February 26th, 2009 · 31 Comments

yes, cicerchie. i know. you’ve probably never heard of it. well perhaps you have. but it was certainly new to me. a google search tells me that it dates back from roman times and was a common dish of peasants.. luckily i came across a package of these and now i am thinking that they’re perhaps my most favorite pulse ever. it’s like a wild garbanzo did it with an ear of corn – or something. maybe the field pea was involved too. i really don’t know, i wasn’t there. but this humble bean is absolutely wonderful – and ridiculously hard to come by.

in umbria a hunk of pig fat is traditionally used to prepare this dish. but i resisted using instead my best umbrian olive oil. i’m an avid fan of umbria. on my last trip to italy i spent a lot of time in assisi and orvieto and montefalco and spello… hill town after hill town, we spent time exploring – and eating. and i grew to love the region that is often overlooked by tourists in favor of the more popular tuscany. but the food in umbria really is spectacular and the olive oil, which many consider to be better than what you might find in tuscany, is comparably scarce in this country.

while on the subject of perhaps the one ingredient that i could not live without, one of my favorite olive oils comes from liguria. it’s smoother, if not gentler and more luxurious than the bold tuscans. if it were an actor it might win best supporting role. ligurian olive oil allows the other flavors of the food to shine through with just enough of the rich olive flavor to remind you just who it is…oh but that’s another post. – and most likely it will involve pesto…

i soaked the cicerchie overnight and gently boiled them for about 40 minutes with 4 fat garlic cloves, adding some salt at the end. i chopped and steamed some swiss chard, sliced some grape tomatoes, despriged some thyme and tossed it all together with salt and pepper. i wanted it to remain simple. i wanted to really get to know this bean. ok, is that weird? maybe it’s weird.

but if you really want to hear something weird, get this:

so i’m reading the ny times last sunday morning and in the style section the cover story is about gwyneth paltrow and her lifestyle website called goop (tag line = nourish the inner aspect = hee). as one might expect there are lovers and there are haters and well, i’m pretty much switzerland. whatever gwynne does is fine with me. i like her and i have decided to not hold a grudge against her, bittman or mario regarding the debacle "on the road again". i have let go of my disgust because i am trying to be more like ‘the buddha’. but anyway here’s what i read… mario, yes, our mario batali, gwynne’s bff, at the very end of this lengthy article, comments about her cooking saying "she has a great sense of proportion, which gives her food a natural balance."

and then the coffee squirted out my nose…

dear readers? is it me?

Tags: beans · greens · tomatoes

31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Robert // Feb 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm


    The field peas arent copping to nuuthin’…..

  • 2 Diana // Feb 26, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Neato! I knew that Cicero, the great Roman orator, is from the Latin for chickpea. These babies look so much sexier, though!

    Planning on going to Roma this summer with a side trip to… Tuscany. Hubby’s never been, though, and I think Italian drivers would scare him right the hell out of the hill country.

  • 3 Brooke // Feb 26, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Looks delicious! This bean intrigues me. I must try it but I’ve never seen it before….the hunt begins.

    You make me wanna go to Italy and swim in a giant pool of good olive oil, by the way. That wasn’t very nice.

  • 4 Mary Coleman // Feb 26, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    That must have been the POD Person Mario. Surely our Mario will be returned to us soon.
    That dish looks faboo!

  • 5 democommie // Feb 26, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    That looks like what I should be having. I’m having some coq au vin that I made the other day. It is not diet food, but I have suffered! I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and, darn it, people like me! In fact, just this evening I had a lovely young woman tell me that I seemed much thinner (she really is lovely, very married and has four sons!) . I told her it was just that I was only wearing one layer of clothing for the first time since early November.

    Oh, almost forgot this, about Mario:

  • 6 Nicole // Feb 26, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Looks really good. I’m going to definitely try some.

  • 7 The Italian Dish // Feb 26, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Yeah, I read that article, too. Love your reaction with the coffee. Of course, I had already written about GOOP on my other blog: As for your beans, so unusual! What a healthy dish. And Umbria is the new Tuscany, you know?

  • 8 Claudia Haas // Feb 26, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    The title of your blog alone got my interest! Bookmarking this dish if I can find ingredients – I am a NYC refugee living in White Bear Lake,MN – when I moved her I not only had to make my own pesto – I needed to grow my own basil for it!). Enjoyed your chat about mario and GOOP and such and the recipe.

  • 9 Vincent // Feb 26, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    love this dish – love it! reminiscent of A LOT of lenten dishes from a catholic childhood. i love the olive oils from umbria and liguria as well but sicilian oils make me weak in the knees so i will substitute if you don’t mind.

    as for mario, gwynne and the lot of them…

    the spain show was fucking retarded. really.

  • 10 maris // Feb 27, 2009 at 12:34 am

    ooh I love chick peas and that is what these remind me of. I don’t know if they TASTE the same but I’d be willing to give it a try!

  • 11 rachel // Feb 27, 2009 at 2:28 am

    So this is what you were writing about.
    I am with you on the oil, even though we have a vast quantity of Umbrian oil blessing our kitchen I have a soft spot for the delicate, elegant. fragrant olive oils from Liguria and even more so for the silky, nutty stuff from near Lake garda in Verona.
    As for the Cicerchie, it looks deliciously simple and right up my strada.
    Haha, no its not just you, the coffee is squirting out of my eyes at the mere thought of it all. I don’t want to know, I clicked on that Goop thing BY MISTAKE- it was horrible, like seeing your bank balance on the cash machine when you thought you had pressed DO NOT WANT TO SEE MY BALANCE. needless to say I clicked away asap.
    By the way, thankyou, they meant alot coming from you.

