Chickpea-Battered Fried Leeks

Fried Leeks

I made this as a quickie-quick appetizer on Christmas Eve. No, the kids didn’t eat them, but the hubs and I thoroughly enjoyed them. A repeat performance definitely has to happen.

I’d been thinking about this onion fritter recipe, found on Pinterest, for a long time. I ended up using a simpler recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but I love the ideas in the first, too. I was just short on time.

The brilliance of this concoction is that the ingredients are so few, the flavor is more than the sum of its parts, and it’s painlessly gluten-free—–without even trying. Given my well-documented obsession with chickpeas (here, here, and here—oh, and here and here) it really hit all the points on my checklist.

So, here’s the skinny:

1 part chickpea flour, 4 parts water, salt. A sprinkle or two of cumin and cayenne. I used 1/4 cup chickpea flour and 1 cup water for 1 sliced leek. Drag leek rounds (or onion rounds) in extra chickpea flour, then dunk in batter. Fry in a generous (but not huge) amount of oil. Drain and enjoy.

Mr. Bittman says battering veggies with chickpea flour and frying is a traditional Indian preparation and can be served with chutney (oooh!). Sadly, I didn’t have any chutney on hand and didn’t feel like making any, but maybe some other time. I poured out the last bit of batter and made a lacey pancake with the last scraps of leek. Yum! I may have to try this with other veggies.

Poking through the blog I found thru Pinterest (a bit of this and a bit of that) I see lots of exciting Indian recipes. I’ll have to browse some more…

In other news, I’m still working on my nonfiction picture book, and things are starting to gel. So exciting. And the other night I got to attend the Women’s National Book Association book swap. Check out my instagram feed (it’s in the right hand column of the blog) to see my haul.

And for more of my cooking and eating adventures, click here.

Frying leeks

Tabbouleh with Red Pepper and Chickpeas

I’ve always made tabbouleh from the box because it’s so easy and quite good, but the box mixes aren’t in every store here in Germany. This time I found only plain bulghur so decided to make it from scratch using Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

I still think box-mix tabbouleh is decent, but making it from scratch definitely kicks things up a notch, and it’s really very easy. The most time-consuming part is chopping the herbs and veggies, but that’s really no big deal. It’s a real herb love-fest.

I added a little red bell pepper and chick peas in addition to the usual tomato and cucumber to give the salad some more heft. I think I may also have used scallions instead of white onion. It was super delicious. Recipe here.

We had our school festival over the weekend, and as always, there’s great international food there. I keep dreaming about these wonderful tamales and salsa and also, some fantastic Egyptian falafel. The falafel was green! And full of flavor. Note to self: Learn how to make tamales and Egyptian falafel.

What about you? Made any good salads lately?

A Year of Less Meat

Last year, as a casual sort of a New Year’s resolution, I decided to eat more vegetables. I figured that the only way to do it was to learn some more interesting vegetable recipes, so I bought Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and combed through it and some other favorite recipe sources.

I didn’t make any big promises or specific goals about vegetables. My plan was simple: if I made the vegetables the main event of the meal, instead of an afterthought, then meat would become secondary, and the vegetables wouldn’t be a chore to eat.

I don’t ever envision myself as becoming a complete vegetarian. There are too many meat dishes that I truly love. But I’m moving toward saving those as a special treat and skipping the meat when it isn’t anything special—for health and also because of a growing concern about how our meat is produced and what it takes to produce it. The family (husband, two kids) has been surprisingly flexible with the new recipe testing.

Besides How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (HTCEV) I’ve especially enjoyed the blog 101 Cookbooks and Foster’s Market Cookbook (sometimes altering FMC recipes to cut the meat content). Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood cookbooks are also a great place to start if you’re looking to reduce your meat intake.

The collage above includes our favorite recipes from 2011. Many of them I blogged about. Maybe they’ll inspire you.

From left to right, starting from the top:

1. Spicy Cauliflower  from 101cookbooks

2. Baked Rice and Red Kidney Beans, Jamaican Style from HTCEV

3. Spicy Baked Chickpeas from HTCEV

4. Simple Bean Tostadas—filling from Healthy Latin Cooking

5. Tortilla Soup from 101cookbooks

6. Curried Cauliflower with Cashews, inspired by 101 cookbooks but really I just followed the directions on the curry paste package and added toasted cashews.

7. Beer-Glazed Black Beans from HTCEV

8. Tuscan White Beans with Pasta from HTCEV

9. Pasta-Chickpea Salad with Tomato and Basil, my own creation

10. Falafel in pita, from a falafel mix, with Tahini Sauce from HTCEV

11. Tabbouleh made according to mix directions, with vegetables and Yogurt Sauce from HTCEV

12. Strawberry-Peach Agua Fresca

13. Rustic Pine Nut Sauce from HTCEV

14. Pumpkin Soup (with chipotle/ adobo sauce swirled in) from the butternut squash soup recipe in the William-Sonoma Soup book

15. White Bean Chili from Foster’s Market Cookbook (minus the chicken)

16. Pa Jun (Korean style veggie pancakes) from HTCEV

17. Red Lentil Soup with Lemon from 101cookbooks

18. Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Garlic from HTCEV

Brussel Sprouts by Request (?!)

