Sunday, 15 April 2012

Wild chickpea (cicerchie) and mustard greens bruschetta

I am soaking in the afterglow of a busy, satisfying, productive and work-free weekend. It was one of those weekends where I kept so busy that I simply did not think about the stresses and annoyances of school and work. On Saturday, I made it to the farmers market for the first time in months. The sun was shining, the tents were filled with eager shoppers, curious children and enthusiastic farmers. I filled my shopping bag with bright green and tender spinach, spunky mustard greens, super pink radishes, shiny eggplants, spherical red tomatoes and some farm fresh eggs. 

After the farmers market I made it out to the large Italian import food store, Bosa Foods, located on the outskirts of Vancouver (technically Burnaby). Mike and I stopped there on our way to scavenge new tires and a blower resister from an auto wreckage yard in New Westminster. Afterwards, Mike had me crawl under the car's dashboard to shimmy out some screws with my freakishly small hands so he could install the new resister. Our next stop was at Ikea where we picked up a little, inexpensive patio set before driving further east to Abbotsford for a visit with Mike's parents and sister.

Mike's parents live in a house that sits perched in the side of a hill and overlooks the beautiful Fraser Valley. When the clouds disperse they have a stellar view of stunning Mount Baker. I snapped a couple of shots of a pastel pink magnolia tree and the distant mountains from their patio. 

I passed on a bottle of Cannensi olive oil to Mike's mom who enjoys cooking just as much as I do. She always prepares us fantastic meals, snacks and desserts and last night was no exception. She had fresh blueberry muffins baking when we arrived. Then we shared a meal of a fresh and simple salad, perogies and bread with oil and balsamic. We were all stuffed afterwards so stuck with refreshing and nutritious mango lassis for dessert.

Today I spent the better part of the afternoon in my community garden plot with my friends where we planted our first seeds; some beets, potatoes, peas and lettuce. When I made it back home I started some winter squash and eggplants indoors in little mini pots. To be cooking with fresh produce brought to life by my own hands is a very exciting thought. I cannot wait for these vegetables to spring up through the dirt and bear fruit.

Earlier this week I returned home from a much enjoyed trip to Winnipeg where I visited with my best friend, Jenny, her beau, Raffaele and my mom and grandparents. One of the fruits of my visit was a suitcase full of Cannensi products. I grabbed four jars of sun-dried tomatoes (because they are amazing), some marinated zucchini and orrechiette. Jenny also gave me a couple bags of black chickpeas and another peculiar looking legume that I looked up when I got home that in English is called wild chickpea or grass pea (cicerchie in Italian).

These rare and almost forgotten legumes have a very interesting history. Traditionally they were grown in areas prone to drought as they are extremely hardy and resistant to harsh weather conditions. For this reason they are often consumed in regions of prevalent famine and in the past provided sustenance during tough growing seasons and long winters. Recently, efforts have been implemented in Italy and elsewhere to revive the farming of this important crop which also acts as a fertilizer and contributes to pest control.

I recently decided that I should have a dinner party to share with friends all of the wonderful Italian imports that Raffaele and Jenny are working so hard to sell here in Canada. I have found every morsel to be so wonderful and want others to be able to appreciate their wonderousness. However, I am not much of a party planner so, to not have a dinner party be a complete disaster, I need to figure out what to make first and be sure to test out all of the recipes I plan to make.

My first idea is to make a chickpea puree bruschetta using the different chickpea varieties I have. This inspiration originates from a dish served at Trattoria, an Italian restaurant here in Vancouver. I created my own interpretation of their balsamic-glazed chickpea bruschetta by stirring flecked mustard greens into a puree of wild chickpeas and topping it with fresh radishes. I kept the puree simple, stirring in sea salt, lemon juice and the highest quality extra virgin olive oil. I made a quick balsamic glaze on my stove top and served the chickpea puree on some foccacia that I picked up at Bosa Foods.

I also want to make a pasta for my dinner party that I tested out today. I thought that the little black chickpeas would be perfect with orechiette as they naturally nestle themselves into the little pasta cups like a pearl in an oyster; it is adorable. I still want to experiment with other ingredients and flavours but was happy with today's resulting pasta dish that combined grilled eggplant, fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto and bocconcini with the chickpeas and orrechiette.

Wild chickpea (cicerchie) and mustard greens bruschetta
Spring seasonal: radishes, mustard greens

1.5 cups cooked (~1/2 cup dried) wild chickpeas
1 tbsp meyer lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
2 large mustard green leaves
Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp honey (agave or maple syrup for vegans)
Radish, thin slices
Foccacia slices

1 - Soak chickpeas overnight in the fridge. Drain and cook in water boiling at a low simmer for about 40 minutes or until tender.
2 - In a food processor, process a couple mustard green leaves until finely flecked. Scoop into a bowl.
3 - Separately, puree chickpeas in processor with sea salt (plenty), lemon juice and olive oil.
4 - Stir together the puree with the mustard green flecks.
5 - Meanwhile, bring about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar to a low simmer in a non-reactive pot on the stove.
6 - Stir in 1/4 tsp of honey and simmer, stirring often until reduced, thick and slightly sticky. About 15 minutes. If you thicken it too much, just stir in a little bit of water.
7 - Slice and grill foccacia bread then top with the chickpea puree. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction and top with radish slices.
8 - Serve warm.


  1. Wow, I've never heard of wild chickpeas (not much of a shock, since I live in California) but they definitely sound worth a look! Those bruschetta look particularly great, especially with the crispy radishes. Delicious.

  2. I had never heard of them either, I'm not even sure where one would buy them (mine came straight from Italy). I will have to check on my next trip to Whole Foods.