fig. a: bread, bread
Good. Me too.
Of course, with bread this good, you barely need to do anything to it. But, then again, there's no need to be a puritanical about it. If you don't have access to "elemental bread" from a real, artisanal bakery (like Tartine, Red Hen, or Bohemian) you can bake your own, any time you like, no matter where you live.* So, go ahead, dress it up a little.
There are obviously plenty of different ways you could put those beautiful loaves to work, but Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread really is a great cookbook on top of being an exceptional baking book. It's chock full of all kinds of tempting recipes involving fresh and staled bread, including soups (white gazpacho, sopa de ajo, North African breakfast soup, etc.), salads (panzanellas, kale caesar, escalivada, etc.), sandwiches (pan bagnat, meatball sandwiches, bruschetta of all sorts, etc.), and a number of other mains and sides (tomates provençales, porchetta, savory bread pudding, etc.).
One that's become an instant favorite here at AEB, and that happens to be particularly seasonal at the moment, is Robertson's fresh chickpea hummus, which he serves as an open-faced sandwich on fried bread with olive oil-packed sardines, hard-boiled egg, and cilantro (!). Sounds inviting, right? It is. And his fresh chickpea hummus is unlike any hummus we've ever had before--lighter and more herbal (vernal, even), with a real chlorophyll punch.
Where to begin? Well, first you're going to need two pounds of fresh chickpeas. Dried and canned chickpeas are pretty much ubiquitous at this point in time, but fresh chickpeas aren't. So you'll probably have to hit up one of your better Mediterranean/Middle Eastern greengrocers. We got ours at Chez Nino, at Jean-Talon Market, and they looked something like this.
fig. b: fresh chickpeas by the bag
Then you're going to have to shell them. This takes a while, because there's no way to cheat and do them en masse--you've got to do them one by one, with your fingers. They're not nearly as finicky as fava beans, though, so don't worry. Just put on a record, pour yourself a drink, relax, and start peeling. Get a friend to help you, and it'll go twice as fast.
Once you get into it, it's actually kind of fun. There's something of the pleasure of popping bubble wrap to them, but this is endlessly more rewarding. Trust me. Instead of being left with plastic and air, you're left with something that's pretty and edible. The best are those nice full ones. They tend to be easier to shell, but they're also ripe and obviously full of flavor (try a raw one, if you don't believe me), and they also do a better job of filling your bowl. The very best are the twins, which are as cute as... well... two peas in a pod.**
fig. c: little twin peas
When you're done, you'll have a pile of freshly shelled fresh chickpeas that looks something like this.
fig. d: fresh chickpeas, shelled
And once you have those, and you've assembled all the other ingredients, you can really get started.
Open-Faced Sandwiches with Fresh Chickpea Hummus and Sardines, a.k.a. The Hummus Sardwich
For the hummus:
2 pounds fresh chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans), shelled
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp sesame tahini
12 fresh mint leaves
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the sandwiches:
2 slices fresh or day-old bread (Robertson recommends his Whole-Wheat Bread, but we've found that his Country Bread is our favorite)
1 hard-boiled egg
one 3.75-oz can olive oil-packed sardines
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
To make the hummus, bring a pot of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water and place it nearby. Add the chickpeas and garlic to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to the ice water to cool them, then drain again.
Put the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, mint, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor. Process until smooth. With the motor on, add the olive oil in a steady stream until the hummus has the consistency you like. Adjust the seasoning.
Pour 1/4 inch of olive oil into a skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the bread and fry until deep golden brown and very crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn and fry until deep golden brown and crisp on the second side too.
Press the hard-boiled egg through a sieve like this.
fig. e: boiled egg, sieve
Spread the hummus on the fried bread and top with sardines. Garnish with the sieved egg and chopped cilantro and serve.
fig. f: hummus sardwich
Serves two, with plenty of leftover hummus to be used as you see fit.
[based very closely on a recipe entitled "Sardines and Fresh Garbanzo Hummus" in Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread]
If you're not big on the idea of sardines, just leave them out and make the fresh chickpea hummus. It really is something else. Serve it on its own, as you would a traditional hummus. Or make a sandwich with grilled vegetables, like artichoke hearts, red peppers, or asparagus.
Just make sure to make it sometime soon. Spring is slipping away, and so is the season for fresh chickpeas.
* Well, maybe not exactly "any time you like" and "no matter where you live," but nearly.
** Not unlike these guys:
fig. g: two peas in a pod