Over the holidays I received a handful of lovely edible gifts. Having a moderate (okay, severe) obsession with produce, it’s no surprise that family and friends like to give me their fun finds and homegrown edibles to try. So, now you know where to send your extras!
This warming bowl of wintery chickpea stew features a few of the gourmet goodies I was given: sweet lemon, (garden) lacinato kale, and (garden) lemon thyme. With a fridge full of intriguing test kitchen subjects, I clearly had to do some research on my bounty.
Let’s play a produce blind date matchmaker game show, shall we?
Suitor 1: You are my favourite type of kale. Sweeter after a good frost, tender, and more subtle than your frilly, kelly green brethren. Your matte, evergreen leaves are like looking into the depths of your soul. You are rich (in taste…)–just what I like in a dinner companion. You are: Lacinato Kale (otherwise known as Dinosaur, Italian, or Tuscan Kale) and you made this stew sparkle with your handsome earthiness.
Suitor 2: You make punny jokes all the time, like, “Ain’t nobody got thyme for that!” etc.–you’re such a dad! But dad bod is hot right now, and so are you, because you’re in season and you know it. You have a touch of something extra behind that herby tangle, namely, inherent citrus notes. You’re a bit rougher than other herbs though you still play nice with others. You make me feel gourmet when I use you. You are: Lemon Thyme and you didn’t need your hand held when I threw you into the pot.
Suitor 3: You are thin-skinned and honeyed (and should probably stop suntanning so much but that is neither here nor there). And you hold onto a lot of baggage–sweet, juicy baggage. Your zippiness is unparalleled in any application, and you keep me healthy throughout the cold and flu season with your tremendous vitamin C content. You’re perfect as the star of the show, but you never complain when you’re a supporting cast member. And, yes, we know you’re not a Meyer Lemon–you’ve told us a few times already, thanks. You are: Sweet Lemon and whoa, can you shake it in a winter stew.
Now, let’s talk about what I made with my food gifts.
Chickpea stews are a constant in my weekly meal rotation. They’re one of my favourite “I need groceries” pantry dinners, carrying me over two or three days for lunch, too. However, I never think to talk about chickpea stew because I’m clearly too busy eating chickpea stew. The ingredients change with the seasons, what I’m craving, or the passport stamp I’m yearning for. Chickpeas are a blank canvas ready to slurp up any flavour you throw at them. Cook your own (something I should really get back into) or buy. They are my bomb shelter bean.
For this, I drew inspiration from Tuscany, known for its hearty bean and legume stews. With a can of both tomatoes and chickpeas, along with a few Italian-inspired ingredients thanks to my sister-in-law and friend who can grow food in his own backyard (growing food amazes me as a woman who has poor soil quality at her house (i.e. a black thumb)), I was able to make this hearty, healthy meal in under 30 minutes. Of course, if you can’t find sweet lemon and/or lemon thyme and/or lacinato kale, the common versions of those three are more than okay.
To serve, you can eat it just like I’ve shown here in a big ol’ bowl. But, if you want to gild the lily, warm the stew and generously spoon over toasted sourdough rye smeared with virgin coconut oil, then adorn with a poached egg or pillow of Greek yogurt, if desired; this restyle is like a fattened-up Tuscan bread stew (pappa al pomodoro), and it made an earthshaking dinner for me a couple of nights ago.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh lemon thyme or regular fresh thyme, plus more for serving
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- zest and juice of 1 sweet lemon or meyer lemon or regular lemon (you want 2–3 tablespoons of lemon juice)
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, roughly broken
- 1 (19-ounce or 2 cups cooked) chickpeas, drained and rinsed if using canned
- 1 bunch (about 6 cups) lacinato (dinosaur) kale or curly kale, de-stemmed, leaves roughly chopped
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium. Cook garlic, thyme, chili, and salt for 1 minute, until fragrant. Stir in lemon zest and juice, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in kale and continue to cook until tender and wilted (about 2 minutes). Serve with additional thyme, if desired.