This past weekend, Esi from Dishing Up Delights and Lindsay from LAist participated in the 16-mile Great LA Walk down Wilshire Blvd. Another food blogger ran a 50-kilometer race. And I, ambitious fitness star that I am, ran a measly 5 kilometers on Sunday morning – a 3.1 mile distance that is approximately half what I usually do when I drag myself out of bed for an early morning jog.
The short community race that my friend Ashley organized as the culmination of a 10-week training program that she and Anne, her STRIDES co-founder, implemented at a local high school should barely have registered as a blip in my weekend trajectory. It’s been years since I’ve raced and trained competitively, and I no longer feel a compulsion to burn the rubber off my Nikes when I’m hitting the streets. I’m comfortable being slow and enjoy being just another runner on the path.
Plus, the race wasn’t about me – it was about the achievement of the high school students, and Ashley and Anne’s achievement in raising awareness about an important issue. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for high school age students, and it was their mission to institute a program at Olympic Continuation High School in Los Angeles that would help combat the risk factors that lead to suicide.
During the bi-weekly training sessions for the STRIDES 5K, Ashley and Anne sought to increase the students’ self-esteem while giving them the strong social support that is so necessary for kids that age. The race on Sunday was a remarkable undertaking and notable accomplishment for both the students and Ashley and Anne.
Yet even with my acceptance that my performance didn’t matter, I couldn’t completely dismiss the race. I couldn’t just treat it like another day on the bike path. So I did what any other runner would have done the night before a “big race.”
With a spaghetti and chickpeas recipe that Deb from Smitten Kitchen recommended for “marathoners."
The cuddly, saucy noodles were the perfect thing to put me in “racing mode.” I loved the way the slick onions hugged the spaghetti noodles, and the pancetta and chickpeas added satisfying heft to the dish. By the time I reached Dockweiler Beach the following morning, I was ready to roll – at a very un-record breaking pace of 7:15 minute miles.
Even though my time was no where near what it would have been in my “glory days,” everything about the race was a success. I was proud to be a part of it. And was happy to use it as an excuse to “carbo-load” with this soulful recipe the night before.
Spaghetti with Chickpeas [Spaghetti con Ceci]
Lightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted the recipe from Michael White, via New York Magazine
Serves 4 as a main
15 ounces canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained or about 2 cups, freshly cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
10 to 15 whole basil leaves (plus extra for serving)
Salt to taste
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Set 1/3 cup of chickpeas aside. In a blender or food processor, combine remaining chickpeas with chicken stock and pulse a few times until chickpeas are chopped.
Place a large pot over medium heat and add olive oil and diced pancetta. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned; a splatter screen will make your stove look better than mine did after this. Add onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Continue cooking until onions and garlic are translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add chickpea mixture, tomatoes, and basil, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt. While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, and cook until al dente, or tastes like it could use an additional minute’s cooking time. Reserve one cup of pasta water and drain the rest. Toss pasta with chickpea sauce, reserved chickpeas and half of the reserved pasta water until evenly coated and heated through, about one minute. If sauce still feels too thick add reserved pasta water as needed. Season again, as needed, and top with grated Parmesan and slivers of the reserved basil leaves.