Get a kick out of kik

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The farmers market affords the city dweller a taste of fresh. She can stock up on tatsoi and shallot, in anticipation of the wholesome meal to come.

Choosing tatsoi and shallot is hungry work, and so she also can stock up on the already ready: spring roll, crepe, falafel, curry, samosa and croissant, say. Also, that bread.

Her youngest craves the Ethiopian bread — not spongy injera — but whole-wheat flatbread rolled around some sort of golden ginger/garlic smash. She's sure it's made from something exotic, imported from somewhere exotic, like Ethiopia. In hopes of keeping lunchbox and child filled, she takes to waking early each Saturday and rushing the Ethiopian outpost.

Then one day, while strolling the other market, the one with the fluorescent lighting and the Top-40 soundtrack, she comes across a sack of yellow split peas. She's never noticed these peas before. And yet, some telepathic message beamed from pea to shopper affirms that these yellow lumps are the very soul of that stuffed bread.

She knows that the split pea, like its brethren lentil and chickpea, is a wholesome, hardworking legume. Unlike the bean, it needs no presoak, no long simmer. Stewed in a pot, it's the bedrock of the English pottage, or porridge. In Ethiopia, she learns, they call it kik.

She takes home the yellow peas and cooks them up with ginger and garlic and cardamom. They steam thick and savory; they beg for flatbread. She's delighted to discover that kik, with its ginger kick, is easy to pronounce, easy to cook, and easy to come by. Next Saturday, she's sleeping in.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor.

leahreskin@aol.com

Kik (Peas porridge)

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Makes: 8 servings

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1/4 cup each, chopped: onion, carrot, celery

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (plus a little)

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound yellow split peas, rinsed, sorted

8 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water

Olive oil

Lemon wedges

1. Soften: Warm butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add onion, carrot, celery, ginger and garlic. Season with cardamom, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring now and then, until vegetables turn soft and fragrant, about 12 minutes. Stir in peas.

2. Simmer: Pour in broth (or water). Heat to a boil, skimming foam from the surface. Lower to a simmer, partially cover and cook, stirring once in a while, until thick and creamy (adding more liquid if need be). Times vary, depending on the peas, but count on about 1 hour.

3. Season: Taste. Add salt and pepper if you like, or even another teaspoon grated ginger. Serve, drizzled with a little olive oil and a spritz of lemon. Works as a side dish, as a dip for crunchy vegetables and pita chips, or rolled into whole-wheat lavash or other flatbread.

Provenance: Inspired by Terunesh Kassa Ray of Baltimore's Ethiopia Delight.
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