garbanzo beans

chole masala

by Heguiberto on August 9, 2010

This recipe comes from a blogger who recently visited weirdcombinations for the first time. Prerna cooks easy-to-make Indian food which she publishes on her blog, Indian Simmer. Her recipes and pictures look amazing! Inspired, I made this chickpea curry masala adapted from her blog the other day. I ended up adding a few things that just happened to be here. Her recipe didn’t call for left-over pico de gallo, for example. It tasted divine! I was reminded of this other chana recipe that I made in the past. Yet today’s was completely different because of the spice combinations.

chole masala

We had this with Indian style chili pickle as a condiment.

chole masala

2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 red onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
5 tbsp freshly ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 jalapeño pepper, minced, seed and ribs partially removed
¼ tsp chili pepper powder
1 tbsp curry powder
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups canned tomato chunks with juice
½ cup pico de gallo salsa (optional)
3 roasted tomato halves
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt

Place onion, garlic and ginger in the food processor and pulse until a thick and uniform purplish paste is formed. Pour oil in a non-stick pan. Add onion-ginger-garlic paste and cook for about 10-12 minutes in medium heat stirring constantly. It is ready when the smell in the kitchen has gone from harsh to mellow & sweet. Don’t caramelize the paste however. Next, bring the temperature up, add turmeric powder, chili powder, ground coriander, curry powder and stir until it turns into a thicker paste.

Meanwhile place tomato chucks, salsa and roasted tomato halves in the food processor and pulse a few seconds to combine. Fold tomato mixture into paste. Add chickpeas (chana). Stir. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chopped cilantro and serve over rice. Yumm!

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We at weirdcombinations have become big fans of Taste of Beirut (which I’ll abbreviate as “ToB” here). Many of the exciting recipes on that blog offer delicious vegetarian options and creative uses of seasonal ingredients all presented in an accessible and personal style that we really enjoy. Last week I saw the ToB post for “eggplant, bulgur and tomato casserole” and decided to try the recipe myself.

ToB style eggplant tomato bulgur casserole without the dish

This one appealed to me in particular because the ingredients themselves aren’t that complex and I’m always curious about new ways of preparing bulgur. Of course, I didn’t follow Joumana’s recipe perfectly as I didn’t quite have all the right things. For instance, she recommends coarse bulgur #4 but I only had coarse bulgur #3. (I’ve been wondering about that, Joumana. What are the differences between the various sizes of bulgur and how might an inexperienced cook decide which to use if it isn’t clear from the recipe?)

This recipe calls for dashes of cinnamon and allspice, which I didn’t have. Instead I used a small stick of cinnamon and a whole “ball” of allspice which I removed after simmering the tomato sauce. I made my own vegetable stock with carrot and onion. Finally, as an optional step, the ToB master recipe recommends tomato paste or red pepper paste. I used some spicy Harissa sauce which I had on hand and felt was in the spirit of the dish.

I was worried about flipping the casserole out of the dish at the end but it was really easy. The eggplant becomes a vegetable covering, almost like a soft crust over the filling. It was stunning to look at the finished casserole and it tasted wonderfully. I encourage you to try this and to check out Taste of Beirut.

key ingredients for eggplant tomato bulgur casserole

Taste of Beirut style Eggplant Tomato Bulgur Casserole without the Dish

2 large eggplants
Olive oil as needed
2 large onions
4 cloves garlic
1½ lbs. tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed
1½ cups coarse bulgur
2 to 3 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp. Harissa sauce
1 small cinnamon stick or a dash of powdered
1 whole allspice “ball” or a dash of powdered
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
Kalamata olives, cilantro and dash of paprika as garnish

Rinse bulgur and soak in a large bowl of water for thirty minutes.

While bulgur soaks, peel eggplant and cut into slices. Mine were about ½ inch thick but shrank a lot during preparation. I cut a few rounds and the rest as long strips as I wanted to try for a flower design for the final presentation. Once the eggplant is sliced, toss with salt and allow to rest in a colander for thirty minutes or so.

Immediately begin the tomato sauce once bulgur and eggplant are resting.

