Fried Chickpeas with Sausage and Spinach

What do I eat all week long? That is an interesting question.

Some of the recipes I write about do find their way back into the weekly rotation, but there are mostly those that I never think to write about because they seem just suited for filling up fast . But this year I actually want to write about those overlooked meals. I was inspired by a similar new years resolution from The Kitchen Sink Recipes that featured her version of an everyday recipe–spaghetti, kale, parmesan and red pepper flakes–that is just the kind of thing I love.

So here it is, my humble meal of the everyday

I affectionately it call Fried Chickpea Hash. That isn’t  a pretty title so fried chickpeas with sausage and spinach works too. This dish is born out of necessity–the ever present amount of dried chickpeas in washed out jars in the cabinent, the winter making dark greens  the best to buy during these in between months, and a love of spicy sausages.

We’ve made this meal for the past two weeks like clockwork.  We stay in. We find out favorite beer. We eat chickpeas. We avoid the cold, the layers of snow that have not melted because the temperatures barely reach 30 degrees. It is okay, I’ve realized, to admit how uncool one I can be in the winter. I hibernate. Sometimes I venture out to bookstore, but that is pushing it. It works.

The rule of thumb  stays the same every time: fry the chickpeas until crispy. Sausage comes next. Everything is removed so the greens can cook. Toss right before serving. Israeli couscous cooked in broth and saffron is added too. Bowls are filled. The leftovers linger for the next day. This really is a great meal, stretching a tiny bit of sausage to feed our hibernating selves for at least two meals.

Changes abound though: add in no sausage and double the chickpeas, change the spice from cumin or curry powder or even garlic and dried rosemary, small potatoes sliced thin and fried with chickpeas are delicious, and broiling at the end with parmesan, bread crumbs and fresh lemon juice turns it all into something new and even fancy.

Other new years resolutions? Drink less coffee and caffeine. But I’m brewing some decaf right now. Some things are hard to change altogether

Fried Chickpeas with Sausage and Spinach
Adapted from Mark Bittman

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup of Israeli couscous (or other grain)
2 cups of cooked chickpeas, dried between paper towels
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, or a combination of other spices such as regular paprika and red chili flakes, etc
2 spicy pork sausage links, like andouille, cut into thin slices
1-2 cups of greens such as spinach or collards, frozen or fresh
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Cook israeli couscous or grain according to package instructions. Season and spice to taste. We like to use vegetable or chicken stock and a pinch of saffron.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat  in a skillet big enough to hold all the chickpeas in one layer.

3. Add the chickpeas. Add the paprika or other desired spices. Cook for 7-10 minutes, shaking the skillet a few times every minute or so. The skin of the chickpeas should be firm. Try a chickpea. They will be crunchier.

4. Add the sausage slices. Cook another 5-7 minutes.

5. With a slotted spoon remove chickpeas and sausage.

6. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the spinach until wilted. Remove from heat. Toss the chickpeas, sausage, and spinach quickly together. Salt and pepper to taste

7. Add the israeli couscous, toss, and serve immediately.

Moroccan Harira Inspired Stew

Moroccan Harira is not exactly the type of dish I should pick to make on a weeknight when I have many things to finish up. Of course, I did just that. I was very happy when I tasted the first spoonful but the time it takes to cook meant dinner mostly included crackers dipped in lemon hummus while I waited for the stew to bubble. It worked out in the end–tupperware full of stew meant meals for days–but next time I’d save this recipe for a weekend when I have enough time to do things carefully, without haste. Oh, the kitchen messes I get myself into during the week…

Don’t let time stop you, though, when it comes to trying this stew. Moroccan Harira is hearty, spicy, and perfect for the cold weather that has settled  quite heavily into New England area. Even if you aren’t here in New England, I bet you could find some comfort in this soup stew now. I take solace in soup when it gets snowy. I hope you do too.