  • 12 Donald // Feb 27, 2009 at 6:54 am

    This is diet food? How creative.

    I remember something a while back about Gwyneth and Mario in one of my food rags that I found to be sort of weird.

  • 13 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Feb 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    I saw the name of the post and thought, “This must be a chickpea recipe. I guess I haven’t forgotten my Italian, even though my personal expereinces with the country of Italy are extremely limited – and old. (Phooey!) Chickpeas never topped my list of favored legumes, but they have been growing on me as I’m learning all kinds of fun new ways on the blogs to prepare them (such as this one).

    I never managed to catch any episodes of that show, so I can’t pass judgment. I haven’t seen too many of Gwynnie’s movies to know what I think of her talents. She bugs me in the way a lot of female celebrities bug me when they talk endlessly about their vegetarian/macrobiotic/organic/Zone/ diets and vigorous workout programs while sucking down on ciggies.

  • 14 cookiecrumb // Feb 27, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    It’s gwudgeous. Where’d you get the beans?

  • 15 Indeo // Feb 27, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Wow, learn something new every day! Strangely, I have cicerchie in my pantry. I just put them in the pot to soak overnight. I saw an interesting Lidia Bastianich recipe for cicerchie with pasta and pancetta, and bought the cicerchie at a local (Boston) coop in December. Can’t wait to try this “much healthier” use of cicerchie (although I’ll probably do the pancetta & pasta recipe, as well)…thanks!

  • 16 chefectomy // Mar 1, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Umbria really is a treasure and very enjoyable. Loved this recipe…


  • 17 Brittany // Mar 1, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I’d love to try those beans. I loooove beans.

    You should do a post about olive oils, because I’d like to learn more from you.
    You know your shit.

    I use trampetti because it’s what I can (sort of) afford and it’s what I am familiar with. But I am always interested in expanding my horizons.

  • 18 Rhonda // Mar 1, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    I love the look and sound of this dish. I can’t wait to try it.

    Please do the olive oil post! I am at odds with a local supplier/importer because I have not found what I am looking for and don’t know where to point him. Frustrating… He wants to strangle me and I want to stick his overpriced shitty oil up his well, you know.

    As for Mario and Gwynnie… You are a better woman than I am. I think she is a talented actress but her relationship with food is fucked. Not completely her fault, it is the business and the culture she is in. She is about to pen/release a cookbook which I find really insulting.

    I admire Mario’s loyalty to his friend but he has lost total credibility with me.

  • 19 Rhonda // Mar 1, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I just signed up (had to, to see what was going on) for GOOP. I am now in the midst of a complete freakin Apoplectic Fit.

    Her Artichokes with Aioli call for “Veganaise”. And she also gives tips on how to get reservations for Momofuku (didn’t say which one). If I were David Chang, I would sue.

    Mario, dude… really….

  • 20 Melissa // Mar 1, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Good for you for trying to be Buddha-like. Live and let live and all that jazz. I’ll take the same path and shut my trap…

    Thanks for teaching me something new today. And for making me smile. Loved your writing on this one.

  • 21 democommie // Mar 2, 2009 at 8:49 pm


    I know this is sorta OT, but I was thinking that maybe what we need is a “Stone Soup Blog” where someone starts a broth and as others come into the blog, they add ingredients to make the soup. The only rule I would consider is that each person who comes in with a proposed ingredient is willing to incorporate other folks suggestions. I know it sounds a bit unwieldy, but I think it might work.

    Further OT, if you have not seen or heard this man–– you should. I put up a post about him, and the stuff I love to photograph, at my place.

  • 22 Abby @ mangerlaville // Mar 2, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Wow this looks amazing, healthy and just plain delicious. YUMMY!!!

  • 23 lo // Mar 3, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    … wild garbonzos doin’ it with ears of corn… that’s enough to get me coming back here time after time, Claudia. Seriously loving you.

  • 24 Heather // Mar 3, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    It seriously looks like a garbanzo and a hominy had babies. Hey, I have fresh garbanzos from the Hispanic store – in the green shell and everything! – that I can’t wait to try.

  • 25 [eatingclub] vancouver || js // Mar 3, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    I totally don’t get that _On the Road_ show. I don’t understand the whole concept. I don’t even know if Gwyneth eats.

  • 26 Jack // Mar 4, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Youíre right. I donít know beans about cicerchie, but that looks good and I would give it a try if it were readily available. Iím pretty indifferent about Gwyneth. I havenít seen her in anything that really endeared me. Itís too bad about Mario. Sheesh!

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  • 28 Heidi Robb // Mar 5, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    This girl is missing her veggies and damn does this look great.

    Thanks for the introduction to a new pulse.

  • 29 sudaca // Mar 5, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    The cicerchia is just a wild chickpea, not very common in Italy, even in Umbria (though they are not native to the region either). The reason they have fallen out of favor for the last 200 years may have to do with the fact that they have been found to contain a toxic substance resistant to cooking that is believed to cause damage to the nervous system. Now that a few restaurant chefs have “rediscovered” them, they cost a lot and are hard to find, this lending them a “chicness” not found in the humble chickpea.

  • 30 claudia // Mar 5, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    well gee sudaca – i tried to email you a nice note, and your left a bogus email addy… imagine that

    regardless, thanks for the info

  • 31 Ken Albala // Mar 7, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Carissima Bella, They’re actually not related to chickpeas, just look like them. A Vetch. Lathyrus sativus. And if you eat them all the time can cause Lathyrism, nasty neuromotor disease. Isn’t that appetizing? It’s in my Beans book – unless of course I’ve forgotten what I wrote there, which is perfectly possible. Seriously, they are delicious, deliriously so. Connects you to the ancients. They can be bought easily on line, form the same company that sells farro. Ken

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