Chop onions and sauté in a few tablespoons olive oil until they become golden and a bit translucent (about 5 minutes). Add diced tomatoes, some salt to taste, the cinnamon and allspice. Simmer for about thirty minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.

After the sauce has had time to simmer, add mashed garlic, Harissa sauce, rinsed soaked bulgur and vegetable stock. I removed the cinnamon stick and allspice at this point. Cook covered for about twenty minutes or until bulgur is cooked. Adjust salt and add more vegetable stock if needed (I used about 2½ cups stock).

While bulgur cooks, rinse eggplant slices and fry in olive oil until they become soft. Remove to a platter covered with paper towels. Dab off excess olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper.

To assemble the dish, begin by covering the interior of a large bowl with cling film. Then arrange eggplant slices over inner surface of bowl in an attractive pattern. Gently pour tomato bulgur filling over eggplant slices to the rim of the bowl. I had a bit extra filling which I kept aside. Allow to rest to let bulgur cool a little and “set.”

To serve, invert a large serving dish over bulgur. Holding the dish firmly over the bowl, flip the platter and bowl. Remove bowl and cling film. Garnish with cilantro, olives and a dash of paprika.

Thanks for the amazing recipe, Joumana!

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creamy hummus

by Stevie on March 8, 2010

I can’t believe that we’re coming up on almost a year of weirdcombinations postings, that I love Mediterranean style food and have yet to write about hummus. That’s truly weird!

creamy hummus with vegetables and spinach paratha

I make hummus all the time including with many variations. Usually I’ll fry the garlic in a bit of olive oil to reduce the heat (and to improve my breath afterwards.) I’ve added black olives or capers, roasted red peppers or parsley to vary it. I prefer it a bit grainy and thick though Hegui likes more smooth. This time I unwittingly accommodated him by adding olive oil to the recipe. Normally I leave it out but somehow my brain wasn’t working right and I mixed up this recipe with basil pesto American style.

garbanzo beans are key

Creamy Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans (15 oz.), drained and rinsed
2 tbsp. Tahini
3 cloves garlic
Juice from one lemon
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
3 to 4 tbsp. Olive oil (optional)

Finishing olive oil and powdered pasilla chile for garnish.

Fry garlic in a bit of olive oil for about a minute or two to reduce heat. (Omit this step if you prefer fresh garlic.)

Add garlic to food processor and pulse until minced. Add beans, tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and olive oil if using. Pulse till blended. For a thinner hummus add a bit of tap water. Adjust salt to taste.

Spread hummus in a wide bowl or plate. Drizzle finishing olive oil on top and sprinkle with powdered pasilla.

Serve as a dip with chips, pita or raw vegetables. We had it with vegetables and a spinach bolani from Sukhi’s.

creamy hummus

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chickpea croquettes

by Stevie on September 24, 2009

our version of chickpea croquette with Greek salad topping

our version of chickpea croquette with Greek salad topping

The latest issue of Vegetarian Times has a long section called “patty pleasers.” Now I have to admit as drawn as I always am to the idea of vegetarian patties to replace the good old American hamburger, the results from my homemade ones are often less than optimal. But the pictures looked so enticing in this article. And one of the recipes called for no egg. That’s great for me as my doctor told me to limit egg intake to one per week to better control my cholesterol. So I was delighted to prepare the “Chickpea Croquettes with Greek Salad Topping.”

I tried to follow the recipe as closely as possible. They called for a couple things that I didn’t have. First I couldn’t find any chili powder in my cabinets. Instead I ended up using pasilla powder, a dark smoky hot spice I got at El Chico Produce. You’re supposed to cook the patties in a non-stick pan coated with cooking spray. I don’t have cooking spray, so brushed the pan with olive oil. My non-stick pan is getting old so the non-stick part doesn’t work quite as well as it used to. My patties stuck but only a little.

I may have over-added parsley and lemon juice.

frying chickpea croquettes

frying chickpea croquettes

Finally, even though I made a variation of the recommended Greek Salad Topping, neither of us thought that it went particularly well with the chickpea patties. They had a distinctly Indian taste which we thought clashed with the Mediterranean flavors of the Greek salad. Next time I’ll try it with some kind of chutney, maybe mint or tamarind: or perhaps with Hegui’s braised warm carrot salad.