I came across a recipe for Moroccan Harira—a stew with just a little beef and tons of chickpeas and lentils, traditionally eaten during Ramadan– in a recently acquired cookbook, The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. This is not a diet cookbook as the title would imply but rather a well rounded compilation based on a range of Mediterranean techniques and dishes. This book is  Tunisian chickpeas meets olive cake meets moroccan preserved lemons, plus everything that exists in between. The recipes are light on meat and heavy on my favorite foods: grains, dairy, dark greens, spice, lemons, and legumes. I am pleasantly surprised by this thrift store find.

The best part of this stew is that it is everything I want in one spoonful: spice, heat, thickness, nutty chickpeas, and a bit of meat to keep me satiated. I find the recipe endlessly customizable, too. Herbs can be switched. Lamb is welcome in place of stew beef. Lentils are adjustable. A recipe is a framework, after all. I like the interpretation of cooking best.

For my changes and additions, I decided to leave out the pearl onions and I settled on red lentils intentionally knowing they would break down a bit in the process. I like a thick, everything-is-suspended-in-the-bowl kind of stew which red lentils are perfect for. And since I planned on sharing the dish with Brian  I knew he’d be less likely to notice the lentils if they had broken down just a bit. I was right about it, too. Brian enjoyed it thoroughly, lentils and all. We ate it lovingly for a few dinners. Bread is a welcome accompaniment. Lemons are essential dropped right into the bowl before you eat.

I also tweaked the spice profile a bit. Brian’s mother sent us a food related gift package for Christmas which included Tunisian Harissa. I’ve been using it in almost everything. Instead of the called for crushed red pepper I opted for Harissa. I loved the resulting deep smoky flavor. If you can get some, or decide to make your own, it works wonderfully here.  The flexibility with harissa is key too. I added just a bit to the stew so that the flavor didn’t overwhelm but I stirred in extra with each of my bowls.

Moroccan Harira Inspired Stew

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 large onion, diced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound of stew beef or lamb, cut into small bite sized chunks
1 1/2 cups of soaked chickpeas and drained
2 cups of chicken stock
1 pinch of saffron
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 cinnamon stick
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup of cilantro, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 cup of canned tomatoes, with the juice, crushed by your hands
1 cup of red lentils
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon of red chili flakes or 2 teaspoons of harissa (adjust this to you taste for heat)
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large stock pot over medium. Cook the onions until they are browned, around 5 minutes. Stir in the meat and turn up heat a bit. Cook the meat until no longer pink.  Add the chickpeas, 2 cups of stock, saffron, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Add in 3 cups of cold water.

2. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and cook at a simmer until the chickpeas are soft, around 30-40 minutes.

3. Mix the finely minced parsley, cilantro and celery stalks in a large deep skillet over medium-low heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Stir a few times until the vegetables are soft.  Add the tomatoes with the juices. Cook 5 minutes.  Add the lentils.

4. Add 4 cups of  warm water, half of which can be some of the chickpea-meat water if you want,  to the lentils. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, and chili flakes or harissa. Cook 20 minutes until the lentils are soft, adding extra water if needed to keep the mixture bubbling.

5. Mix the flour with the lemon juice and 3/4 cup of cold water. Mix vigorously so that no lumps remain. The end result should resemble heavy cream.  Stir this mixture into the lentils.  Cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly.

6. Add the lentils to the chickpeas and meat. Add a few cups of water if needed. The stew will be thick. Cook another 15-20 minutes.

7. Serve with additional sprigs of parsley and cilantro as well as a slice of lemon.

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Collard Greens Soup

There is this soup from Smitten Kitchen that never leaves my mind, especially once it gets cold outside. It features spicy sausage and sweet potatoes. The end result is a delightful but rustic cross between a pureed soup and a hearty stew. And I just love the smoky flavor imparted by the sausage, which is first browned and then removed so that all the deliciousness can be transferred to the onions and garlic to make the soup base.

All my love aside, Sunday night I just didn’t have any sausage. And I really wanted that soup.

I thought instead of running out, why not just make the recipe without the sausage? The technique is the real star, where you mash half of the potatoes right in the pot, with or without sausage.

I just needed to come up with a new spice combination to proceed. Smoked paprika, which is fast becoming the one ingredient I use in everything, came to mind.  A few other spices added complexity but I threw in nothing too involved. A Sunday night dish isn’t the kind I want to be laboriously mixing spices for.

