"Nearly one in five children in America lives in households that struggle to put food on the table" (source).
This is not a statistics I just learned. I have been sensitive to the problem of food insecurity in this country for quite some time. The Alameda County Community Food Bank and Food for People are two organizations close to my heart and so is Share Our Strength.
The recent documentary A Place at the Table from Participant Media—the same studio that brought us Food Inc.—follows three families struggling with food insecurity, and sheds light on the problem of hunger in America. I believe hunger is a problem that can be solved and education and awareness are good first steps to solve it. I plan to watch the documentary soon (click here to watch the trailer). In the meantime, I have let my representatives in Congress know that I support protection of federal programs that aim to provide food to children and I hope you will do that as well.
For my participation to Food Bloggers Against Hunger, a day dedicated to raising awareness about food insecurity, I would like to mention two programs I am familiar with created by Food for the People: Plant a Row for the Hungry and Backpack for Kids. The former allows gardeners to share the bounty of their harvest who then get access to fresh produce, while the the latter ensures that children have nutritious food during the weekend, when they are not in school.
I am extremely lucky that in my life I have never suffered from food insecurity. However, I don't take food for granted. Both my parents experienced the food insecurity caused by WWII, so they instilled in me a deep respect for food in its entire life-cycle, from growing it to making sure that none of it is wasted.
The event organizer asked us to share a budget friendly recipe "featuring reliable pantry staples and ingredients that are accessible in most supermarkets." My contribution is a recipe from my archive that is flavorful, nutritious, and inexpensive: chickpeas with tomatoes and dried apricots (ceci al pomodoro con albicocche secche).
There is a story behind this recipe, which makes it particularly dear to me: you can read it in the original post. For my most recent rendition of the recipe I used dried chickpeas rather than canned ones.
Ingredients, using organic (bio1) wherever possible (see note after the recipe):
- 1 cup / 6 oz. / 170 g dried chickpeas (see below for how to cook them) OR two 15 oz. cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- a cup of diced dried and unsulphured apricots
- one large onion (about 1/2 lb / 225 g), chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin from seeds toasted in a dry skillet until they smell aromatic
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano (origano)
- 1 14.5 oz. can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes OR fire-roasted diced tomatoes with their juice OR diced tomatoes with their juice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
How to cook chickpeas
Drain the chickpeas. Put them in a saucepan, cover with 2 quarts of fresh water, and boil for 10 minutes. Skim off any foam that collects on the surface, then lower the heat. Add 1 onion, quartered, 2 sprigs of parsley and 4 garlic cloves. Optionally, add a 5-6 inch piece of kombu. Simmer, partly covered, until the chickpeas are almost tender, about 45 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons salt, and continue cooking until the chickpeas are completely tender but not mushy. Strain, reserving the broth for soups. (Source: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison)
How to prepare the dish
Place diced dried apricots in a small bowl and cover them with hot water.
Spray a large skillet or sauté pan with olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add the onion and cook in the warmed pan over low heat with cumin. Rub oregano with your fingers on the palm of your hand then add to the pan. After about 15 minutes, when the onion is translucent, add chickpeas, tomatoes and apricots, drained. If using crushed tomatoes, rinse empty can with 1/4 cup / 60 ml of water and pout that into the pan.
Raise the heat until the mixture starts bubbling, then lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, covered. Add garlic, cook another 5 minutes, uncovered, then turn off the heat, cover and keep warm until you are ready to serve the dish, the sooner the better.
I like to serve this with a side of polenta, though in my most recent rendition (shown below), I served it with a side of mixed greens (rainbow chard, kale and collard greens).
I am afraid I have no great photos, but trust me, this recipe is great.Here are the prices for the main ingredients:
- organic dried chickpeas: $1.09
- organic diced tomatoes: $1.19
- organic onion: $0.70
- organic dried apricots: $1.06
The total is $4.04. I realize this does not include the cost of the spices and of the aromatics to cook the chickpeas. However, the dish serves more than one person or one person for more than one meal. One thing the price-conscious buyer does is keep an eye on sales. For example, the organic tomatoes I used were on sale when I checked the price, so I bought an extra can.
Please, take the time to visit other blogs participating in this initiative. They are listed on the Food Bloggers Against Hunger page on The Giving Table site. A great thank you! to Nicole for organizing this event. If each of us does something, together we can do a lot towards solving the problem of food insecurity.
1 Short for: da agricoltura biologica (organically grown).
This is also my contribution to MLLA #58, the current edition of the popular, legume-centered event created by Susan, The Well-Seasoned Cook, now organized by Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen, and hosted this month by Claire of Chez Cayenne.
This post contains the roundup of the event.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the ceci al pomodoro con albicocche secche audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]