I used to hate chick peas, when I was much younger. I can't remember why, or at what point I moved past that and into my current love affair with them. For most of my grown-up years I've loved the chick pea. It's such a simple, unassuming thing really, the chick pea. My kids don't like them at all, though; not even in hummus. I always envy those parents whose children happily dip away at hummus or who will even eat it spread over a cracker, or a triangle of pita bread.
Scott and I love chick peas, though. At our house, the pantry is always well-stocked with cans of them. One of my favorite, quick lunches to pack or eat at home is a bowl of chick peas seasoned with lots of squeezed lemon, generous splashes of olive oil, a little garlic powder, and chopped up kalamata olives. Paired with a piece of bread, or some crackers, this is the lunch of champions, I think.
Meal planning and home-cooked, from-scratch meals have been a sad casualty of how difficult life has been these past two weeks. By the time dinner-time rolls around I'm completely spent, mentally and physically. Yet for me cooking, like house-cleaning, is therapy. There has been something missing in my world--that quiet space I need so much to put the external aspects of my world right again. Yesterday, caught up on grading and with the kids enjoying their respective rest-times, I thought about dinner in a numb, detached sort of way. It had been a no-good, terrible afternoon, with a huge meltdown from L. in the car and again at home. I was feeling bruised and battered.
I stood in the kitchen and my thought processes went like this:
I thought about escape which made me think about Greece, which made me think about my Greek Grandmother, which made me think about my family, which made me think about my sister and how I missed her, which made me then think, because it was dinner-time, about her favorite dish to cook: baked chick peas with tomatoes.
And that's how I pulled myself together, dug out my favorite Greek cookbook, turned on some music, and cooked again, for what felt like the first time in weeks.
Baked Chick Peas
2 cans chick peas, drained
2 fresh, large tomatoes, peeled and chopped OR one can diced tomatoes.
1 can tomato paste
1/2 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves chopped garlic (you can make this as garlicky as you want by tweaking the amount)
Lots of olive oil
sprinkle of dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425.
To peel the tomatoes you'll have to scald them. Bring a small saucepan to boil. Drop the tomatoes in for about 1 minute. Then drain, and rinse with cold water. The skin should peel off the tomatoes easily. I guess you could leave the peel on if you don't mind bits of cooked tomato skin in your dish.
Drain the chick peas and pour into an oiled casserole pan. Add the chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned, the onion, the chopped garlic, the tomato paste. Mix until it's all combined. Top with some generous splashes of olive oil and add salt and pepper and oregano to taste.
Bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, until the chick peas are slightly browned but NOT dry. The tomatoes and the juices should be bubbling nicely and the chick peas softened a bit when you take the pan out. Serve over rice, with slabs of feta cheese on top.