This chunky and thick soup is delicious not only right after it is made but later on in the week, once the flavors mesh together. I honestly didn’t miss the sausage either. I’m a definite fan of sausage soup (mostly because it is a funny thing to say and write about) but a complex and hearty vegetable dish with color and heat is always welcome.

I also believe this adapted version confirms that pretty food doesn’t taste as good as not so pretty food. These are not winning photographs, but the soup is good.

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Collard Greens Soup

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can of chickpeas, washed and patted dry
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon and 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, divided
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 pound sweet potato, cut into small cubes or slices
1 small potato, cut into small cubes or slices
4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (if you want this to be vegan)
2 cups chopped and torn uncooked collard greens.

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a deep heavy pot over medium high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika and the chickpeas. Brown for 5-10 minutes.  Remove chickpeas and set aside.  Add the onions, garlic and remaining spices. Brown for 5-10 minutes, mixing thoroughly to make sure the spices do not burn.

2. Add both the sweet and regular potatoes. Cook the potatoes for 12 minutes until they begin to soften.

4. Add the broth and mix vigorously, making sure to incorporate any browned onions pieces hugging the bottom of the pot. Let the soup come to a boil.  Once boiled, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

5. After 15 minutes of simmering take a potato masher and mash about 1/2 of the potatoes in the soup so that the texture begins to transform into a blended yet still chunky mix. This is best judged by you so taste often!

6. Add two cups of chopped collard greens and the set aside browned chickpeas. Let the soup simmer, covered, for another 5-10 minutes until the greens are soft and wilted.

Simple Roasted Chickpeas

Today is just a great day to be outside. It is the perfect kind in May for walking around Boston, winding in and out of streets, and eating sandwiches on the grass in parks we’d only just discovered existed. But just a few days ago it was fall-like. I was bundled in layers this past week before heading to work, wearing scarves and blazers like it was October all over again. That is when I decided roasting could still be done. The result of cranking up the oven in one of the last moments I could until it was actually fall again were chickpeas simply spiced in an herb and citrus spice blend. They were roasted until surprisingly crunchy, with a deep meaty taste.

Brian popped a handful in his mouth without any reluctance. He is not a big fan of beans, but these dressed up chickpeas are a pretty compelling snack even for the legume averse. The best part is that you can spice them any which way. Next time, I’d like to try them spicier. A curry blend may do the trick. Or perhaps, some chili powder.

A few comments on the recipe: I did not roast the chickpeas until they were darkened and really crisp as some blogs picture this recipe. I roasted them only until a bit brown but definitely crispy on the outside. If you prefer a darker and very crispy chickpea, I’d recommend turning up the heat a bit to 425 and making sure the chickpeas are very dry before putting them in the oven. Either way, just sample the chickpeas as they roast to make sure they suit your taste buds. I found them after 40 minutes to be a good mix of crisp but still a bit chewy inside, which I liked.

Roasted Chickpeas
Straight from The Kitchn

Makes about two cups.

Ingredients:
15 ounces of cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons of olive oil
a few teaspoons of spices that suit your fancy!
salt

Directions:


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat dry the chickpeas.

2. Toss the chickpeas with olive oil, salt, and spices.

3. Spread on a baking sheet. Cook for 40 minutes, tossing often.

4. Toss roasted chickpeas with salt and more spices.

Falafel Party Time

IMG_0885

 

IMG_0891  

This blog post should really be titled “Adventures In Deep Frying.” Until last night, I had no idea I needed to actually deep fry falafel. I mean, it makes sense now that I know but at the time when I naively chose falafel for a small dinner party I didn’t think that I would need the two inches of hot oil to achieve the desired end result. Falafel? No problem I thought. Count me in!

Miss Julia Metro, her visit to Boston being the reason for the small gathering, burst my fry-less falafel dream. But I’m glad she did. I was just about ready to run in fear of ever making falafel. I was considering what last minutes things I could make with uncooked chickpeas (hmmm, nothing?) yet she held fast. Julia volunteered to heat the oil, citing her father’s adventures with a fry daddy as sufficient experience in the world of deep frying, while Brian and I measured out the ingredients. Then the two of them took hold of the whole dropping-chickpea-balls-into-350-degree-oil because next to spiders I think hot oil is second on my list of Things To Avoid.

