In a large pot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in the oil until translucent. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, salt, pepper basil, chilli powder, oregano and cumin. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the cilantro and then add the rest to the pot. Bring to boil. Cover and lower the heat. Simmer for 25 minutes, or more until it slightly thickened. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Serve with reserved cilantro and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream over rice, polenta or corn bread.

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