Category: chickpeas

Best Ever Eggplant & Chickpea Curry (that just happens to be vegan!)

I’ll begin this entry by stating that curry is one of my absolute favorite foods. As I love it so much, I am also quite critical and picky when it comes to finding good curry. Before I show you how to make the tastiest eggplant curry you’ll ever have, I’d like to teach you a few things about curry itself.

First off, let me just clarify that curry is not a spice, contrary to popular belief. There exists an herb called the curry leaf, though it is nothing at all like the yellow, processed powder that North Americans refer to as “curry.” This blended curry spice is entirely of western origin, dating back to the 18th Century, presumably sold by Indian merchants to the British.

So what makes curry curry? The answer to that differs depending on who you’re talking to. One thing all curries have in common: a complex blend of flavours and spices, that are often (but not always) enhanced with different types of chilli peppers. There are more varieties of curry than there are christmas cookies, and their ingredients differ by region, ethnicity, and cultural background. For example, a thai curry will often feature lemongrass, ginger and coconut, whereas an Indian curry will usually contain a mixture of turmeric, coriander and cumin.

The majority of the curries that I cook are Indian style, but are not necessarily traditional. A friend of mine, who is from India, taught me that an authentic curry from her region will make your ears burn and your eyes tear up, but will be so deliciously addictive that it’s worth building up a spice tolerance for.  For months, I watched her make her curries, throwing handfuls of spices in, which seemed, at the time, to be tossed in at random, in abundant quantities. I later learned that she must have known exactly what she was doing though, because through lots of trial (and some error) I have discovered that blending the correct amount of spices is an art form. Certain spices, like fenugreek, can add wonderful complexity, but if overused, can leave you with a terribly bitter aftertaste. Others, like cinnamon, may get lost in the mix if you don’t add enough.

Today’s curry is a simple one, with a spice level that you can easily control. It’s great for those who aren’t too familiar with Indian food, and who want to try something different. Let me stress, especially if you’ve never made curry before, to follow these instructions exactly. Too many times, I’ve seen comments on recipe blogs from users who have “tested” out a recipe, having made so many alterations that the recipe isn’t at all what it was meant to be, and then they complain that it didn’t taste good. (Well, yeah, if you’re making chocolate cookies, and you decide to replace the chocolate with kale, it’s going to taste a little weird, geniuses!)  /endrant. As with all recipes, I suggest that you follow this exactly, and adjust to taste only at the end (with salt or spice.) Organizational note: I roasted my eggplant the day before to allow for a faster weeknight meal prep.

Now… the recipe you’ve all been waiting for…

The Best Ever Eggplant and Chickpea Curry
an original recipe by allison sklar

ingredients

1 large eggplant
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch salt

2 tbsp butter (or coconut oil, to keep it vegan!)
1 tbsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed with mortar and pestle
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp cumin powder
pinch turmeric
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 large handfuls fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup water (more if needed)
1 tbsp sambal oelek  (found in most major grocery stores in the International/Asian section)
salt, to taste

instructions

Roast your eggplant: Slice in half, lengthwise, and rub it all over with olive oil. Sprinkle the fleshy side with salt. Place flesh side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast at 400F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until skin begins to bubble and shrivel. Allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop flesh out, roughly chop, and reserve in a bowl for later.

In a wide, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt your butter/coconut oil. Add the onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion is golden in colour (about 10 minutes). Be careful not to burn the onion. When onion starts to become golden, add the coriander seed and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the rest of your ingredients except the cilantro and sambal olek. Stir. Cover and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring intermittently. (If you notice your curry looks too dry, add a bit more water, 1 tbsp at a time.) Remove lid and add cilantro and sambal olek. Stir and continue cooking until desired consistency is reached. Salt to taste. Serve over basmati rice, or with chapati bread.

Stewed Chickpeas with Caramelized Sweet Potato

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi have written some of the most delicious recipes that I have ever tried. The pair have a way of taking whole foods and transforming them into vibrant, flavourful dishes that absolutely never disappoint. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the duo, they are the co-authors of the Ottolenghi and Jerusalem cookbooks. Ottolenghi has also published two excellent vegetarian books, Plenty, and Plenty More, collections of recipes from his vegetarian newspaper column over at the Guardian. Whenever I’m in need of inspiration, I flip one of these gorgeous books open, scan around, and stop at whatever catches my eye, or whatever suits the vegetables in my fridge. I am in no way affiliated with these authors, and this isn’t a promotion. This is just a little fangirl blogging about her biggest inspirations!

