Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I now remember what I wanted to write about last Sunday. It was probably the cooking process and the weariness after a long day in the garden (and at the altar!) that overtook me. It was the vital question of what to cook after such labor. Well, the answer and recipe wasn't mine, but was culled, and adapted, from that brilliant five-times-a year magazine La Cucina Italiano.

The original dish comes from the (very) distant Italian island of Pantelleria, which, although under Sicilian jurisdiction, is only some thirty miles from the Tunisian coast. No, I haven't been there, but serving in naval warships I have passed it many times, and wondered... And the local recipe calls for this dish to be made with fresh rabbits. Nothing wrong with that, as I grew up shooting, trapping and cooking rabbits, but in the other parts of my family I surrender, diplomatically, to the culture of the "bunny." Whatever.

The traditional title of this dish is a spezzatino. That means a stew. (Impressed so far? My Italian is limited. I decided to start learning more this year, but ...) I substituted chicken pieces for rabbit, so the meal can now be called spezzatino di pollo con legumi. Literally, chicken stew with beans. Let's serve three or four people! Avanti!

Soak 4oz each of dried chickpeas and cannellini beans overnight in tons of water. Boil 'em up for an hour the next day. Drain and cool.

Take the biggest pan you have. It be at least 15 inches diameter and have a lid. Borrow or steal one if you must! Lightly brown chicken pieces - three legs, two breasts (cut in halves), three thighs, in olive oil. Remove from the pan. Throw in a chopped onion and three crushed cloves of garlic. Soften. (5 minutes.) Pour in three cups of chicken broth. Stir in three tablespoon of tomato puree. Add a good sprinkle of dried oregano, all those soaked and cooked beans, and half a cup of brown lentils. Then put the chicken pieces back in the pan, cover, and slow cook for at least an hour.

Serve with good brown rice and a green salad, drink a bottle of sturdy red wine, and dream of an island that you haven't been to. Yet!

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