Friday, April 17, 2009

Cheap Eats: Chickpea & Cabbage Stew

I was watching a 93-year-old cook named Clara Cannucciari on her YouTube channel called The Great Depression Cooking Show. Clara was born in Chicago in 1915 of Sicilian immigrant parents, so much of what she ate as a kid in the Depression was Italian. Lots of pasta. Here's Clara cooking Pasta with Peas. (BTW Clara dates from an era when cooks, like my grandmother and great-aunts, didn't use cutting boards. She cuts everything in her hands, and it makes me crazy nervous to watch.)

And here's my contribution to eating on a budget (I refuse to use the word depression). It's a stew of chickpeas and cabbage and it costs under $1 a serving. The bonus is that it's chockablock with fiber (especially heart-healthy soluble fiber in the chickpeas) and folate.

Chickpea & Cabbage Stew
I was looking for a meal that would be satisfying (carbs & protein) but that wouldn't break the bank. I came up with this: A stew that costs 86 cents to $1.15 per serving, depending on if you're serving 6 or 8. You could make this a little heartier by adding shredded leftover meat or poultry. Or you could serve the stew with cheese toasts.

1 lemon
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight* and drained
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 star anise or 2 teaspoons ground fennel (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
5 teaspoons olive oil
3 medium onions, diced
5 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 medium head cabbage (2 pounds), shredded
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

1. Grate the zest and squeeze the juice from the lemon. Place the juice in a small bowl, add the red pepper flakes and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan or soup pot, combine the lemon zest, soaked chickpeas, half the garlic, the star anise (if using) and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Add cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a high simmer, partially cover and cook until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Keep the chickpeas covered by at least 1/2 inch of water as they cook.)
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the remaining garlic and the onions, and cook until the onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the carrots, stir to combine, cover and cook for 3 minutes.
4. When the chickpeas are tender, use an immersible blender to puree about half of them to give the broth some weight (or transfer about half the chickpeas to a blender or food processor and then return to the pot). Be sure to steer clear of the star anise if you used it.
5. Add the sauteed vegetables, cabbage, canned tomatoes, 2 cups of water and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt to the pot of chickpeas and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a high simmer, cover and cook until the cabbage is tender, about 30 minutes; about 10 minutes into the cooking, stir the cabbage down into the pot.
6. Strain the lemon juice/pepper flake mixture and discard the pepper flakes. Add 1 tablespoon of the spiced lemon juice to the stew. If you want it hotter, add the rest.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

*You can cook the chickpeas without soaking them first. The cooking time will be longer and you'll have to start with water to cover by 2 inches.

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