This weekend, I was invited to a very meat-centric potluck dinner, so I felt it appropriate to provide a hearty vegetarian option for those of us who are slightly less carnivorous. I wanted to make something simple, but that had a complex flavour profile. Enter this colourful dish – stewed chickpeas with caramelized sweet potatoes. Sounds simple, but Oh. Baby. I want to eat this stuff all day, erry day. Now, note that you can probably make this vegan by subbing coconut oil for the butter, but really, if there’s ever a time to use butter, that time is now. Replacing it would be, just… well, it would be just OK. It would kinda be like the difference between going to see a Stones cover band, or seeing the actual Rolling Stones. The butter is Mick Jagger. You just won’t get the same satisfaction. (See what I did there? Ok, ok, I’ll get on with it.)

This recipe is a variation of the recipe titled Chickpeas and Spinach with Honeyed Sweet Potato (Ottolenghi, 82.) In the spirit of respecting intellectual property, I always like to give credit to those recipe authors who have inspired me, so, thank you kindly, Ottolenghi & Tamimi. You made my potluck dish a big hit!

Stewed Chickpeas with Caramelized Sweet Potato
serves 3 to 4 people

ingredients
500g sweet potato, cubed
50g salted butter
4 tbsp honey
3 cups water

3 tbsp oil
1 small onion (or about 6 shallots), finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp corriander seeds
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 can (591ml) chopped, unseasoned tomatoes (no salt added is preferable)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp mango powder (found in most spice stores, Indian or Asian grocers, or bulk stores.)
(note: if you can’t find mango powder, 1 tsp of lemon juice or zest will also work.)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups torn spinach (or baby spinach)
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro

cayenne pepper, to taste (use more if you like it spicy!)
salt, to taste

method
In a wide pot, bring water with potatoes, butter and honey to a boil. Lower heat to medium, and continue to cook until water is absorbed and butter & honey start to caramelize. Do not stir.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large frying pan. Add onions or shallots, and cook over medium heat, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and corriander seeds. Continue cooking until onions are brown and have reduced, about 3 more minutes. Add ketchup and stir, scraping any brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Add canned tomatoes with their juice. Add ginger, cumin and mango powder. Stir well. When mixture starts to bubble, add chickpeas and spinach. Continue to cook until mixture starts to thicken. Add cilantro after about 10 minutes. Taste, and add salt as needed. Add cayenne , a little at a time, until you’ve reached your preferred level of heat. By this time, your potatoes should be ready, or almost there. Once they are, pour them into the pan, along with their buttery juices. Scrape as much of the browned butter into the pan as possible. Give it one nice, gentle stir.

Serve hot, garnished with fresh cilantro.

Green Pea Soup with Roasted Chickpeas

Last week, I posted about Brussels sprouts, the little green vegetables trying to shed their bad reputation. Today, I’ll spotlight another miniature green friend, who often gets tossed under the rug (or fed to the dog.) Please, allow me to re-introduce you to the humble sweet green pea. Often cooked until mushy, overdone, brown, or, to the horror of many, straight out of the can (yuck!) peas were never a favourite of mine. Little did I realize that in another state, these little veggies could pack a flavourful punch. Some may even consider them gourmet (pea froth garnish, anyone?).

It wasn’t until I attended a wedding this summer that I realized that green peas make a wonderful soup. Born and raised in Quebec, “pea soup,” to me has always meant that of the yellow variety, with little chunks of ham and maple syrup. Not that I don’t love that one – I do! It’s part of our culture, a taste of our heritage. I just wasn’t aware that there was another pea, hiding from the spotlight, that could create a wonderfully aromatic, complex, naturally creamy soup, almost entirely on it’s own! 
And oh, that colour though!
Creamy Pea Soup with Roasted Chickpeas
an original recipe by allison sklar
soup ingredients
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp oil or butter
2 cups frozen green peas
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup water
salt & pepper, to taste
chickpea ingredients
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp sumac
2 tbsp oil
Roasted chickpeas: Preheat oven to 400F. Toss chickpeas with oil and spices. Lay on parchment lined baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, until crisp. 
Soup: Heat oil (or butter) in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, cooking until translucent. Add water, parsley and peas. Turn up heat to high, bring to a boil. Transfer mixture to blender & blend until completely smooth. Serve hot, garnished with chickpeas. 

