Beans, beans, the magical fruit... You know the rest, right? If not I will be happy to sing it for you.
This month the challenge is all about choice and chickpeas. And as luck would have it, chickpeas are pretty inexpensive. Here are a couple dishes that will not challenge your pocketbook but may challenge you.
Mark Bittman has some amazing ideas and amazing cookbooks. I have chosen Chickpea Fries for this months recipe. But if that does not sound appealing to you I have also chosen Falafel. You can live on the edge and make both, your choice.
Beans have such benefits. They help reduce cholesterol, cost relatively little, offer more fiber in your diet and are environmentally friendly. By that I mean, people don't realize that there is quite a cost in eating beef for instance. They are pretty heavy animals that have to be cargoed around to graze or be moved before and after slaughter. So for this reason it is quite expensive and detrimental to the environment. Now, before all you beef lovers get up in arms, I want to say that beef is great. I could write a whole post on it's virtues too. I just want to suggest that we have a meal once in a while, if not weekly, consisting of beans.
Mark Bittman, How To Cook Everything; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
neutral oil, like grapeseed, corn, for greasing and frying
1 cup chickpea flour, sifted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Finely grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
1. Grease a baking sheet or pizza pan with a rim and set aside. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Gradually add the chickpea flour with a large pinch of salt and pepper, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce to a gentle bubble, stir int he olive oil and cook for just a minute.
2. Scoop the chickpea mixture onto the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Let cool for a few minutes and then cover loosely with parchment or plastic. Refrigerate until chilled through, about 30 minutes (but up to a day, covered tightly, after it's completely cool).
3. Put 1/8 to 1/4 inch oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, cut the chickpea flour mixture into 3 x 1/2- cutter). Gently put batches of the fries into the hot oil, rotating them gently for even cooking and browning on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Drain the fries on paper towels and immediately sprinkle with salt, lots of pepper and a good dusting of Parmesan if you like. Serve hot or at room temperature with lemon wedges.
Falafel: Chickpea Patties
Recipe by Madelain Farah, Lebanese Cuisine, Four Walls Eight Windows, 2001
* 1 pound dried chickpeas
* 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, crushed
* 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes, optional
* Salt and pepper, as needed
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 6 to 8 pitas, tops sliced open and lightly toasted
* Shredded lettuce, as needed
* Tomato wedges, as needed
* Sliced red onion, as needed
* Sliced cucumbers, as needed
* Tahini Sauce, recipe follows
Make the Falafel: Soak the chickpeas in cold water in the refrigerator overnight.
Drain the chickpeas and place them with the onion in the bowl of a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the oil. Mix well. Process the mixture a second time. Form the mixture into walnut-sized balls and deep-fry or pan-fry in hot oil.
Make the Sandwiches: Stuff the pitas with lettuce and nestle the falafel patties inside. Top with the rest of the ingredients and drizzle with the tahini sauce. Serve immediately.
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
Mash the garlic and salt together. Add the tahini, mixing well. The sauce will thicken. Gradually add the water, blending thoroughly. Then add the lemon juice. Blend well.
Note: This can be a thin or thick sauce, depending upon the use and preference. Simply adjust with lemon juice and water. This can be used with vegetables or in combination with other recipes.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Here are some tips for the falafel:
In regards to falafel, I have made it many times and it has always fallen apart on me. I usually end up putting an egg in it as a binder. This time I am not, come what may because I know others have had success without egg. I will say if you do not want to go the deep fry route, you can place little mounds in a muffin tin and do it up in the oven at about 375F. But the oil really does something magical to them. Again, your choice. Don't you just love all the choices this month?
Also the chickpea flour can be found at Indian Markets (called Besan there) and Italian Markets and Health Food Stores.