I tried the first falafel with skepticism. But I was amazed that it tasted so much like, well, falafel!  Falafel reminds me of New York City, wandering the streets, and eating street food on a tight budget. It was a nostalgic meal to say the least. And it was just so rewarding to recreate a simple but familiar food.

The falafel balls didn’t hold together as well as we wanted them to at first. But after compacting them they cooked perfectly; the outside was crisp and browned but the inside was warm with just the right amount of softness. A one pound bag of chickpeas, soaked but not cooked beforehand, made more than enough to feed six hungry mouths. With all the fixings, the falafel were better than most restaurants claim to be falafel. Tahini dressing is a definite must.

More adventures in deep frying are yet to be had, I suspect.

p.s. I apologize for not getting the best shot of a finish falafel sandwich. A dinner party usually means wine which usually means I’m not much of a photographer. )

Falafel
Adapted from Mark Bittman

Serves 3-4. Double recipe to feed more.

Ingredients:

1/2 of a bag of dried chickpeas, soaked for 24 hours and drained. Do not cook!
1 cup of fresh parsley
1 small onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
teaspoon cayenne or chili powder, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Neutral oil for frying

Directions:

1. Heat two inches of oil in either a saucepan or large deep skillet until it reaches 350 degrees. We used an instant read thermometer to test the oil.

2. Add all ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until minced but not pureed. Add a tablespoon of water if you need to keep the machine going. But beware of making the batter too wet which will hurt the frying process.

3. Drop heaping tablespoon sized balls or patties of the chickpea mixture into the heated oil. Do not over crowd the oil. Cook each ball until brown, which will be under 5 minutes. Eat hot or at room temperature. I reheated the falafel on a baking sheet in the oven which worked out well.

Chickpeas in Parsley-Tahini Sauce and Lemon Zucchini Couscous

The other day I found a copy of Donna Klein’s The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen for a dollar at a thrift store. I’ve leafed through this cookbook often in Barnes and Noble so I was pretty excited to get it on the cheap. Although I am a meat eater through and through, I do love the complicated vegetable dishes that vegan cookbooks provide. I especially like vegan cookbooks focused on a particular type of cuisine where the dishes have such interesting flavours that meat isn’t missed at all. The review of the cookbook on amazon sums the point up nicely:”Food writer Klein’s goal was to include only vegan recipes that really exist in Mediterranean cuisine”. This is not a cookbook full of meat replacements.

For tonight’s dinner I made Zucchini-Lemon Couscous and Chickpeas with a Parsley Tahini Sauce. They were exactly what I was craving after a long walk. The lemon in both made for a fresh and light tasting meal. They were both very summer friendly meals, which made me a bit sad for the coming fall. But, fall means pumpkin bread, so I will be okay. I also added a twist to the chickpea dish by throwing in some shredded carrots. I love the combination of creamy tahnini and crisp carrots; I would recommend this addition highly. Best of all, each dish keeps well in the fridge for further meals.

Zucchini-Lemon Couscous

1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 bunch of scallions, white parts chopped and 1/2 cup of thinly sliced green tops
1/2 pound zucchini, about one medium, diced
2 cups of vegetable broth
juice of 1/2 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon of lemon rind
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups of instant couscous, preferably whole wheat

1. In a saucepan saute the white parts of the scallions in olive oil, for about two minutes.

2. Add in the zucchini and cook until soft, for another 2 minutes.

3. Add broth, lemon juice, lemon peel, salt and pepper. Bring this to a boil over high heat.

4. Add couscous after boiling and remove from heat.

5. Let this stand covered until all the liquid is absorbed.

6. Once ready, top with the remaining scallions.

Chickpeas with Parsley-Tahini Sauce

2 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 can of chickpeas
1/2 cup of fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons of sesame tahini
1/2 cup of shredded carrots
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. In a bowl toss the chickpeas, parsley, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

2. Serve at room temperature or chilled.