Rob can be a bit predictable with his kitchen tastes. I am just like any other girl: confusing, to say the least.
I am constantly switching up what I make in the kitchen, focusing on a different new ingredient that I love, until I rediscover a new favourite food. I prance around, stocking my cupboards with ingredients that I love (or once loved).
What kind of recipe screams Janet-style?
First of all, it has to be free of animal products and refined flours/sugars. I try to keep added oils to a minimum. I enjoy more tart and acidic ingredients as opposed to creamy and rich. And it must be filled with beans and vegetables.
You might have to try to pin me down to figure out what my new ingredient du jour is, though…. And then again the following week for a more up-to-date answer…. ;)
Statistically, the blog tells me that I love almonds, red peppers and lemon. I should really put in a general bean/legume tag because then that will dwarf all other ingredients when they are amassed together. To be fair, I enjoy most vegetables and perfectly content with heaps of greens on my plate. My favourite cuisines are Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and lately Caribbean.
But today.. what am I enjoying today?
These days, my favourite ingredients are split yellow peas, butternut squash as well as fruit in savoury dishes.
Next month? Only time will tell….
This soup is probably the epitome of my current cooking adventures. A Mediterranean chickpea soup heaping with vegetables including butternut squash, green beans, carrots and silky tomatoes in a saffron- and paprika-spiced broth. And pears, oh pears, which is what my piqued my interest to make a second version of Spanish bean soup. This time, with help from Anya and The New Spanish Table (an adapted recipe can be found here). I know the ingredients seem a little hodgepodge, which is why Anya has dubbed this a Spanish Gypsy Pot, a nod to the seemingly eclectic ingredients.
Anya’s recipe is definitely more complex than the first Spanish Green Bean and Lima Bean Stew. It has a lot of the similar flavours, but it is so much more than the first soup. Yes, you dirty more pots but it is worth it. You simmer the tomatoes and onions separately. You fry some garlic and puree it with a handful of almonds. Only then does it get added to the long-simmered broth filled with chickpeas, squash, green beans and carrots. The pears add a lovely sweetness and the saffron and sweet paprika meld wonderfully with the stew. The vinegar and mint added at the end are a perfect conclusion to a sweet and savoury soup.
I am probably as eclectic as this soup, which is why I loved it so much. I encourage you to try it as well!
Spanish Chickpea and Squash Stew with Pears (Olla Gitana)
1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed and soaked overnight, OR 2 14-oz (400g) cans chickpeas, drained
1 fat carrot (200g), peeled and thickly sliced
8-9 cups (2 l) vegetable stock
1 lb. (450g) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
10 oz. (280g) green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) lengths
2 medium slightly underripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
10 whole almonds
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (not smoked)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 pinch saffron threads, crumbled and soaked in 3 tbsp of very hot water
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, or more to taste
2 tablespoons slivered fresh mint
1. If using dried chickpeas, combine soaked chickpeas with 6 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until the chickpeas are tender, around 60 minutes.
2. Add another 2-3 cups of stock to the chickpeas, so that the stock comes 2 inches above the chickpeas. Add the carrot and return to a boil over medium heat. Add the squash, green beans and pears and season with salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until the vegetables have softened, about 15-20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl, leaving behind as much oil as possible, and set aside. Add the onion to the skillet and cook until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add the paprika and stir for a few seconds, add the tomatoes and a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid and cook until the tomatoes soften and reduce, about 7 minutes. Gently stir the tomato mixture and the saffron into the pot with the chickpeas.
4. Continue cooking until all the vegetables are very soft and the pumpkin is almost falling apart, 5-7 minutes longer, adding more broth if the stew seems too thick. Meanwhile place the fried garlic and almonds in a food processor or coffee grinder and grind until finely ground (you can also use a mortar and pestle). Stir in the vinegar, and add this to the pot with the chickpeas. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and/or vinegar if necessary. Let the stew cool for about 10 minutes. Garnish with the mint and serve with lots of crusty bread, rice or couscous.
(makes 14 cups)