August 13, 2007
Garbanzo II: The Fry
The notion of fried
beans usually prompts one to think of mashed pintos, topped with a
little shredded cheese and usually served alongside a fried burrito and
pitcher of green margaritas at a chain with a name like Tortilla Pete’s
or La Cucaracha’s Cafe.
Let us bring down
these walls of assumption, and broaden our thinking. The bean we call
garbanzo may also be fried, left whole and served with pasta.
The garbanzo is
better known by the name “chick”, which it’s most often called when left
out on all-you-care-to-eat buffet lines at wacky, madcap chain
restaurants with names like Flicky’s and Hobo Joe’s Laff Riot X-Press.
You might pile them atop iceberg lettuce and alongside a spoonful of
cottage cheese while waiting for the waitress to bring out your X-treme
Cheeez-burger or your Bourbon Steak made of a hunk of beef soaked in
genuine whiskey flavoring.
In its natural
environment, however, the garbanzo prefers less wild and madcap
surroundings, which is why it works so well as the main ingredient to
hummus – a dish requiring copious amounts of lemon and garlic to turn it
into something other than a bland off-white paste.
If properly cajoled,
it can be coaxed out of its shell. Properly cajoled, that is.
The best way to do
this is by heating it in a skillet with some olive oil. It’s important
to use olive oil, because it is an oil familiar to it. Like anything
suffering from a modicum of shyness, it prefers to come out of its shell
with those that it knows and respects, and among the cooking oil, few
are more loved and respected than olive oil.
Heat the olive oil
in a thick skillet, and when it begins to warm – you will know this when
you hold your hand over it and the bottom of your hand begins to feel
warm – add some minced garlic and crushed red pepper. How much red
pepper you add depends on two things – the strength of the peppers used
to make it, and how much heat you want in the dish. It is well worth
understanding, right now, that most people call this combination of
bean, pepper and pasta “Thunder and Lightning,” and you should adjust
amounts accordingly (if you use too little, it will be “Distant rumble
of Thunder and Lighting.”
Now, gently fry your
soft beans (either by using canned beans, which is an insult to
everything good on Earth, or by the time-tested method of soaking and
boiling in water with a little baking soda added), constantly stirring,
until they begin to pop. When this happens, it will be obvious – you
will hear a “popping” sound. You will know that you’ve arrived at this
baby bear moment – it’s “just right” – when your garbanzo beans have a
hue of golden brown. If you allow them to go too far, they will
literally come out of their shells, leaving little translucent husks
strewn about the bowl.
Turn your attention
to your pasta. There is an old rule about pasta and pasta sauces. The
noodle must fit the sauce, the sauce must fit the noodle. That is, if
you have a smooth sauce, you should use a long noodle. If you use
chunked sauce, you must use shorter, chunkier noodles.
The garbanzo bean,
gently fried, is a small ball. It will want to be eaten with pasta of
comparable size. Consider the small shell, which can make a cup for the
ball-like fried garbanzo. Also consider rotini.
Boil water for the
pasta, and cook 8-10 minutes for al dente. Drain into another pan and
turn into a big bowl. The other pan could prove useful if, in your
frying, you reduced your oil too far. It is a cheap way to introduce
moistness without upsetting the mood too greatly. The water will still
have the starchy goodness of the boiled pasta.
Mix the beans and
pasta together, and add a handful of fresh-cut parsley. This will add
not just the taste of the parsley, but will help break up what will be
golden brown garbanzos, reddish brown pepper flakes, and yellowish pasta
with some bright green. On top of this, you would be well advised to
grate some fresh parmesan cheese.
Using a plastic
spatula, fold everything in together and add some salt. If you have too
little oil, you may use some of the pasta water held in reserve – but
only sparingly – to turn the pasta and bean combination moist.
© 2007 North Star Writers
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