"I grew up in a ranching family in West Texas," says Louis Lambert, "and every summer when it was time to work cattle—branding and shipping—a camp cook would prepare three meals a day over an open fire for all of the cowboys." One of the cook's staple dishes was chickpeas simmered in a large Dutch oven with a smoked ham hock and lots of onion, garlic and chiles. Louis's version includes robust sautéed kale.
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2 tablespoons annatto seeds (achiote)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, cut into 1-inch dice
2 plum tomatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
One 4-ounce piece of smoked, cured ham, sliced 1/2 inch think and cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
One 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons pure ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup water
1/2 pound kale, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
How to Make It
In a small saucepan, cook the achiote seeds in the oil over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Discard the achiote seeds and reserve the oil.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the achiote oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and ham and season with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat until the tomatoes soften, about 3 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a bowl.
Wipe out the skillet. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of achiote oil and the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, just until starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ancho powder and oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato and ham mixture and the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to moderate and add the kale. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the chickpeas to a bowl and serve hot.
The chickpeas can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.
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