01 January 2012

peas in the new year

i've heard it's traditional to have peas on new year's day, for good luck and prosperity. black-eyed peas are what we have chosen in the past. but this year we went with chickpeas. the dish is called leblebi (took me about a week to pronounce it without getting tongue-tied). Deborah Madison says it's common tunisian breakfast food. we thought leblebi on new year's day would be a nice way to celebrate the arab spring of 2011, and to offer best wishes to all those struggling for a better life in 2012.

it starts with a simple preparation of chickpeas in a thin, garlicky broth (this can be made in advance). serve it over day old farm bread with the following condiments: chopped scallions, sliced hard-boiled egg, capers, pickled turnips and most importantly, harissa.

harissa is a beautiful thick sauce, deep red in color, and rich in flavor. the caraway seed sets it apart from other chili pastes. harissa is added to the chickpeas as they cook, but to make the peas more acceptable to kids or others who dislike spicy foods, you can go easy on it at that stage, and just serve plenty at the table for those who like it hot. our bread was homemade, as was the harissa (it is one of carl's specialties) and the pickles came from friends who farm turnips.

leblebi is fun to eat, a pleasure to look at, distinctive and memorable in flavor.
happy new year!