Exploring ideas for a dish that would combine my CSA pears and onions, I happened upon one that would also include my CSA chickpeas. An olla is a "soupy legume stew," and has many versions depending on the region of Spain in which it originates.
I simply cannot resist trying recipes with ingredients that are all over the map like this. The lure is the possibility of a new favorite dish, unusual and intriguing. Of course, the dish may also bomb. This olla did not. The flavors blended amazingly well into a savory, rustic stew with a subtle fruity tone and several layers of flavor. Very interesting technique to fry and chop the garlic, and add it just before serving. I'll definitely make this again.
I'd saved my two least-ripe CSA pears in the fridge, and they were still quite firm. Having no squash on hand of any type, I substituted sweet potato for the pumpkin/butternut squash. The CSA chickpeas, according the farmer's e-mail, are a special variety prized in Spain, and the seeds were brought from there. They are a tad more dainty than common chickpeas.
CHICKPEA AND PEAR OLLA (Olla Gitana or "Gypsy Pot")
Adapted from The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch chunks
9-10 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 pound pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 1-inch chunks
10 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 small, slightly under-ripe Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
10 whole blanched almonds (boil for one minute in water, then slip skins off)
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon sweet (not smoked or hot) paprika
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or one 14-oz. can diced tomatoes)
1 medium pinch of saffron (a loose teaspoon), pulverized in a mortar and steeped in 3 tablespoons very hot water
About two teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons slivered fresh mint
In a 5-quart pot over high heat, bring chickpeas, carrot and 6 cups chicken stock to a boil. Skim off any foam, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 1 hour or until chickpeas are tender.
Add 3 cups more stock along with pumpkin, green beans and pears. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I used 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Increase heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetable are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden. Remove with slotted spoon to small bowl. Add almonds and cook until golden. Remove with slotted spoon to small bowl with garlic.
To skillet, add onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring. Add paprika and stir for a few seconds, then add tomatoes (undrained if using canned) and stir, cooking for a few minutes until liquid begins to reduce.
Add tomato mixture and saffron water to the chickpeas. Continue cooking until vegetables are very soft and the pumpkin is falling apart, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add chicken broth if stew seems too thick.
Finely chop the almonds and garlic in a small food processor. Stir them into the chickpea mixture. Add two teaspoons vinegar, and taste for salt, pepper and vinegar, adjusting as necessary.
Let stew cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle mint over the top and serve the olla with crusty bread.