Beggar’s Linguine {FFwD}

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.

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22 Comments

  1. Lana said,

    March 15, 2011 at 3:32 am

    I love exploring the etymology of certain words, so I enjoyed learning about the origins of Beggar’s Linguine. I have never heard of these confections, but I know a priori that I would love them:)
    I am sad to say that I had to skip this dish because of food allergies, but one of these days I’ll make it for myself.
    So many people enjoyed the unusual combination of flavors that I am intrigued.
    Did I spy a Fiestaware in your photo? I love them!

    • gaaarp said,

      March 15, 2011 at 6:39 pm

      It was such a good dish. Now I want to find or figure out how to make the candies.

      Our cupboards are full of Fiestaware. We live about an hour-and-a-half from the factory, so we go down a couple of times a year and shop the seconds room.

  2. Renee said,

    March 12, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    We liked it too. I love that you always take the time to explain things in your blog (ie. beggar’s lineage) I have intentions but it just rarely happens. Maybe I’ll just reference your blog for good background and I’ll just talk about it I liked the dish or not. I’m finding it much harder to cook this year with two active kids. I think I’ll do this one again too!

    • gaaarp said,

      March 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm

      Thanks. I was just so intrigued by the derivation of the name that I had to share.

  3. Elaine said,

    March 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    We felt the same way about this dish! I love the history of it and I would love to try the chocolate. Your dish with the shavings of cheese is so pretty.

    • gaaarp said,

      March 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm

      I know. I’ve been thinking of cheking online for a place to buy the chocolates. Or maybe a recipe to make them myself.

  4. chefpandita said,

    March 12, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Thanks for the informative post. I learned something new today 🙂 I too enjoyed the flavors in this dish. Yours look great!

    • gaaarp said,

      March 12, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Thanks! I really enjoyed this dish.

  5. ken said,

    March 12, 2011 at 2:21 am

    Very interesting. I think too, mendiants/beggars tended to do a lot of walking, and back in the day would only have dried fruits and nuts with them, for the most part. Kind of like hikers today. I loved this dish, it reminded me of hiking food in a big way. And it’s so fragrant, and nourishing. I learned good things from this one.

    • gaaarp said,

      March 12, 2011 at 11:44 am

      I hadn’t thought of the hiker connection, but it makes sense. This would be good dish to eat before hiking, too.

  6. Adriana said,

    March 11, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    I love hearing the stories behind words or names; thanks for the linguistics lessons. Glad to hear it was a hit in your household!

    • gaaarp said,

      March 11, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      Thanks. It’s nice to have my geekdom appreciated from time to time!

  7. sara said,

    March 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Lovely photo…and great description of the story behind the dish! 🙂

  8. Kayte said,

    March 11, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Yep, surprise here as well. Definitely something I will keep making, not sure how to describe it, but it was wonderful. I am thinking this would go well with chicken or pork as a side dish..and maybe lamb if I knew how to cook any of that. Your photo is really good of this dish, very jewel-like.

    • gaaarp said,

      March 11, 2011 at 7:06 pm

      Thanks. Lamb isn’t hard to cook. Like anything, you just have to find the right recipe. It’s on my list of not-so-exotic-but-I-don’t-cook-it-that-often proteins that I want to make.

  9. Cher said,

    March 11, 2011 at 8:36 am

    It was definitely a surporate on how well this turned out. I love that people went into the etymology of the word “beggar” as well! Thanks for the lesson.

    • gaaarp said,

      March 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm

      I found it all fascinating, so I had to share!

  10. sallybr said,

    March 10, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Loved the lesson in words – very interesting indeed.

    I am also a bit surprised by the dried fruits, but would gladly eat a bowl of this pasta if you served it to me… 😉

    • gaaarp said,

      March 11, 2011 at 7:03 pm

      I would gladly serve it to you!

  11. Margaret said,

    March 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    This LOOKS good, but not sure about all the nuts/fruit. But it does LOOK good.

    Interesting history lesson. Love word derivations.

    • gaaarp said,

      March 11, 2011 at 7:03 pm

      Try it. You might like it!


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