Spring is in the air and I can feel it, or maybe that is the the taste of fresh tomatoes that my tastebuds remind me of when I am forced to satisfy them with the canned variety. It is rather ironic that all I can think of is fresh tomatoes when this dish includes canned tomatoes that must suffice for a month or so more until the purveyors display tomatoes in all shapes and hues for me to pick through and ponder like some Pandoran mystery with all their possibilities. As Joel Robuchon explains in "The Complete Robuchon," tomatoes found in the market out of season are not tomatoes at all, or in my opinion not the ones that dreams are made of. The book is well worth a peruse for his wealth of cooking knowledge if you get a chance to pick it up at a bookstore or the library.
I have not stopped cooking since the Ohio Wine Dinner, rather just procrastinating about writing another post. Since then I traveled to Virginia and D.C. to visit my brother and friends which instilled an even greater desire to experiment in the kitchen, due to the "garbage" we consumed there compared to the homecooked meals I am used to. But, what is one to do when democracy chooses fast food and my mind envisions Jose Andres' restaurants and fathoms of others located just a tram ride away in D.C. The trip did instill a reinforced love of Spanish chorizo that Andreas would appreciate in all its spicy herbal goodness. Chorizo truly provides bountiful flavor even in the the smallest quantities and aside from bacon is one of the best meat flavorings in my book, though not as versatile.
Another ingredient Americans so often underlook that has become more and more of a winter standby are chickpeas. The creamy textural nuggets provide so much body to stews and curries it is a shame more cooks do not give them their culinary due. Whether pureed in hummus, or whole in a summer salad or soup they are amazing team players. So maybe you guessed chickpeas and chorizo are a part of the meal I am describing and if you did you are correct. There is something homely and consoling about a bowl of stew and a glass of garnache that sweeps the mind away from the chill oudoors, or maybe it assimilates our systems to the two, making us friends.
To go with the chorizo stew I conjured up an airy pilsner challah bread to go with the meal. Before this point my bread baking had yet to unite the yeastiness of blonde beer with bread's inherent fermented nature and hardly to a challah-like braided bread. To compliment the heartiness of the stew I omited the eggs in the bread itself to give it a lighter quality. Instead, I used an egg wash to adhere those most excellent jewels known as toasted sesame seeds. Those beads of welcome always remind me of summer burgers with family and friends and hopefully this stew and bread can be shared with loved ones as all homemade meals should.
2 Shallots finely diced
2 small onions finely diced
5 cloves garlic diced
2 green onions, white part only finely diced
1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes
2 oz. Spanish chorizo finely diced
4 slices smoked bacon finely diced
3/4 to 1 C dried chickpeas soaked over night
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
2 T unsalted butter
1 T cardamom
Saute onions, shallots, garlic, bacon, and chorizo for approximately 5 mimutes over medium heat or until chorizo and bacon have yielded their juices and other items are softened. Meanwhile in a large pot of boiling water add drained chickpeas and cook approximately 45 minutes or until they begin to soften.
Add tomatoes and juice to saucepan with chorizo and other ingredients. Crush tomatoes with a potato masher and simmer adding chickpeas once cooked. Add cardamom, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle grated parmesan over just before serving.
Pilsner Challah Bread
(Adapted from Favorite Beer Bread in "The Easy way to Artisan Breads and Pastries"
1 packet active dry yeast (preferably Hodgson Mill)
1-12 oz. pilsner beer (preferably PBR or Burger Classic)
3 1/4 C. unbleached bread flour (preferably King Arthur)
3/4 C. whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 T amber honey
1 T unchlorinated water
1 T toasted sesame seeds
Combine beer 110-115 degrees, honey, and yeast and let sit until yeast is proofed (begins to foam) approximately 10 minutes. Room temperature liquid will proof yeast, but takes longer. Once yeast has proofed add flours and stir to combine, adding salt after dough is mixed because yeast and salt in direct contact are enemies i.e. the salt kills the yeast. Form into a ragged mass and let rest for 5 minutes. Knead for approximately 10 minutes on floured surface and place in buttered bowl covered by a towel allowing to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size. Flip dough back onto floured counter and knead for about 5 minutes or until extremely smooth. Preheat oven with pizza stone or unfinished earthen tiles to 425 degrees. Divide into three ropes, braid, apply egg wash and sesame seeds, placing on floured pizza peel. Cover and let rise for approximately an hour and bake on pizza stone or unfinished earthen tiles approximately 30 minutes or until bread sounds hollow to the thump. Allow to cool for ten minutes, slice, and enjoy.