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Cicerchie, legumes rich in proteins, allies of the heart, muscles, bones, teeth but allies to be trusted not 100%. In addition to numerous "good" elements, which we will tell, they also contain one neurotoxin which in the past has given mankind several health problems. This is not a reason to ban this food, which has many valuable properties, but it is an explicit warning to moderate consumption. As almost always happens, varying and not overdoing it, at the table, rewards.
Le Cicerchie, in addition to having excellent nutritional characteristics, they are also one of the oldest and most consumed legumes by our ancestors: they were already eating more than 8000 years ago.
Cicerchie: what they are
Grown in Asia, Africa and Europe for millennia, the Cicerchie in the scientific world they take the name of Lathyrus sativus, in other more popular and informal areas they are also called guinea pea or grass pea. In India, one of the countries where it is popular, its original name is khesari.
In Italy it is not a very cultivated legume, nor very consumed, the regions where it is more frequent to meet it are Puglia, Umbria, Lazio, Marche and Molise. The Cicerchie, although rare, have even obtained recognition as a traditional Italian food product by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
In the background in Italy and Europe, this food redeems itself in African and Asian recipes, perhaps also because on the one hand it is nowadays difficult for us to find it in shops, but it has the advantage, remarkable for some populations, of requiring very little water for cooking. Unlike other legumes with very similar nutritional characteristics.
The Cicerchie like most legumes they are very rich in proteins, they also contain calcium, phosphorus and vitamins of various types, especially PP and group B. Fibers are also present in good quantities and despite being low in fat, this legume is very energetic, capable of stimulating memory and improving the body's general muscle tone.
As I anticipated, consumption must never be excessive due to the neurotoxin, the latirina, which it contains, in varying quantities depending on the characteristics of the soil and environmental conditions. Variable but that can cause problems if you gorge yourself on Cicerchie.
A disorder called the neurotoxin is linked to the neurotoxin in question latirism which can lead to spastic and irreversible paralysis of the lower limbs. As we will see later, much of this toxin is eliminated if we follow the instructions and leave them to soak in salted water for at least 12 hours before cooking them.
Furthermore, this feared latirism is a disease that concerns above all the past, when famine and precisely the cicerchia, being the most legume drought resistant, it had remained practically one of the few sources of livelihood. That means if not we eat Cicerchie as if they were the only food available for months and months, we shouldn't have any problems.
In 100 g of cicerchie we find about 315 kcal: from the energetic point of view they are a comparable food indeed, more nutritious than white bread and not from digestion problems, if well cooked. No less than bread or pasta. For a normal diet, therefore, there is also room for these legumes, indeed, they are welcome as they are rich in soluble fibers, polyphenols, proteins, mineral salts and B vitamins.
If we can consume them in balanced dishes, in which they accompany other foods or are protagonists but not the "only" protagonists, we can stop thinking about neurotoxicity and enjoy one more flavor in peace.
Cicerchie: nutritional values
In any season the Cicerchie they do not contradict themselves and give their useful contribution at the table. Useful, because they are rich in elements that our body absolutely needs. Starting with B vitamins, proteins, in evident abundance, and also of mineral salts, fibers and polyphenols.
Let's not forget that when we eat this legume, we also get rich with calcium and phosphorus. The nutritional composition of grass peas varies within the following percentage values: Proteins 26-30, Carbohydrates 48-55, Fats 0.5-2.5, Fibers 4-7.
Cicerchie: how to cook them
To defeat any residual neurotoxin panic, first suggest recipes and uses of Cicerchie let's see the method to minimize their toxicity. It's simple, nothing diabolical or chemical, it's an "old grandmother's remedy", like. So it works.
It is necessary to submit the Cicerchie to a long soak and then to prolonged cooking and high temperatures. This proceeding also helps to make them more digestible, so there is no reason not to follow the advice.
For soaking, preferably salted and lukewarm water should be used, and let us have patience for 24 hours.
For cooking, we first change the water - essential - and with the new one, clean and unsalted this time, we leave the Cicerchie cook at high temperature for a time equal to that required by chickpeas or dried beans. If we are not in a hurry, we exaggerate. If, on the other hand, the guests are at the door, or almost, we use the pressure cooker to avoid serving the Cicerchie the next morning… for breakfast.
De gustobus ... but I recommend them as a side dish, for example, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and aromatic herbs such as thyme, oregano and rosemary. We can also include them in traditional all Italian dishes such as soups, the many minestrone in which this legume accompanies whole grains and seasonal vegetables.
With the Cicerchie you can also prepare a puree that becomes a creative alternative to the banal potato one, with which to surprise diners and vary the our own diet. More simply, they can be served as a sauce for pasta, but if we are in the mood for personal and / or culinary challenges, we can try to prepare some vegetable burger with cicerchie instead of the classic chickpeas.
The Hulled Cicerchie they are the most comfortable to use when cooking. With little effort and simple ingredients, and not too expensive, we can prepare them stewed by serving a tasty and very healthy dish. A unique dish, moreover, thanks to the nutritional richness of our rare legume.
For 4 people you need 500g of peeled cicerchia, a large white onion, a clove of garlic and 4 large tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato paste and then, for a pinch of character, rosemary and sage, as well as vegetable broth.
After preparing the Soaking Cicerchie for the right time, with the procedure already explained, we can cook them on the fire for at least two hours, covered with water, already in the company of sage and rosemary. Let's not forget to mix every now and then, while separately we chop onion and parsley, cut the tomatoes into pieces, crush the clove of garlic gradually putting these ingredients in cook in a saucepan.
The tomatoes should be put last, and only for a quick blanching, then add 2 ladles of broth and pour in the tomato paste. After a quarter of an hour on low heat, the mixture is ready to be blender, along with half of the Cicerchie which in the meantime are cooked.
The last step is to add the cicerchia remaining whole and cooked to the blended part for a final cooking of 15 minutes. Good oil, one freshly ground pepper and a sprig of fragrant rosemary complete the dish and accompany us to the table.
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