The linguistic derivation of this dish is more complex than the dish itself, so bear with me. The French word for “beggar” is mendiant, which is derived from the Latin mendicans, from which the word “mendicant” also comes. Now, mendicant also means “begging”, but more commonly refers to religious orders who, like Blanche Dubois, rely on the kindness of strangers, which is to say, they takes vows of poverty and rely exclusively on charity for their survival.
Have I lost you yet? Hang in there.
Many religions have mendicant orders, but perhaps the best known (at least in the West) are the Catholic Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and Carmelites.
OK, so back to France, where the word mendiant has come to refer to a chocolate confection studded with dried fruit and nuts and flavored with orange peel. The fruits and nuts are meant to represent the mendicant orders: dried figs for the Franciscans; raisins for the Dominicans; hazelnuts for the Augustinians (think frangelico); and almonds for the Carmelites.
So, there you have it. Mendiant (or beggar’s) chocolate is filled with fruit and nuts. And so is beggar’s (or mendiant, or mendicant) linguine. Specifically, this dish has pistachios, almonds, figs, and raisins, along with orange zest, Parmesan, and chives.
It may sound complicated, especially if you try to follow the lineage of the name. But it’s really a simple dish. Boil linguine, brown some butter with the fruit and nuts, stir in the pasta, and season with salt, pepper, orange zest, and cheese. Toss it all together, put it in bowls, and top with some chives. You can gather and prep all your ingredients while waiting for the pasta water to boil. And if you brown the butter while the pasta is cooking, you’ll have the dish on the table in less than 20 minutes from start to finish.
This dish was a complete surprise. I couldn’t believe how well all the ingredients melded. It seems like an odd combination of ingredients, better suited to candies than a main dish for dinner, but it all worked beautifully. It was savory, with just a hint of sweetness from the orange zest, figs and raisins. The whole family loved it, and we decided it would be a great dish keep in mind for a fast, satisfying dinner.