Ceci a Zimino
Region: Italy, Liguria
Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
In Liguria today, zimino is the sauce left over from cooking beet greens, spinach, or Swiss chard in a little water and olive oil. But it is an old word that Giordano di Pisa used in 1304 in his Libro della cura delle malattie (Book for the care of illnesses) to mean a kind of seasoned cooked dish. Modern linguists have made a case that the word derives from the Arabic word samin, meaning fat or something buttery.* This is a vegetable version of cuttlefish in zimino. In this recipe I've changed the traditional preparation by using the beet roots instead of the greens. Technically, it is a different dish but equally good tasting. The color is amazingly beautiful and it can be served with nearly anything.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
Preparation Time: 4:30 hours in all
1. Drain the chickpeas from their soaking water and place in a medium-size saucepan with several inches of water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-high heat until soft but not breaking apart, about 3 hours, uncovered or partially covered. Drain, reserving 1/ 2 cup of the chickpea cooking water. Set the chickpeas aside after rubbing off as much of their thin white skins as possible.
2. Place the whole, unpeeled beets, with an inch of their stems, in a medium- size pot of water to cover and bring to a boil. Let boil until easily pierced with a skewer, about 45 minutes. Drain, trim the stem, peel, and dice. Set aside.
3. In a large nonreactive skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the onion and celery until softened, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the tomato paste and tomatoes with their juices, and cook until some of the water has evaporated, about 10 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the chickpeas and their reserved liquid and cook another 10 minutes. Add the beets and cook until heated through, an additional 10 minutes, seasoning with salt. Gently turn several times to mix the ingredients and serve.
Note: * Pellegrini, Giovan Battista, Gli arabismi nelle lingue neolatine con speciale riguardo all'Italia. Brescia: Paideia, 1972: vol. 1, 123; vol. 2, 468; Cortelazzo, Manlio and Paolo Zolli, Dizionario etimologico della lingua italiana, Bologna: N. Zanichelli, 1988: vol. 5, 1467.