The New Year always brings new resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier, and become more healthy overall. What better way to kick off a healthy new you than with chickpeas?
I decided to make a quasi-Mediterranean feast this evening (I say quasi, simply because I have no claims to authenticity. I just really love certain Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes). I had some pita bread on hand, which was handy, so I decided to cook falafel, brown rice pilaf, and homemade hummus.
The brown rice pilaf recipe is not mine, but it is truly delicious. You can find it here. I made a few tweaks: I doubled the recipe, and I added a huge handful of golden raisins midway through simmering. On serving, I topped with another handful of golden raisins and toasted almond slivers. Delicious. You’ll see the picture at the end.
The falafel recipe is mine, and a continual work in progress. The hummus recipe is my friend Brian’s. During an undergrad lunch, he brought it for our group of friends, and we promptly devoured it. It’s the perfect blend of tangy, creamy, and savory.
Since the hummus and falafel both need chickpeas, you need to start by cooking chickpeas, unless you’re short on time, in which case you’ll skip this part and use canned chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans).
I bought about 2 lb of dried chickpeas from Whole Foods, and last night, I soaked them in a huge container with lots of water. You need to soak legumes for at least 8 hours or overnight for the best results. Today, I rinsed them out, and put them in a huge stockpot and covered with water. Then, I brought them to a boil and simmered for about 3-3 1/2 hours. For a pound, 2-2 1/2 hours will do, but doubling the amount requires more cooking time.
Now, this is important. When they’re fork-tender and soft, turn off the heat, but don’t drain them yet. Ladle off about 1-2 cups of cooking liquid, since you’ll need some for both hummus and falafel.
Let the chickpeas cool for a bit, and then when they’re not so hot, you can start your meal. I started with the rice pilaf, since it takes so long to cook. Once that’s going, I then began on the hummus. First, a picture of my huge pile of cooked chickpeas.
So much untapped potential! I decided to start with the hummus, since I could put it in the refrigerator to cool. I then put two cups into my blender, which is how much you’ll need for the hummus. I also added 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
Add to that 3-4 cloves of fresh garlic. I grated them up, so that eaters don’t end up with big chunks to gnaw on. 🙂
You also need to add 1-1/2 T. of tahini paste. It’s the crucial ingredient to make your hummus smooth and creamy. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can make do with chickpeas (as the well-meaning clerk at Whole Foods tried to tell me when she explained they were out of tahini). You’ll also need 4 T. of lemon juice. I use about 2-3 T., because I like lots of tang. Throw in a generous dash of salt, too.
Pulse your blender on low, and stream in some olive oil. Wait until your hummus is smooth and free of chunks; if you need to, use a spatula to scrape the edges down and then pulse some more.
Pour your finished hummus into a bowl, and if you like, sprinkle with paprika or parsley or roasted red pepper. I used paprika, since I like the flavor and color. Obviously, for a party, you can use a much fancier bowl than the Tupperware container my hummus is residing in. 😉
It was so delicious, I made a double-batch! That was about 4 cups of the chickpeas from my 2 lb bag.
Once you refrigerate the hummus, you can work on the falafel. You should have about 6-6 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas left. To your big bowl, sprinkle a nice array of spices over the chickpeas.
Much to my husband’s dismay, I don’t measure out exact amounts of spices. But I can guess: dash of parsley flakes, 2 tsp of minced/dried onion, 2-3 tsp of curry powder, 1-2 tsp of cumin, 2-3 tsp of garlic salt, 1 tsp of turmeric, and 1 tsp of turmeric.
Mix up your spices with the chickpeas.
Next, coarsely mash up your chickpeas and spices. Add a ladle or two of the cooking liquid and mash again. I used my handy potato masher.
Then, add your flour. To make this a gluten-free recipe, I used chickpea flour. I’d highly recommend it, since it’ll maintain a smooth, consistent flavor and not become too grainy. I used 1/2 cup of flour, but my husband thinks I should double it. Mix it in, and then mash some more until it’s mushy with some chunks of chickpea.
Start shaping into small patties. I tried shaping each into a ball, but I think the patties fry more evenly. I used an ice cream scoop and then took a little off, since you don’t want them to be too large.
I poured olive oil in a 6-quart stockpot and turned the heat on medium. Once the oil is warm, I plopped about 6 patties in at a time.
Cook each side for about 3-4 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.
I put a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet to help drain and cool the patties. I used a slotted spoon to scoop out the patties from the pot and place on the rack.
The finished product! I’m rather proud of the bounty on my plate.
This meal is a bit time intensive, but it’s healthy, hearty, and relatively inexpensive to make.