Chickpea Croquettes

1 cup chickpea flour
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili or pasilla powder
½ tsp Kosher salt (I added more, about 1 to 1.5 tsp)
1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed
4 green onions, chopped
½ cup diced red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tbs lemon juice
1tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix together chickpea flour, cumin, chile powder and salt. Add ¾ cup hot water and stir. Toss in the remaining ingredients and mix well. Adjust salt and add black pepper if desired.

Coat non-stick pan with oil and heat on medium. Add ¼ cup portions of mix to form croquettes. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden brown (I needed to cook mine several minutes longer than this direction recommended and still the first batch was a little underdone). You’ll need to flip them over like pancakes with a spatula. Serve with Greek salad topping or with Indian chutneys.

plate of chickpea croquettes

plate of chickpea croquettes

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linguini with harissa, chick pea, mushroom and spinach

linguini with harissa, chick pea, mushroom and spinach

Harissa is a spicy chili paste commonly associated with Moroccan cooking but it is widely used all over North Africa. Harissa is made with hot chili peppers, sweet peppers, tomatoes, preserved lemons, olive oil, salt, cumin, caraway, coriander and other spices. The flavor may sometimes vary, depending on the brand you buy. When you taste harissa expect an explosion in your mouth. Your taste buds will be bombarded with several layers of flavor hitting you with different intensities. There will be spicy hot, sweet, lemony sour, salty, smoky and the earthy flavors from the spices. Harissa is delicious in soups, sandwiches, couscous, pasta and goes perfectly well with chick-peas.

A couple of years ago while reading the Vegetarian Times I bumped into a recipe for pasta with harissa and chick peas that I thought would taste good. I postponed making it for several months because it seemed too labor intensive at the time. Well finally one day I decided to give it a whirl. Yes, it did prove to be a bit labor intensive, but guess what? I have been making it ever since! It is that good.

key ingredients for linguini with harissa, chick pea, mushroom and spinach

key ingredients for linguini with harissa, chick pea, mushroom and spinach

This is a complete, healthy meal; utterly vegan and free of cholesterol! Sorry Vegetarian Times, I may have introduced a few changes along the way. With that said, let’s go to the recipe:

Linguine with Harissa, Chick Pea, Mushroom and Spinach

Ingredients:
1 lb pack of linguine or other long pasta of your choice
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp harissa paste*
Pinch saffron threads
1 cup cooked chick-peas
1 bag fresh cleaned baby spinach, about 7oz (200gr)
4 cups of water
1 to 1 ½ lb mushrooms of your choice, roughly chopped+
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
6 tbsp olive oil

*I get my harissa paste at Whole Foods. I haven’t yet found it elsewhere in San Francisco. Any recommendations?

+for this recipe I used cremini and Portobello but if you want to be fancy you can use morels, shitakes, or chanterelles. Of course, regular button mushrooms will do in a pinch. I have made this pasta before with these more exotic mushrooms. It was incredible!

oven-toasted linguini looks like this when correctly done

oven-toasted linguini looks like this when correctly done

linguini with harissa, chick pea, mushroom and spinach close up

linguini with harissa, chick pea, mushroom and spinach close up

How to:
Start by boiling salted water for cooking the pasta.

Pre heat your oven to 400F. Spread the pasta on a cookie sheet. Place it in the oven and toast till begins to brown. This process should take a couple of minutes tops! Do not burn it! Remove and set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a deep pan and sauté ½ of the garlic and tomato paste for a minute or so.

Add to pan harissa sauce, saffron threads and water. Stir till tomato paste has dissolved and lumps are gone. Increase temperature to boil, immediately reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 8-10 minutes. Add chick peas in the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Using a skillet heat 3 tbsp oil and sauté mushrooms and remaining garlic together for 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm. Mushrooms get too soggy when sautéed with salt therefore I recommend that you salt them afterward.

