CHICKPEAS AND ZUCCHINI WITH TAHINI SAUCE

This side dish was the marriage of two regular appearances in our kitchen: quickly sauteed zucchini and air-fried chickpeas. The union was celebrated with a nice amount of tahini sauce.  I tell you, this worked very very well. If you don’t have an air-fryer, roast the chickpeas in a 400-420F oven. It takes longer and the texture won’t be quite as crunchy, but it will work just fine.  I intended to sprinkle pomegranate seeds right before serving for a little extra bling, but of course that day the grocery store had ran out of them. Best laid plans.

LEMONY ZUCCHINI AND CHICKPEAS WITH TAHINI-SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the tahini-sauce:
1/3 cup plain full-fat yogurt
1/8 cup tahini paste
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp honey
salt to taste
water if needed
for the veggies:

3 small zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 can chickpeas, well drained and dried
olive oil to coat chickpeas
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
salt to taste
fresh parsley
(pomegranate seeds if you have them)

Make the tahini sauce: whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve.

Make the air-fried chickpeas.  Coat them lightly with olive oil, add the spices and place them in the air-frier set at the highest temperature (usually 390F) for about 12 minutes. They should be crunchy and golden brown.  Reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet, add the zucchini covering the whole surface, season with salt and pepper. Let the slices cook undisturbed until the side in contact with the pan is well seared. Move the slices around and cook until done. Sprinkle lemon juice all over, cover the pan for a minute, remove the lid, add the chickpeas and parsley.  Serve immediately with the tahini sauce on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When I was a child, teenager or even young adult, you could not bribe me to eat chickpeas, which in Portuguese have the non-appealing name of “grão-de-bico”. It translates – loosely – as “the grain of the beak”. They can also be called “ervilha-de-galinha”, which ends up as “chicken’s green peas”. Yeah, very sexy. How could anyone consider that a delicacy? Anyway, now I crave it. Go figure.

Leftovers were delicious a couple of days later. In fact, I found out that air-fried chickpeas, when microwaved just enough to make them warm, get a nice texture, a bit more creamy inside. My lunch coupled this tasty concoction with a fried egg on top.  I was smiling the whole afternoon.

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ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SALAD OVER HUMMUS

We are back from a month-long trip to England, where I had the pleasure of eating twice at Ottolenghi and once at Dishoom.  Both restaurants focus on Middle Eastern food, and both serve dishes absolutely packed with flavor. No matter what you order, it will feel like an explosion of flavors: hot, bright, lemony, spicy, with contrasting textures to make it all even more appealing. I came back home with the goals of being a bit less timid with how I season our food, and also of expanding my horizons as far as veggie side dishes are concerned. It’s not a secret that I have a weak spot for hummus and all things chickpeas. Hummus is great as a dip, but it is quite amazing when coupled with roasted veggies such as cauliflower. This recipe will prove it to you…

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SALAD OVER HUMMUS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Simple)

for the salad component:
florets from 1 large cauliflower
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
olive oil to coat cauliflower
salt and pepper
⅓ cup walnuts, toasted
½ cup chopped green olives
parsley leaves to taste, chopped
juice and zest of on large lemon

for the hummus:
14oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil  to taste (less than 1/2 cup)
lemon juice to taste
water if needed to adjust consistency

Heat oven to 400°F.  Coat the cauliflower florets with olive oil, add all spices and mix well. Place in a single layer in a roasting pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Toast the walnuts on a dry, non-stick frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Reserve.

Make the hummus by processing the chickpeas with the tahini, cumin and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper, and with the processor running add the olive oil until it gets a creamy consistency. Add lemon juice, taste and adjust seasoning. If needed, add cold water to thin the hummus. Reserve.

Assemble the dish: in a large bowl, mix the roasted cauliflower florets with the walnuts, green olives, parsley and lemon juice.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil right before serving over hummus.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was absolutely scrumptious! You could conceivably omit the hummus, but it adds a lot to the dish. It would stand as a full vegetarian meal if coupled with items such as farro, couscous, or bulgur wheat. We enjoyed it with boneless chicken thighs marinated in yogurt & smoked paprika, with a bit of plain rice. It was our first dinner after coming back home, jet-lagged, tired, but looking forward to sleeping in our own bed, with three very happy pups nearby. I missed them so much…


Dinner is served!

