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Apulian Cooking
Pisieddhri a cecamariti (Peas cecamariti-style) or Pisieddhri cu li muersi (Peas with fried bread) 2016 has been declared the “International Year of Pulses” by the UN and as its first recipe of the year Bridge suggests a pulse-based dish.
It’s an old rustic recipe, really just using up the leftovers, good enough to “blind” your husband
by Dario Ersetti
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Cecamariti. Photo by Dario Ersetti

The FAO, the UN organization that deals with food and agriculture has declared 2016 to be the “International Year of Pulses”, those nutritious seeds for a sustainable future and staple element in the Mediterranean Diet. So we thought it opportune to suggest, as the first recipe of the year, a delicious all-Apulian dish based on legumes: cecamariti.

More than a recipe it’s a cooking method, or rather a kind of presentation, or, if you prefer… a state of mind.

Its name seems to mean that the dish is good enough to make a husband turn a blind eye (or maybe two) regarding his wife’s affairs. The recipe is not only very good – it’s also well-constructed and appears to need a long preparation time, while, in reality, it’s leftovers organized in a certain way. This is where the idea of the wife busy in the kitchen for hours stems from, when actually she was busy on other business. Husbands were to be blinded by flair and dedication, as well as by the goodness of the dish.

The recipe calls for diced bread to be fried in olive oil and then mixed with pulses cooked in an earthenware pot. So we can have peas beans or fava or chick peas or other kinds of beans to which greens cooked in their own water with olive oil (nfucate or scattariciate) may be added.

Another name for this dish is muersi.

It was a very popular dish in the past, and had gone out of fashion, but it has been re-launched in these times of the revival of old rustic recipes. It’s very substantial, and used to be a breakfast dish, washed down with a glass of wine, that wives would prepare for their husbands before they went off to work in the fields before sun-up.

If you decide to make this dish at home it is without doubt a good idea to follow the original principle, that is, use up the leftovers. So the dried peas or fava beans are cooked the day before – if it’s not possible to cook them in the classic pignata over an open fire, then at least in an earthenware pot. The wild greens are best cooked the next day, scattariciate style. On the third day the pulses can be united with the vegetables, with the addition of one good handful of diced bread fried in olive oil for each of the diners and then the remaining oil can be used to dress the dish. It seems needlessly tiring to do everything the same day.

Just a word on the choice of the ingredients. In the stores you can find pulses from America (U.S.A. and Canada) that are remarkable for their size, and more rarely from the East (India), that are usually smaller. In the Orient they use pesticides which are banned in our part of the world these days, and in America they use hybrid seeds that produce large, but tasteless legumes.

Then there are the pulses from Zollino, obtained from the seeds that our grandfathers handed down, seeds that are suitable for the terrain, and don’t need much water. The taste? Just try them and you won’t be able to cook without them. By saying “Zollino” we mean any Apulian town where there is a farmer who grows legumes using the seeds inherited from his ancestors.

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