Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fried chickpeas

Over the weekend, Andrew and I went to one of the closing Borders stores. The cookbook section was pretty cleaned out, but I managed to snag a copy of Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite. I had been hearing great things about this book on other food blogs and I'm so glad I came across a copy on sale. The book is a delight to read! Each recipe is preceded by a short essay with anecdotes from Clark's life, describing the inspiration for the dishes and the ways the recipes have evolved. I haven't been able to put it down - I've actually been taking it with me on my commute to work so that I can read it on the bus.

I've bookmarked many recipes to try out, but these fried chickpeas beat out all the others for me to try first. Andrew and I have been doing some dinners recently "tapas-style", making several small dishes in a night. It's a great way to use up random ingredients that need to be finished, especially if there isn't enough of the ingredient for it to be part of a larger dish (e.g. half a tomato, a couple of small corn tortillas, half cup of cooked spinach). These chickpeas were the perfect addition to one of those tapas-style meals. They are delicious and addictive, salty, crunchy, and flavorful. They would make a fabulous party snack - I imagine that they would pair perfectly with beer. Be careful though - make sure you have others around to help eat them, or you will finish them yourself before you know it!

Fried chickpeas
Adapted from In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite

I tossed the chickpeas with a bit of chickpea flour after drying. This step is optional, but it does give the chickpeas a slightly rougher surface, which results in some extra crunchy bits. They should come out fine without it though.

1 (15.5 oz) can of chickpeas
Chickpea flour or all-purpose flour (optional)
Oil for frying
Kosher or sea salt
Hot smoked paprika

Drain chickpeas, rinse, and then drain again on a triple thickness of paper towels, patting with an additional paper towel to dry as much as possible (they probably won't get 100% dry so just do the best you can). Toss chickpeas with a spoonful of flour (optional). Heat oil in a deep pot or saucepan until it reaches 375 deg F. Fry chickpeas until they are golden brown and crunchy on the outside, but still soft on the inside, about 5 minutes. Remove chickpeas with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Sprinkle immediately with salt and paprika to taste and toss well - Clark recommends starting with about 3/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp smoked paprika. I used at least 1/4 tsp paprika and will use even more next time, because the smoky flavor didn't come through as much as I wanted. Serve warm or at room temperature.

About storage: we ate the whole batch within a couple hours so I can't give you any information about longer-term storage...I suspect yours won't last long either though.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Whole wheat pita bread

I bought some halloumi cheese over the weekend, planning to grill it with some lemon and garlic and eat it with pita bread. But then I realized that we were all out of pita, so like any normal person would do, I decided to make some myself instead of going out to the store. Granted, the bread took close to 3 hours to make, while a grocery trip would have taken less than 30 minutes...but I spent most of the 3 hours watching TV, since most of the bread-making process is waiting for the dough to rise. And as a bonus, I got a little arm workout kneading the dough, which is better than the weight lifting that generally occurs only in my imagination.

I really enjoyed making this bread. The dough is smooth and easy to work with, and it's really fun watching the bread puff up in the oven. The pockets in pita are formed by the air that is trapped inside the bread - you don't actually have to form or cut the pockets. I thought that was super cool. Oh, and also, the pitas are delicious!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Over the weekend, I had dinner with some girlfriends at Barbara Lynch's Sportello. The food was totally delicious and made me want to cook more Italian food, particularly fresh pasta. The entree I had at the restaurant featured orecchiette, which is an "ear-shaped" semolina pasta, and I decided to try making it myself today. I consulted The Silver Spoon for the recipe, and got distracted in the gnocchi section along the way...did you know that there is such a thing as rice gnocchi? Bread gnocchi? Ricotta gnocchi? There are 18 different gnocchi recipes in this book! I can't wait to try some of them.

Anyway, back to the orecchiette. On paper, it's a pretty simple pasta to make - you don't need a pasta roller or any other special tools. The shaping is a little tricky though. I consulted some YouTube videos and watched Italian mothers making it look like the easiest thing ever. Then I attempted in vain to do what they did, gave up quickly and came up with my own way. I ended up with uneven, misshapen orecchiette, but whatever. They tasted good, and it doesn't really matter if they look perfect.

We ate the orecchiette with mushrooms and peas, cooked with a little garlic, pepper, thyme, and parsley, and topped with some olive oil and parmigiano-reggiano. I'm focusing on the pasta here, so I'm not going to give any more details about the sauce/topping. A number of sauces would work well, so play around with the pairings and see what you like.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Veggie burgers

Veggie burgers are my meal of choice when I go out for pub food. Really, all I want is the fries so I don't usually miss the beef too much. Although I've eaten many variations of veggie burgers at restaurants, I don't have much experience making them myself, so I was excited to see this recipe in this month's issue of Food & Wine. The recipe is by Richard Blais of Top Chef fame, and the list of ingredients is insanely healthy. I understand that this might not be as much of a selling point for you as it is for me, so I will also tell you that these veggie burgers actually taste really good. The texture is a bit too smooth for them to really be burger-like (this is probably my fault, because I used bulgur wheat instead of Isreali couscous), but they hold together well and the flavor is great. And, they're vegan!

The ingredient list is a bit daunting, since several of the components have to be pre-cooked, but the patties freeze well so one batch will probably last you a while. I've been eating these just with ketchup, but I think some quick-pickled veggies would add nice acidity and crunch. The original recipe suggests serving the burgers with greens tossed in lemon juice, and pomegranate ketchup (1/2 cup ketchup + 1 tbs pomegranate molasses), which also sounds good.

I've got a couple other veggie burger recipes that I'm thinking of trying, so hopefully I'll have a little veggie burger series up on the site soon!