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CHICKPEA BURGERS: VEGAN AND DELICIOUS

No, I am not turning vegan. How could I? Not only I am quite fond of animal protein in my diet, but I am too passionate about patisserie and once you get dairy and eggs out of that world, things get a bit dicey. But as it seems to be the case for many people, we are reducing the amount of meat we consume – particularly red meat – and incorporating some vegetarian-friendly meals in our routine. These veggie burgers are quite amazing. The tahini sauce is based on yogurt, so there goes the vegan component out the window. Such is life.

CHICKPEA BURGERS WITH TAHINI SAUCE
(adapted from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way)

for the veggie patties:
1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly
1 celery rib, roughly chopped
½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp za’tar
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chickpea flour (or substitute all-purpose flour)

for the sauce:
1/2 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt to taste
Sriracha sauce to taste  

Cover the chickpeas by 4 inches of water in a bowl and let sit for 24 hours. Drain thoroughly.

Heat  the oven to 400°F.  Combine the chickpeas, celery, parsley, lemon zest and juice, cumin, za’tar, baking soda, salt, and black pepper in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely combined. If the mixture is struggling to come together, add a bit of water, but no more than 2 tablespoons.  If it seems a bit too lose (it was the case for me), add the chickpea or regular flour.

Place the patties on a liberally oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them once halfway through, until golden and firm.

Combine all the ingredients for the tahini sauce in a small bowl, serve with the chickpea burgers, with the toppings of your choice. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: This was adapted from a great book by Lukas Volger, with all kinds of veggie burgers you might dream of, unusual combinations of flavors, I had a hard time deciding which one to cook first. I can tell you the next might be Butternut Squash, Black Bean and Chestnuts Burger… how about that? 

These Chickpea version had me worried all the way through serving time, and I even told the husband that we could be facing a Plan B, aka as Going Out for Dinner. I thought they were going to crumble in the oven, they seemed too delicate and not quite holding together. But the secret for all these burgers that incorporate grains and mashed veggies is to place them over a baking sheet well coated with oil, and let the oven do its magic. It forms a crust that gets things going in the right direction. Flip it once, gently, and that’s it.

I had to include the above picture because once I realized what I was doing, I laughed at myself. The drizzle of tahini sauce? I used a mini-piping bag, designed for ganache or tempered chocolate or Royal icing drizzles. Yeap. I might be just a tad obsessed.  You can use a fork, a spoon… or follow my twisted path. I won’t judge.

Please notice that the chickpeas are incorporated in the patties raw, just soaked in water for 24 hours. According to Lukas, that’s the best way to use them in veggie burgers, otherwise they will crumble as you try to cook them.  Something to consider if you try to design your own version.

The tahini sauce. Most recipes, in my opinion, add way too much tahini, to the point that the taste seems to glue to the back of the tongue and sit there until next day.  I prefer to have a hint of tahini, a bit more lemon, and the more pleasant saucy texture of a higher proportion of yogurt. You do what feels right for you, it’s your kitchen…

Leftovers were still pretty good next day, after a very quick warming up in the microwave. They go well with Kaiser rolls. I thought about including the rolls in this post, but I need to improve my shaping skills. If you like to see the recipe I used (everything was excellent, except my work shaping them), pay Karen a visit with a click here.

ONE YEAR AGO: Macarons with Ganache Noisette

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LEMONY SHREDDED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH ALMONDS

Definitely not the most popular veggie around, but even if you are a self-professed BS hater (cannot believe what I just did here), I suspect you will enjoy this recipe. Sometimes all it takes is cutting a veggie in a different way and a new horizon opens up. It is just what happens when you finely shred these babies. You can use a knife, but the food processor will be faster and give slices more homogeneous in thickness. Once you are done prepping the sprouts, the whole thing comes together in less than 10 minutes. Perfect side dish for a busy work day.

LEMONY SAUTEED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH ALMONDS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

(This is a heart-healthy recipe, with 1.5 g saturated fat per serving)

12 oz Brussels sprouts
2 celery ribs, finely diced
1/3 cup almonds
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
4 slices of preserved lemons, diced (optional, see comments)
fresh lemon juice to taste

Shred the sprouts in a food processor to 1/8 inch thick. Reserve.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet, add the celery, season with salt and pepper, saute until fragrant. Add the almonds and cook them until they just start to get some color.

