Simple Is Good: Ceci e Scarole (Chickpeas and Greens)

A staple on Pugliese tables Fave e Chicoria, a puree of fava beans topped with wilted chicory is a fundamental farm style meal that’s cooked in country kitchens from the hill towns scattered throughout Italy. Bitter greens balanced by the warm, hearty flavor of the bean puree make for pure, simple food straight from the earth.

The idea of mixing bitter greens with an earthy starch… semplicemente buonissima! Borrowing on this nourishing genius, I created a heartwarming bowl of Ceci e Scarole (Chickpeas and Escarole). You’ll have to think ahead on this one, as canned chickpeas will not do. I soaked dried chickpeas overnight and boiled them into a velvety puree alongside a bunch of escarole and a bunch of Swiss chard that were hanging out in my crisper.

ceci-escarole-5Perfect in the autumn, winter or spring this substantial farm style meal is sure to please and fill everyone’s belly that’s seated around your table.

cecie-escarole-4Ceci e Scarole

serves 4-6
For the Chickpeas
2 cups dried chickpeas
1 Bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, peeled
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 birds eye chili pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin oil, to taste

For the Greens:
2 bunches Escarole (Swiss chard, Chicory, Dandelion Greens, Kale or any combination of leafy greens)
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil to taste

1 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp breadcrumbs
(I sprinkled these on top of the finished dish to lend a little crunchy texture)

Place the chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with water and soak 8 hours to overnight.

Drain the chickpeas and place in a pot along with the bay leaf, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Add water until it reaches about a half inch above the chickpeas. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, undisturbed, until the chickpeas are mushy and tender (can take 2-4 hours). Remember, do not stir them to prevent sticking. At the end of simmering there should be just enough water left in the pot to help you mash the chickpeas with a wooden spoon into a rough puree.

In the meantime, wash the escarole (or greens of choice) chop and set aside. Chop the onion, garlic. In a large skillet, add the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic just until translucent, then add the escarole and saute until wilted about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

If you wish to use the breadcrumbs in a small skillet, melt the butter, add the breadcrumbs, mix and stir constantly until nice and browned about 1 minute.

To serve, fill each bowl with the chickpea puree, top with the escarole and add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you wish. If using the breadcrumbs, sprinkle on top. Crusty bread is great for dunking.

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