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September 2006
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November 2006

Marlena Spieler's Chickpeas with Chilies


When I made these the other night (yes, the night of that other kitchen disaster) I was, at first, quite hopeful. Sure, we had to open the door to the patio because the fumes from the oil-fried chilies were so strong that Ben and I both started coughing before we even sat down to eat, but I figured that was just an occupational hazard of cooking with heat.

Oh, how wrong was I.

These were, in a word, inedible. Ben, because he is a kind and trusting soul, took a spoonful or two on his plate. He ate a forkful and then chewed some rice and stopped. And looked at me pleadingly. And then very carefully picked every single chickpea off his rice-strewn plate, and threw them in the trash.

I had forced myself to chew and swallow the serving on my plate, even though I couldn't taste the chickpeas, or any of the subtle nuances that Marlena Spieler described. All I could taste was coarse, hideous, headache-inducing pain. So when I saw Ben's reaction, I realized life really was too short. And we threw the rest away.

The kicker? I didn't use Thai chilies (as recommended in the recipe). I used those tiny, dried Italian peperoncini that, as far as chilies go, are meant to be on the mild side. At least compared with their Southeast Asian brethren.

If you have a hankering for hotness, but actually want to taste the food you're eating, I'd suggest making these with three chiles, not twenty. Go from there, experiment, and by all means add more, if you fancy. But start out cautiously. I wish I had.

Chickpeas with Chilies
Serves 4

2 tablespoons oil
20 Thai chilies or other small hot chilies, dried or fresh
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1. Heat oil in a pan or wok over medium high heat until just smoking. Add chilies and stir-fry for a minute or two or until they start to brown and puff. Do not let them burn>

2. Immediately add the chickpeas and cook until they heat through, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put in bowl, pick out chilies and discard them, and sprinkle with cumin.