Green Dream (Edamame & Avocado Hummus)

Summertime cooking tends to pair well with three particular descriptors: light, fresh, and fast. 
With pot-lucks and BBQs-a-plenty, it’s sometimes hard to stick to the “light” and “fresh” part of that equation. I’ve been known to generally bring along my no-fail-crowd-pleasing spinach dip whenever the occasion permits. Today, however, I felt like being a little different – I wanted to bring it up a notch. I decided that I was going to make something healthier, fresher, brighter… 

Leaning further toward the vegan side of life these days, I was inspired to make an egg-free, dairy-free dip. You’d think this would have limited my options, but in fact, it just opened a whole new door into the world of food. Last week, I fell in love with a simple salad that I picked up at the grocery store – edamame beans, cilantro and sesame. A flavour combination that would certainly blend well into a dip, I thought! Well, today was the perfect day to try it out. Gathering all my fresh ingredients, I knew I was ready to wow the crowd. I threw everything into my blender, hit pulse and… watched it fail. My blender just didn’t want to whip up something so thick and creamy. What a jerk! Just when I was about to give up, a tiny imaginary lightbulb hovered over my head and lit right up – hand blender to the rescue! The result: Hummus meets Guacamole at a party and they make a delicious baby together. 
Sounds about right. 




Edamame Hummus with Avocado
original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
1 ripe avocado
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup shelled edamame beans, steamed (cooled)
pinch sea salt (to taste)
handful chopped fresh cilantro (to taste)
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
1tbsp lime juice
sesame seeds or cilantro for garnish (optional)

how to do it
in a small bowl, whisk together tahini and oil. Using a fork, mash in avocado. Mash in beans and chickpeas, a little at a time. (Mixture will be a bit chunky!) Sprinkle with salt, lime juice and cilantro. With hand blender, smooth to desired consistency. If dip is too thick/dry, add water, 1 tbsp at a time, and blend until desired consistency is reached. Serve immediately, or refrigerate well covered and stir well before serving.


The WhatTheHellAreYouEating Sandwich (Avocado & Beans)


Sometimes, the best tasting foods are the messiest ugliest most aesthetically unappealing ones. Prime example: Sloppy Joes. Visually, Sloppy Joes resemble a bread bun that’s regurgitated a hamburger onto itself. And, living well up to their name, these babies will dribble down your chin, pour down your wrists, and splash all over your brand new cream coloured pants. But, there is a reason why these greasy, juicy open-face sandwiches continue to be a comfort food for North Americans – because they’re absolutely delicious!

Though I do often love a beautifully presented meal, lately I’ve had a tendency to just slop a bunch of stuff together and dig right in. My recent meal choices have often come hand in hand with my host family making funny faces at me and often uttering the phrase “what are you eating now?!” Today was no different. I decided that I wanted to eat some leftover beans for lunch, and I felt like they’d go well with some avocado.

Fajitas perhaps? No desire to clean a frying pan.
Burritos? No tortillas.
Makeshift-whatever’s-in-the-fridge-tex-mex sandwich? Done.

Super hearty. Super healthy. Super delicious.


Bean & Avocado Sandwich
original recipe by Allison Sklar

what you’ll need
note: quantities are for 1 sandwich. multiply to your liking.
two slices toasted bread (of your choice)
1 tbsp hummus
1 avocado
2 tbsp cup red kidney beans
1 tbsp chickpeas
2 tbsp corn kernels
1 tsp garlic powder
1 sprinkle salt
1 dash lime juice (optional)

how to do it
In a small bowl, mash avocado with garlic, salt and lime. Toss with beans, chickpeas and corn. Spread hot toast with hummus on both sides. Top each toast with avocado mixture. Garnish with sour cream and fresh sprouts. Eat open face.