I sent hubs to the store the other Saturday and asked him to buy some vegetables for dinner the next day. He came home with brussel sprouts. Really? Yes, really. Does your husband ever come home with brussel sprouts? Didn’t think so.

I had never, ever cooked brussel sprouts. I always thought of them as something kids on tv were forced to eat. I had never even knowingly seen them in real life until eating them a few years ago at a fantastic restaurant in Charlotte, NC (Rooster’s). I dreamed about those brussel sprouts for months (no, seriously, I did! Scout’s honor!) but never tried to recreate them. They were cooked in bacon fat, I’m pretty sure. Sigh. Oh bacon fat, I love you, but sadly, you are not an everyday food.

We didn’t have any bacon in the house anyway, and the stores were closed for the weekend by then, so I pulled out my trusty How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, and sure enough, there were three brussel sprouts recipes.

This is the one I had the ingredients for: Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Garlic

Yum! Winner! The kids wouldn’t touch them, but they were pretty curious about them.

One note on the recipe. Though the sprouts are supposed to be browned in the end, I would check them several times during cooking to see when they get tender. They can get too brown, and it’s hard to judge from the recipe instructions. The ones you see here are actually a little bit too brown, and this is when they start to get a little bitter. I actually made the recipe twice last week, and the second time I cooked them for a bit less time on a bit lower temp, and they were even better. Our convection oven makes things a bit tricky to calculate, as it cooks faster and the temps usually need to be adjusted.

Like I said, they should be brown, but take them out when they’re all the way tender. The balsamic vinegar really makes it here. I think they could use even a little more garlic, since you’re really just using it to flavor and not eating it (at least we don’t eat whole cloves—-maybe you do—no judgment. I love garlic).

I’d like to try the other sprouts recipes, too. And I’m thinking this nut topping would be awesome with the sprouts since it has a wonderful bacon-y like crunch and flavor. Mmmm…here I am dreaming of brussel sprouts again. Good thing they’re in season right now. Thanks, hubs, for the inspiration.

 Here they are in the pan in step 1 of the recipe. Aren’t they cute?

Spicy Baked Chickpeas with Cheese

You’re going to think all we eat are beans around here. Contrary to squeaks from the peanut gallery, it isn’t true. But beans are what I’m into exploring these days.

This was another recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Really loving that book. The actual title of the recipe is “Baked Chickpeas with Fresh Cheese,” but I didn’t think that did it justice.

Here’s before baking:

You make it with a spicy Indian-style tomato sauce and coconut milk (or cream) and crumbled cheese. I subbed feta for the Indian cheese since I knew it would be a wild goose chase to find it. Sounds a little strange but it was so so good.

Here it is after baking:

We ate it with rice. There were no leftovers. However, while I was cooking it, I got scared I wasn’t going to like it. The smells and flavors just didn’t seem to work together until the last minute, when everything clicked into place, and boy I’m getting hungry just thinking about it right now.

Anyone know the etiquette for posting recipes from cookbooks? I did ask permission for the last one I posted, but I don’t feel right posting a bunch. Here’s a version of this recipe here.  And oddly you can find the page on google books here, but isn’t that kind of weird? Shouldn’t you have to buy it as an e-book? It would make a great e-book since it’s sooooo huge, but the last time I checked it wasn’t available that way.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to see the one about Jamaican-Style Baked Rice and Kidney Beans from the same cookbook.

Baked Rice and Red Kidney Beans, Jamaican Style

In my ongoing quest to eat more vegetables, I’ve been randomly trying a few things from Mark Bittman’s encyclopedic How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It has all kinds of things I’d never thought to try, or known existed. The number of bean dishes alone could be a book all to itself.

This recipe turned out to be delicious. Comfort food without animal fats—coconut milk instead. It’s not labor intensive, and it has this wonderful crusty finish.

Here’s my version of the recipe, using canned beans and brown rice. Please note, if you’re using the original recipe with dried kidney beans, you should pre-cook them alone and then add in to the recipe, as dried kidney beans have strong toxins that need to be rinsed away after cooking. Look on the FDA website for more info.

2 TB extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 fresh hot chili, cored, seeded and chopped *

1 TB minced garlic

3/4 cup canned kidney beans

1 1/2 cups long-grain rice (I used brown)

1 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put the oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium. A minute later, add onion, pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add beans and cook together for a few minutes.

2) Use a potato masher or back of a spoon to smoosh the beans in the pot (not too smooshy).

3) Stir in the rice, coconut milk, and a good amount of salt and pepper (watch the salt since you’re using canned beans since they will already be salted). If you don’t want a crust to develop, cover the pot. Bake in the oven until the rice is tender, around 60+ minutes with brown rice (less for white rice), adding water as needed. I probably added at least a cup, maybe more, of water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add thyme. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days (reheat and stir in a little water and olive oil just before serving).

*I subbed bell pepper since I was hoping the kids would want to try this one. They didn’t, so I wished I had used the hot pepper instead, which I think would make it even better. I’m also thinking I’d add a little squeeze of lime on top next time.

Here’s what it looked like going into the oven:

Have a great weekend!