Learning to play nice

Recipe: Chickpea and Tomato Sauce

Cooks (and particularly cooks who blog – you know who you are) are lousy with confessions, and here is one of mine: I’m horrible at sharing my kitchen. If you’re one of those chummy folk who consider the kitchen a communal space, a little oasis of gathering and working together, well, I’m sure there’s a musical out there for you somewhere.

My kitchen does fit the particular cliché that says it’s the room where everyone tends to congregate, even though the really comfy seats are just steps away. But it’s not having other people close by that gets in the way; it’s people cooking with me when I’m trying to cook. When it comes to divvying up kitchen responsibilities, I’m kind of stingy.

It’s enough for me to attempt to wrap my head around a recipe, to figure out what it is I’m supposed to be doing to the salmon, let alone to try and delegate. I’m a little too accomplished at grumbling at Brian when he shows up and tries, graciously, to help get dinner on the table (imagine grumbling at your husband under those circumstances! What kind of ingrate am I? I’m trying to mend my ways).

I have my excuses. For one, my kitchen isn’t exactly designed for more than a single cook at work. It’s not galley small, it’s suburban moderate, but the layout isn’t really conducive to two people standing side by side snapping the ends off the asparagus. And then I suppose my aversion stems also from the kitchen-as-sanctuary concept I hold so dear. But, I’m trying to do better at handing off the chopping knife to other, willing individuals, because, honestly, I’m not that sacrificial, and besides, cooking with another person is supposed to be a bonding experience, right?

Case in point: My sister came to visit last week – my sister who loves cooking every bit as much as I and who is therefore worthy to hold court in the kitchen right alongside me. So I had to let her in the kitchen, just had to. I couldn’t very well keep her out, couldn’t pretend to be cleaning the tile grout or some such thing when all over my very counters was evidence that I was indeed engaging in the act of preparing food.

So I decided I would suck it up and share, the way sisters are supposed to do. I’ve never had a problem sharing with her in other areas. Skirts and flip flops and my 90s music collection have all been fair game, and she has reciprocated, letting me borrow a hoodie when I visited her and forgot to pack a sweater, or making me countless copies of mp3s. Not to mention that she always cedes her bedroom to me and Brian and our overwhelming suitcases.

Gracious attitude at the ready, I planned a menu of recipes we could prepare together: handmade pasta (our first time! See? Bonding at work here!) with chickpea sauce (which we both found absurdly tasty – more bonding!); an improvised black bean spread with cilantro and lime for a Southwestern-style pizza; chicken and chutney lettuce wraps. And then there were the cookies we threw together from our elementary school cookbook. All told, she was here for a week, offering me a week’s worth of meals in reform. I don’t think I elbowed her once.

Chickpea and Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Gourmet

This sauce is hearty and versatile. We ate it with homemade orechiette, which cradled the chickpeas perfectly. There were tons of leftovers, which I tossed with some cooked bulgur and a handful of torn basil leaves a couple of nights later.

1 15-oz can chickpeas

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 medium carrots, finely chopped

¼ to ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1 28-ounce can chopped or diced tomatoes

1 cup water

1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots and red pepper flakes (red pepper can be omitted and added later at the table if you are feeding heat-sensitive people) and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until softened, stirring occasionally. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, water and ½ teaspoon and simmer, uncovered, until carrots are tender and sauce is slightly thickened, about five minutes. Stir in parsley and salt to taste.

Serve over small pasta, such as shells or orechiette, or stir into cooked grains.

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Caitlin said,

    Even worse is when you have to share the kitchen whilst the other person makes something completely different – talk about getting underfoot!

  2. 2

    parsnipsaplenty said,

    I am so territorial it’s not even funny. I make other people chop onions (!) but other than that they have to beg to help. Doesn’t help much if your (read: my) kitchen is the size of a closet, either!

  3. 3

    tiff said,

    It sounds like you and the sis had a grand time! You never cease to amaze me, everytime I read your blog I’m hearing about some new food or dish I’ve never even heard of before. Thank goodness I have you to give me some refinement! Homemade pasta, are you for real? Yes, yes you are! Teach me your ways!

  4. 4

    Elisa said,

    I love that your writing here isn’t just about your adventures in cooking (one of my favourite subjects, of course), but that you incorporate life’s lessons and your growth–as a person and in relationships–as well. Thanks for taking us along for the ever-enjoyable ride!


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