Friday, July 2, 2010

Chickpea Chole

Knowing how to open a wine bottle with a sommelier knife is hot.

When I lived in Paris, during my junior year abroad, my friends Ciara, Esra and I became regulars at  Bar du Marche, located down the street from my apartment in the sixth arrondissement. There were several reasons we returned night after night to this gem of a cafe, and the first was the popcorn and olives they placed in little earthenware dishes on each table in the evening. On a student's budget, along with a glass of Bordeaux, that was almost a meal. 

Being situated not far from Les Deux Magots and Cafe de Flore, both huge tourist magnets, Bar du Marche was slightly off the beaten path, on the narrow and winding Rue de Seine, with thankfully, nary a tourist in sight. Our second reason for loving this place. 

The interior had all the charm of an artists cafe, that artists still actually went to, we knew all the regulars including the owner, and despite having had many a formidable French teacher over the years, I never really began to learn the language until the night I first sat at the bar and got chatted up by the frenchman to my left. Flowing wine, low lighting and a stranger are the best ways to expand your vocabulary. In fact I think there are two types of people, those who learn languages in a classroom and those who learn in a bar. I quickly discovered, I am the latter.

But Bar du Marche might be just another cafe among cafes if not for the waiters. They are all artists, you just know it, and no pretty boys here. They wear a uniform of muted, multicolored painters overalls, and page boys caps which, trust me, is very masculine. They are super professional yet have a nice sense of humor, and most fetching of all they can open a bottle of wine with a sommelier knife before you've even finished ordering it, and have the first glass poured. If there were corkscrew competitions like food eating competitions, these guys would kick some derriere. They must screw open about a thousand bottles a day.

I was never very good at this kind of opener until Chris and I decided to downsize and live in our small room. He had an old, rusty sommelier knife that takes up about as much room as a pocket knife, and my wing corkscrew had just busted a wing so the decision made itself. I was to learn to use one of these things, and with a little practice, I did.

Then a few months ago I volunteered to pour wine at a benefit, and as the guests started to pour out of the theater, there was a panic among the volunteers. Cases and cases of wine sat unopened on the floor behind the bar, there was only one corkscrew, a sommelier knife, and noone knew how to use it, except me. Invoking my inner Bar du Marche I swiftly pried ten or fifteen corks from their bottlenecks until a few wing corkscrews were found and we all settled into a nice rhythm of pop, pour, serve.

I like to be able to do things, hang a picture properly, julienne some carrots, shine my own shoes, and now, use a sommelier knife with ease. Besides, it's kind of hot, don't you think?

In the spirit of doing things yourself I made this delicious and very inexpensive chickpea dish with dried chickpeas that I rehydrated myself. It was the first time I've done this and I will never go back. They are so delicious and with a little planning, quite easy. And, they go perfectly with a little rice and a nice, cold glass of white wine. Here is a recipe by Meg Jansz from Curries.

Chickpea Chole
3 tbs. vegetable oil (or I like coconut)
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbs. ground coriander
2 tsp. chili powder (cayenne)
1 tsp. tumeric
2 x 14oz. cans of chickpeas, drained (or once cup dried chickpeas, makes 2 cups)
1 x 13oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1-2 tbs. lime juice
4 tbs. torn cilantro
to garnish:
3 sprigs cilantro
1/2 red onion, sliced

Heat oil, add onion, garlic and ginger, cook 5 min. Stir in cumin, coriander, chili powder and tumeric. Cook 2 minutes. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, sugar and salt to taste (about 1/2 a teaspoon), cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in 1 tbs. lime juice and cilantro leaves. Season with more lime juice or salt if needed. Garnish with the cilantro and onion.

Serve over rice.

Rehydrating Chickpeas

Buy a bag of dried chickpeas, organic preferably. Before you go to bed, measure out one cup peas to four cups water into a bowl and let soak overnight. They will turn from hard little stones to plump little chickpeas by the time you wake up in the morning (pictured below). Change the water and let them continue to soak until two hours before dinner. When you get home from work, change the water once again and simmer for two hours or until they have lost their crunch and are nice and tender. You can do the prep work for the chole, or whatever dish you are making that night, while they cook. The chole takes about twenty minutes to cook and dinner is served. This would be a fun thing to do with children as it is quite magical to see the transformation.

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