Drop pasta into boiling water and cook it half of total time required on the package. My Trader Joe’s linguine called for 7 minutes total so I cooked it for a mere 3 ½ minutes. Drain pasta in a colander.

Using the same pan in which pasta has been cooked, return it to stove burner heat adjusted to low, place fresh spinach at the bottom. Then add cooked pasta and top it with tomato-harrisa-chick pea sauce. Keep it stirring until most of juices have been absorbed and pasta reaches the ‘al dente’ texture, about 3-5 minutes. Lastly add mushrooms. Transfer to a nice serving plate and bon appétit!

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finished bacalhoada

finished bacalhoada

Growing up in the hinterlands of Brazil did not help me much with my knowledge of seafood. There used to be a salesman that showed up in the village perhaps two or three times a month driving his dilapidated truck on those dusty roads announcing very loudly over speakerphone that sardines had swum all the way somewhere in the Atlantic to our neighborhood five or six hours inland by car. At the sound of his voice, most villagers would run down the streets to greet the man enthusiastically. Surprisingly his fish was impeccable in quality. I also loved the smell his car exhaled. To me, back then a landlubber who’d never seen the seashore, I experienced a touch of the ocean in that truck: a mix of brine, unusual seaweed, rotting matter, and life. Amazing! I first saw the ocean when I was twelve years old. And though I don’t swim or like boats, I’ve been a sea-lover since.

My mother would buy lots of sardines and over the course of two days cook them in many different ways. It was a real pain to clean those sardines (talk about child labor!) but it was always well worth it. Plus my cat and the chickens in the backyard had really a good time feasting on the fish guts. Don’t be grossed out: this is what sustainable agriculture is all about. Nothing goes to waste. I really loved the ritual. I can’t wait to share some of my mother’s sardine recipes sometime soon!

boiling salt cod

boiling salt cod

Today I’m writing about another seafood item that almost swam to my tiny village of Olegário Maciel once or twice a year: dried salt cod fish, also known as bacalhau or baccalá. In Brazil, as in most Catholic countries, people abstain from eating meat during Lent; or at least that’s how things used to be. Instead good Catholics will feast on fish of all kinds. Fresh water fish was plentiful and delicious at home. But Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese, which means that part of our culture is inherited from them. That in turn leads to salt cod; a Portuguese staple, particularly for those long sea voyages across the Atlantic when Brazil was first being developed.

There is some cache in eating European, I think. It sort of makes you feel part of the Old World? Here in America merchants are always trying to make you believe that European goods are better: French wine and cheese, almost all Italian products, etc. I believe the propaganda! Therefore, if you’re Brazilian, having a bacalhoada once or twice a year is a must!

fresh bell peppers and onions

fresh bell peppers and onions

Where I’m from, everyone tried to save some of their meager income in order to make their favorite salt cod dishs. These recipes invariably use another European export: olives and olive oil. When do I ever have enough of olives and olive oil?

But cod fish has an interesting and sad history. A few years ago I read this fascinating book written by Mark Kurlansky, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. He basically credits the discovery of the New World to salt cod because it allowed the sailors to survive the long journey. Of course whenever there’s money to be made, bad things happen. Kurlansky details the shocking greed, ignorance and overwhelming demand that ultimately, over the past 700 hundred years, led cod fish stocks to be decimated due to over fishing.

Many previously colonized countries in the Americas have their own recipes for salt cod inherited from the food cultures of the early settlers. Here is one of the many Brazilian/Portuguese ones that I grew up eating:

olives and tomatoes

olives and tomatoes


Bacalhoada: Salt Cod with Chick Peas and Assorted Vegetables

Ingredients:

1 ½ to 2 lb dry salted cod fish, de-salted (see below)
1 ½ cup dried chick peas that have been soaked in the last water change of the cod
1 cup of pitted mixed olives (I used Spanish, Kalamatas, French, Portuguese and Peruvian)
4 large red and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
2 bay leaves
1 shallot
2 medium onions, cut into thin slices
6-8 ripe Roma tomatoes
½ cup good olive oil (Spanish arbequina is best for this dish)
Fresh black pepper and salt to taste
3 carrots cut into chunks, blanched for few minutes
Approximately 16 cloves of fresh garlic. Leave half of them as whole cloves, the rest roughly chopped
½ cup reserved juice from cooked cod fish

How to:

To remove salt from salted cod, immerse in a large pot of water for about 24 hours, changing the water about four times during that period.

