the big kicks

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the "cauciuni", Christmas sweets from Abruzzo

CHICK PEA AND CHOCOLATE DUMPLINGS.

Did you know that ancient Romans  – if poor – were not allowed to cook? Such was the danger of fires that the plebeians were expected to eat in a tavern rather than cook on a rickety brazier.

Italian farmers had basic cooking facilities until relatively modern times. Most food was cooked in a clay or copper pot over an open fireplace which was also the only heating system of the house. That’s why the Italian tradition is rich in fried sweets. They can be cooked easily and in amounts suitable for large families.

This is  a fabulous recipe from my friend Luana. The “cauciuni”  are fried dumplings that are prepared in Abruzzo for Christmas. The name probably means small “calzoni”- of the pizza variety -, but to us Italians it sounds like “big kicks”.

The filling is a relatively extravagant concoction combining the peasant beans and nuts with the noble coffee and chocolate. Unlike real life, the combination of social strata works very well.

Recipe

Dough

  • 350 gr (3 cups plus one tablespoon) all-purpose flour
  • 50 gr (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 25 gr (1/8 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sweet wine, brandy or cognac

Filling

  • 200 gr (7 ounces) cooked garbanzo beans, mashed
  • 50 gr (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 100 gr (3 ounces) dark chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon coffee powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon sweet wine
  • 100 gr ( 3 ounces) toasted almond
  • 2 egg yolks

Make the dough in a food processor as explained for fresh pasta. Alternatively mix ingredients by hand in a large bowl, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place the dough on a table, and flatten it  with a rolling pin until it is about 3 mm cm (1/8 inch) thin. Cut it into 5 cm (2 inch) disks. Knead the leftover dough, roll it again and cut more disks until all dough is used.

Blend all filling ingredients and place a teaspoon of filling over each disk. Fold disks in half and seal pressing with your fingers along the round edge of each dumpling (see video below). Deep fry in hot vegetable oil until golden. Serve warm with a glass of Marsala or other sweet wine.

Serves 6-8

warm chickpea and arugula salad

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crunchy, lemony and soft at the same time, a garbanzo bean salad

crunchy and soft at the same time, a garbanzo bean salad

INSALATA TIEPIDA DI CECI E RUCOLA. Ancient Romans, rich or poor, were quite fond of chickpeas and consumed them frequently dressed in olive oil. Rucola – also called rocket or arugula – is cultivated only since a couple of decades but it has been collected in the wild as an edible herb for many centuries.

Recipe

  • 250 gr (approx. 1 and 1/2 cups) cooked chickpeas
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • a couple of handfuls rucola leaves  washed and drained
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped or minced with a garlic press
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar (optional)

If using canned chickpeas, rinse and drain.

In a shallow saucepan warm olive oil and garlic until fragrant. Add chickpeas and cumin, simmer slowly until warm. Switch off heat, add tomatoes and rucola, season and transfer in a bowl to serve immediately. If the dish has to wait, cover to keep warm and add the rucola only before serving. Drizzle with good quality balsamic vinegar if desired.

Serves 2 as an appetizer or vegetarian main.

Optional: to make the salad more substantial, cook 125 gr./one cup farro in boiling water. Drain, toss with 2 tablespoon EVO oil and add to the chick peas. Serves 4