Increase the heat to high, add the shredded Brussels sprouts, and saute them moving them around a  bit.  When they start to get a bit softer, add the preserved lemons, close the pan with a lid, and let it all cook undisturbed for 2 minutes.

Open the skillet, check if the sprouts are cooked to your liking. If they seem tough, add a bit of  lemon juice, close the pan again and cook a bit longer. If they are al dente, squirt a little lemon juice, adjust seasoning and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Amounts are all pretty flexible, I shredded enough sprouts to have what seemed enough for our dinner and leftovers for my lunch next day. It was close, let’s say that my lunch turned out a bit light.  A fried egg was needed to the rescue.  Preserved lemons will add a very intense citric flavor but don’t worry if you don’t have any around, just add  good dose of lemon (or even lime) zest, and it should be equally tasty.

That same evening I was roasting butternut squash as another side dish for grilled pork tenderloin, and decided to serve both veggies together.  Loved the color contrast and they got along great as far as taste is concerned. I admit I almost did not need the meat. But then I did.

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ASIAN-STYLE EGGPLANT “MEATBALLS”

Disclaimer: these are not meatballs, they are actually vegetarian. But it’s hard to avoid the association. Eggplant Balls? Eggplant Morsels? Nah, neither one works for me. Plus, “meatballs” is  the way Katie Lee referred to them in the FoodTV show The Kitchen, so I can always lay blame on her. Having said that, these are pretty awesome. A bit more work than you might expect, but worth it. What makes them a bit more involved is the fact that you must (according to Katie) process each component separately.  Other than that, a very straightforward method, for a tasty alternative to meatballs.

ASIAN-STYLE EGGPLANT MEATBALLS
(slightly modified from Katie Lee)

6 cups small cubed eggplant, peel left on (from 1 large eggplant)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 large egg, lightly whisked

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place eggplant in a large mixing bowl and slowly drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir and drizzle in an additional tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread on a prepared baking sheet. Combine mushrooms and remaining teaspoon oil and spread on remaining baking sheet.

Bake eggplant and mushrooms 10 minutes, then stir and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees F. Pulse eggplant a few times in a food processor until coarse in texture. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Pulse mushrooms until coarse and add to the same bowl. Pulse cashews until coarse and transfer to bowl.  Add panko, ginger, basil, egg, salt and pepper to the mixture and stir to combine.

Use a small ice cream scoop or yours hands to scoop eggplant mixture into 12 balls and arrange on reserved lined baking sheet. Bake until crispy and browned, about 20 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was our dinner on a Monday, so I prepared everything up to the final roasting on the day before. It would be too hard to make it after work, but if you can spread the preparation in two days, it is perfect. Less than 30 minutes and a nice dinner is ready for you. I took them into a more Italian territory by warming up some tomato sauce and serving with them. These are quite delicate, so don’t try to simmer them covered in the sauce, they might fall apart.  Mine were probably more fragile even, because since my eggplant was a bit small, I included one zucchini in the mixture.  Zucchini has quite a bit more moisture, and I should have adjusted the amount of panko to account for that.  I am giving you the original recipe, and advise you to stick with eggplant and mushrooms only.

Making them the day before also helps them retain the shape during baking, but you could stick them in the fridge for an hour or so and proceed with roasting.  It is nice to reduce the amount of meat we consume, so these are quite likely going into our regular rotation. They could work well also as appetizers, making them smaller and serving with a dipping sauce, perhaps a tahini-yogurt to keep with the Asian flavor, if so desired.  Two thumbs up from both of us, omnivores at heart…

 

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FRESH TAKE ON FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES

Grains and roasted veggies are a classic combination, one that I like a lot and shows up at our table on a regular basis. But lately I’ve incorporated a small extra step into it, and it is a game changer.  Interesting expression, by the way. From my “foreign perspective”, it is not necessarily a good thing.  After all, if the game is going well, a game changer would ruin it.  But the term, adopted by the Oxford dictionary very recently (2012), always has a positive connotation. Which makes it perfect to describe the addition of fresh veggies right before serving this dish. Game-changing. I promise.

FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup farro
5 carrots, peeled and cut in sticks
bunch of asparagus
drizzle of olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
yellow grape tomatoes, cut in half
fresh lemon juice to taste

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the farro and cook (as if cooking pasta) until al dente. Cooking time will depend on many factors, start checking at 25 minutes, it might take 40 minutes or a tad longer. When cooked to your liking, drain and reserve.

Coat the carrots with a bit of olive oil, season with paprika, salt and pepper. Roast uncovered in a 420F oven for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Lay they on a microwave-safe dish, season very lightly with salt and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add a paper towel on top to cover them lightly. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve.

When the carrots are almost done roasting, add the asparagus and gently mix them. If necessary, add a touch more of olive oil. Roast the two veggies together for a final 5 minutes. Immediately add the fresh tomatoes, toss all veggies together, and place in a serving dish together with the farro. Adjust seasoning and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: First, let me say that cooking farro as if it’s pasta (freely swimming in a huge pool of water), is another game changer. The problem with farro is that if you go by a specific ratio of water to grain, sometimes you hit the jackpot (that is the grain is perfectly cooked when the water is absorbed), but sometimes it is either too hard or mushy.  This method takes all the guessing out of it, you cook, you test it as the cooking goes along, and when it reaches the level you like, it’s over. Drain it, and incorporate in any recipe you like.

As to the veggies, I realize this is a little more involved than roasting a bunch of them together and calling it a day. The thing is, I am not too fond of the woody texture that the asparagus gets when simply roasted. With braces, the situation gets even worse. So I use my favorite method of preparing them, a very brief encounter with the microwave, and then finalizing in the oven. It gets the best of both worlds.

Finally, the fresh component. The real game-changing bit. Amazing what that does to a roasted veggie concoction. It brightens up the flavors, and makes the whole thing taste quite a bit lighter. You can use tomatoes of any color, diced cucumber, radishes, kalamata olives, and guess what? Grapes! Seedless grapes, cut in half. You will be surprised how well they pair with roasted veggies. I intend to try strawberries next. Why not, right? With a little rose harissa just to take it truly over the top…

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LENTILS AND RADICCHIO? YES, PLEASE!

I bet many of my readers will consider clicking away from the blog right now, because… lentils? Not the most popular item in the pantry. Radicchio? Not the veggie that jumps into the grocery cart of most shoppers. Both together? Thanks, but no thanks. Can I ask you to trust me on this? Actually it’s not even me you should trust, but someone with a lot more gastronomic fame: Melissa Clark. And credit should actually go to my beloved husband who not only found the recipe but made it for our dinner. So basically I am  giving to charity from other people’s wallets. But hey, I am the resident blogger. So there!

LENTIL SOUP WITH RADICCHIO SLAW
(adapted from Melissa Clark)

for topping:
half a radicchio head, thinly sliced
drizzle of olive oil
lemon juice to taste
1 avocado, diced very small
salt and pepper to taste
for soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup green lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of 1 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Make topping and reserve in fridge by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Make the soup: In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.  Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot.  

Stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup and add a generous amount of radicchio slaw on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This soup was excellent served with a mixed olive sourdough (recipe published not too long ago in the blog, click here if you’ve missed it). I find it a bit hard to decide if the topping made the soup or if it would shine as brightly on its own. A perfect combination. We had leftover radicchio slaw, and found ourselves munching on small amounts once our bowls of soup were appropriately empty. Next day we improvised a full salad with the other half of the radicchio head, adding a bunch of goodies we had in the fridge.

We mixed radicchio, tomatoes, olives, and avocados together. Dressing was kept simple again, olive oil and lemon juice, right before serving we added a tiny touch of white balsamic vinegar. OMG this was good. Later on we decided that capers would have been perfect, and of course some feta cheese or other sharp cheese of your choice.


Simple dinner… Red snapper, a little rice and this tasty salad… 

The secret with radicchio is to allow it to sit with the dressing for a little while, or warm it up very very briefly to soften the leaves. But that is another method that I intend to share in the near future. The great thing about this preparation is that leftovers keep very well in the fridge for 24 hours. My lunch next day was this salad with a fried egg, sunny side up. I was a happy camper.

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