Getting back from Morocco, everybody (including Ms Phoebe) warned me that my culinary predilections would take a turn towards the North African. Whereas I’ve returned from some vacations tired of local food and aching to get back to my regular meals (“no more croissants!” “please, enough of the gelato!”), when I arrived home after ten days away, I wanted to keep eating the tagines, flatbreads, and simple sautes I’d been enjoying. Not to mention the Schweppes Citron, which grew on me as an afternoon refresher perhaps more than I should admit.
Though I left Morocco with only taste memories of certain foods, I did import my fair share of ingredients. In my carry-on were cinnamon (ground and in stick form), awesome saffron, ras el hanout, m’sakhen, and preserved lemons. A day or two after arrival, these chickpeas are what I made.
One thing I learned from eating–and cooking–in Morocco is the difference between spiced and spicy. At home, I don’t go crazy with the spices, but I have been known to overdo it on the cayenne. I’m used to making spicy foods. In Morocco, hot pepper doesn’t seem so important. But the spoonfuls of pretty much every single other spice were far more copious than I’d seen or imagined. I also discovered a high proportion of onions in Moroccan food. For every small onion in my standby tomato sauce, there would be three to four onions, I think, if the tomato sauce were Moroccan.
When I went to make these chickpeas, I was much less modest than I usually am about drowning them in cumin, paprika, turmeric, and my new baggie of ras el hanout. It was fun to be so extravagant about something, even if it was just spices, which unlike money sort of do grow on trees.
The other part of this meal, a flatbread, was my first attempt to recreate the rich, flaky, stretch flatbreads that were everywhere in Morocco. Though what I made were definitely good, they were by no means what I was after. I’m going to consult some Paula Wolfert, some more internet recipes, and look into Jamaican roti, which are actually sort of similar. Then I’ll report back on the flatbread. For now, be content with these spiced, melt-in-your-mouth chickpeas and the flatbread recipe-in-progress.
From my kitchen, spicing up beans, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Makes 3 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ras el hanout
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cans chickpeas
2 tomatoes, peeled* and coarsely chopped
*To peel tomatoes, bring a small pot of water to the boil. Submerge them in the water for 1-2 minutes. Remove. When cool enough to handle, slip off the skins.
Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about another minute. Put in all the spices, substituting a little extra of each for the ras el hanout if you don’t have any. Pour in the chickpeas with about half of their liquid, and add the salt, the chopped tomatoes, and 1/3 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for fifteen minutes, checking to make sure the chickpeas don’t dry out (add some more water if so). Taste for seasoning, and serve.
Makes 4 breads
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour 1/4 cup of lukewarm water over, and stir to turn into a ball.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Cover with the overturned bowl and leave for another ten minutes.
Divide the dough into four pieces. Take one, and using your fingertips, stretch it out as thin as it will go without breaking.
Brush liberally with oil. Fold it into thirds, by folding the two edges in towards the middle. Turn ninety degrees, then fold into thirds again. Repeat with the remaining breads.
Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat for several minutes. When it’s hot, stretch one of the breads out slightly, so it’s about 3 inches by 5 or 6 inches. Cook it in the dry pan for 2-3 minutes until it has developed some dark marks, then flip it. Brush the top with more oil. After another 2-3 minutes, flip the bread again, brushing the second side with oil. Flip once more, cook for just 1 more minute, then remove. Repeat with the remaining breads, keeping the finished ones warm under a cloth.
Serve as soon as you’re done cooking all the breads.