Boil cod fish for about 10-15 minutes in fresh water along with shallot and 1 bay leaf. Remove and transfer to a bowl. Let cool. Reserve ½ cup of cooked juices. Add chick peas to remaining water and cook till soft/al dente for about 25-30 min.

When fish is cool enough to handle, remove skin and bones, trying not to break the fish pieces too much. The fish will break apart further during cooking, so it is best to keep them as large as possible now.

prepared cod ready for cooking

prepared cod ready for cooking

Heat a large pan with 3 tbsp of olive oil. Add onions and peppers, freshly ground black pepper and a bit of kosher salt. Sauté on high temperature till onion becomes translucent and peppers turn soft, approximately 15min. During the last five minutes of cooking add garlic, tomato halves, carrot and lastly the cod fish. Gently stir. Transfer cod mixture to a baking pan. Place olives and whole garlic cloves around and under fish. Pour reserved cooked juices and remaining olive oil over everything. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 500F pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.

For the last 8-10 minutes, remove foil and let cod brown a bit on top. Don’t let it burn. Remove from oven. Drizzle a bit of finishing olive oil on tow and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. I served the cod dish with plain white rice and shaved sautéed Brussels Sprouts.

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my spicy chana recipe

by Heguiberto on August 28, 2009

Chana is the Indian name for chick pea or garbanzo bean. My recipe is inspired by a wonderful chick pea dish called Kaabli Chana that I order from Rotee Express, an Indian restaurant that I go to for lunch every now and then. This restaurant is conveniently located around the corner from my office on Howard and Spear in San Francisco. Since I really love the place, that’s great for me!

my spicy chana recipe

my spicy chana recipe

I don’t actually know their recipe so mine turned out a little spicier than theirs. Nevertheless it’s delicious! I think they use ghee but I wanted to go vegan so left it out. I think that the dish is already full of flavor anyways.

Chana is an excellent source of protein and combined with my delicious carrot cumin basmati rice it was a perfect meal. Don’t be scared to cook Indian. It’s true that there’re a lot of unusual spices and names to get the hang of and I do sometimes feel like a mad scientist in a culinary laboratory. But it’s super fun, and the results are always rewarding.

My Spicy Chana Recipe

Ingredients:

2 cup cooked chick peas (chana)
3 tbsp canola oil
1 bay leaf
A few cloves
3 cardamom pods
3 medium onions, peeled
few pepper corns
5 ripe Roma tomatoes
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp fresh ginger ground into paste
Pinch of turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chili powder
2 tsp Sambar* for extra spice, extra kick and thickening
½ bunch chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher salt to taste
1 to 2 cup hot water

*Sambar is a spice mix from South India made with coriander seeds, besan flour (chick-pea flour), fenugreek, black pepper, mustard seeds, chili powder, turmeric, cinnamon, curry leaves, asafetida and amchur powder (mango powder). You can find it at Indian specialty stores.

How to:

Place tomatoes, 2 onions, minced garlic, and ginger in food processor and pulse till puréed, then reserve. Cut remaining onion into thin slices. Heat oil in a non-stick pan; add cardamom pods, bay leaf, pepper corns and cloves cook for about 1 minute till fragrant. Add onion and sauté till soft and translucent but do not burn it. Add puréed tomato mix, turmeric and salt. Cook on high heat stirring constantly for 18-20 minutes. Add coriander, cumin, chili pepper and Sambar, give it a good stir. The powdered spices will soak up the juices and make a thick mass. Keep stirring it for few more minutes. Add chana, about 1 and ½ cup water and simmer on medium heat for another 10-12 minutes, stirring few times. The dish should have a thick consistency like a hearty marinara sauce. Adjust salt. Toss in cilantro and serve over rice.

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