Traditionally a dish enjoyed on Sundays throughout Lent, Ρεβίθια στο Φούρνο (Baked Chickpeas) are a staple on the island of Kalymnos (I’m sure I’ve said before that’s the island from which my family is from?!). In the past, women would layer the chickpeas, onions, rosemary and olive oil in a clay pot (πήλινο in Greek), seal it and place the clay pot in an outdoor stone oven to slowly cook from Saturday night. By the time they returned from church services Sunday morning, the meal was ready to be shared with the family.
This is a dish that reminds me in every way possible of my Giagia (my paternal grandmother) who made it often. The mere image of these baked chickpeas brings me back 20 some-odd years to when my Giagia would come up the stairs from her apartment carrying a plate brimming with the rustic goodness of this dish. Don’t think I enjoyed eating them as a kid: the rosemary was much too strong an herb for me back then and the chickpeas in my mind had an odd texture. But now, I can’t get enough … especially when they are cooked as such. The chickpeas are slightly crisp outside and creamy inside; the onions are sweet and savory all at once; the rosemary has a lovely earthy flavor; and all that olive oil is just heavenly when slopped up on a piece of crusty bread. And I am so lucky that–unlike myself at their ages–my little ones enjoy them too and we can all appreciate them so much more now … for the taste … and for the memory of my beloved Giagia.
I stay true to the Kalymnian way of cooking the chickpeas, just adding a couple of dried chili peppers for some spice … and using a plain-old GE Profile oven to do the cooking. One thing to note, however, is that I share here a simplified (in terms of method not in flavor) recipe in which I first boil the chickpeas until tender and then bake them in the oven with caramelized onions afterward. You can, of course, cook the dish entirely in the oven: just soak the chickpeas overnight in water with some salt or baking soda; drain them just before using; add the drained chickpeas to a roasting dish/dutch oven with the remaining ingredients; seal tightly; and bake for 4 to 5 hours at about 275 degrees.
Ρεβίθια στο Φούρνο (Καλύμνου) — Baked Chickpeas (from Kalymnos)
1 lb. chickpeas
3 large onions, thinly sliced
2/3 cup olive oil
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2-3 small dried Pili Pili Peppers (Capsicum Annuum or chili peppers)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Boil the chickpeas until just tender (about 1 hour). Once done, drain in a colander and set aside. Meanwhile, heat 1/3 cup of the olive oil in a dutch oven or large oven-proof skillet. Add the onions to the skillet, season with salt and cook the onions until caramelized and golden in color. With a slotted spoon, remove the caramelized onions to a bowl.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To the same skillet/dutch oven (with the oil remaining from the onions), add the rosemary sprigs and chili peppers and saute for about a minute. Stir in the drained chickpeas and cook until heated through and coated well with the olive oil (if the chickpeas seem dry, add a bit of the remaining 1/3 cup olive). Top the chickpeas with the caramelized onions and place the skillet/dutch oven in the oven. Cook the chickpeas, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Serve the dish hot, warm or even at room temperature.