One of my favorite books from the last years has been The Blue Zones (National Geographic, 2008) by Dan Buettner. Statistics for longevity are examined and there are some not so surprising conclusions reached, my favorite being that those of us lucky enough to make it to the old folks stage tend to eat beans.
The Greek Island of Ikaria is mentioned a lot and it’s referred to as the place where people forget to die. Citizens work, garden, eat whole foods, little meat and of course eat beans (and drink wine.) Works for me. Diane Kochilas’ book on the cuisine is Ikaria: Lesssons, Life and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die (Rodale Press, 2014) and there are a lot of solid recipes, making it worth your consideration. It’s a serious cookbook from someone who clearly loves good food.
Like many great dishes, it just takes a few ingredients to make something grand. In this case, almost cooked chickpeas are the foundation, followed by layers of onion, garlic, bell peppers, carrot and tomato.
This is slow-cooked for nearly three hours.
The vegetables end up with a great melt-in-your-mouth texture and create a sauce with the garbamzos and olive oil.
The original recipe says you can serve it hot, warm or at room temperature. Straight out of the oven, I think it just tastes like heat. Be sure and allow it to cool down. It tasted best at room temperature to me and leftovers the next day were tossed with some ham. Might fine, but perhaps gilding the lily.
Recipe: Slow Baked Garbanzos Beans
adapted from a recipe by Diane Kochilas’ Ikara (Rodale Press, 2014)
1 pound Rancho Gordo Garbanzo beans
6 medium sprigs of fresh thyme
2 medium sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 Rancho Gordo bay leaves
salt and pepper
3 large red onions, half and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
1 each of red, green and orange bell peppers, cleaned and sliced into 1/4-inch rings
1 stalk celery, sliced into matchstick-sized pieces
2-3 large tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cook the garbanzos in plenty of water with one of the bay leaves. Bring the pot to a rapid boil and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low. Gently simmer the beans until they’re almost soft, about an hour to an hour and half. (Timing will vary wildly if you are using older beans or a brand other than Rancho Gordo.) Strain the beans and reserve the cooking liquid.
Preheat the oven to 325F.
In a oven proof clay pan, like a cazuela, add the drained garbanzos followed by enough of the reserved cooking broth to reach 2/3 of the way up the beans. Add the herbs and lightly salt.
Over the chickpeas, layer the onions, followed by the garlic, then the peppers, the celery and finally the tomatoes, very lightly salting each layer as you continue. Finish with the olive oil. Cover the pan with a lid if you have one, otherwise cover with a piece of parchment paper and aluminium foil. Bake for 2 and half hours. Remove the top and continue baking for another 30 minutes. The liquid should be absorbed and top just starting to char. Remove and allow to cool to warm or room temperature. Crack plenty of black pepper over the top and serve.
(The original recipe calls for a carrot. I had celery on hand, so here it is.)