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Catalan Chickpeas with Sausage
    Serves 4 to 6
1 pound chickpeas, soaked in 2 quarts water for 6 hours or overnight and drained
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 plump garlic cloves, minced
1/4 to 1/2 pound fresh mild Italian sausage, sliced or crumbled
2 tablespoons diced cured ham, such as prosciutto
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or a 14-ounce can, lightly drained
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  Freshly ground pepper

Combine the chickpeas with enough water to cover by 2 inches in a large soup pot or Dutch, add the bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and skim off any foam. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste, and simmer for another hour, until tender. Drain over a bowl and retain 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Set aside.

*Advance preparation: You can cook the beans up to 3 days before doing the next step. Keep in the refrigerator.

While the beans are cooking, heat a large, heavy casserole over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook, stirring, until the sausage has browned lightly and rendered its fat. Remove from the heat, remove the sausage from the pan and pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat. Add the olive oil to the pan, heat for a moment, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, and add the garlic, sausage, ham, and green pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onion and green pepper are tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme, pepper, and salt to taste, cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly. Add the chickpeas and the 2 cups of their liquid that you set aside. Bring back to a simmer, stir together, turn the heat to very low, cover and cook gently for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until the beans are very tender and the broth fantastically fragrant. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve.

*Advance preparation: You can make this right through to the end a couple of days before you wish to serve it. Time will only improve it.

Keeping time / Leftovers
The dish will keep for about 4 days in the refrigerator. With pasta, this becomes a scrumptious Pasta e Fagiole. It’s also great with couscous.

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