When Gjelina first opened in 2008, most of its patrons were Venice surfers. That’s since changed. Today the restaurant is packed to capacity every night. And a dinner reservation is required to eat here, but it’s justified. Chef Travis Lett’s Mediterranean- and Californian-style menu offers a wide variety of pizzas, tapas dishes, seafood entrees, and a rather diverse charcuterie and cheese selection. Yet, chef Lett also knows how to make a mean winter dish. In his cookbook Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California, Lett instructs readers how to make some of his restaurant’s best dishes, including the chickpea stew below. The recipe requires a fair amount of kitchen prowess, but if the directions are followed correctly, this winter stew is the perfect remedy for a day out in the snow — or after coming in from those January swells.
Chickpea Stew with Tomato, Turmeric, Yogurt & Harissa
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound of dried chickpeas
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and cut into half moons
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup of dry white wine
4 cups of vegetable stock
1 bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and cut into strips (2 inches, 5cm wide)
1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
1/4 cup of harissa
1/3 cup of spiced yogurt (see recipe below)
Makes 2 cups
¼ tsp of coriander seeds
¼ tsp of cumin seeds
1 cup of Greek-style yogurt
2 Tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp of chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
Juice from 1/2 lemon
3 Tbsp of water, or as needed
In a small, dry frying pan over medium heat, toast the coriander seeds and cumin seeds just until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool before grinding to a powder in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
In a food processor, combine the yogurt with the ground coriander and cumin, cilantro, and mint. Process until the herbs are broken down and the yogurt is tinted green, about 5 seconds. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice and pulse just until incorporated. Taste and season with salt. Stir in the water, a little bit at a time, stopping when the yogurt is still thick but thin enough to drizzle from a spoon.
Over time, the lemon juice can cause the yogurt to break and lose its creamy texture, so make just a small amount and use it right away.
1. To make the chickpeas: In a large bowl, cover the chickpeas with water by 2 inches and soak overnight. Drain the chickpeas and rinse with cool water.
2. In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, combine the chickpeas, onion, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme. Add water to cover by about 2 inches. Season with a little salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until the chickpeas are tender but still hold their shape, about 45 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Cool the chickpeas in the cooking liquid and then drain, discarding the liquid. Set the chickpeas aside.
3. In a small, dry frying pan over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds just until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool. With a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, grind to a powder.
4. In a clean, large soup pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic; season with salt and pepper; and cook until the vegetables begin to soften and brown slightly, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the powdered cumin mixture and the paprika, turmeric, thyme, and bay leaf and cook until quite fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, scraping the bottom of the pot frequently so that it does not burn, and cook until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
6. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan until reduced by more than half, 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, discard the bay leaf, and return to a simmer.
7. In a blender, combine 1 cup of the soup base with 2 cups of the cooked chickpeas and purée until smooth. Return the puréed beans to the soup pot. Throw the kale into the stew and cook until softened. Add the remaining cooked chickpeas and gently stir. Remove from the heat and let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
8. Just before serving, adjust the salt and spike with the vinegar. Serve with a dollop of spiced yogurt and a drizzle of harissa.