Thursday, February 19, 2009
I can't tell you how relieved I am to be away from the mixing bowl, and back to the stovetop. I think that, unless there's a bubbling casserole in there, my oven stays off until further notice. I will leave the vegan baking to the professionals. Before last week's cupcake debacle, I started rummaging through my pantry, taking stock of what lingered as I toward the end of my winter stores from my last big haul from the co-op. I have a borderline detrimental (or just plain mental) obsession with organizing things. Example: as a child, while my mom shopped at JCPenny, I would busy myself by arranging neglected stuffed animal displays, doggedly grouping together the adorable duckies, moo-moos and piggies in nearly militant rows. Child labor be damned - I would have a ball. I take the same scrutiny to my pantry, fridge and spice rack at least once a month, when I wipe clean all surfaces and rearrange all jars and can in sight. This was how I stumbled across a neglected stash of chickpeas, looking not unlike a stash of candy on the shelf, all round and pebbly and jingly in their glass home. So I decided to cook up the lot, rather than letting them languish any longer behind closed doors. Um, two cups of dried chickpeas yields... a whole mess of chickpeas. I right proper "where the hell did all these come from??" mother lode of chickpeas. I have a ton in the freezer now, and hummus is certainly in the works, but here's the first set on the bill for Chickpea Stock '09: a tasty little burger-guy.
Vegan burgers are tricky, because nothing binds a wet, mushy patty together like an egg. Here I just tried to get a good balance of wet and dry ingredients in hopes that the end result wouldn't crumble apart. A stint in the fridge helped, too. I originally wanted to do a Moroccan-inspired couscous plate, but I'd really need mint and lemon flavors to make it sing - not inclusive in the late winter New England palate. I'm still trying to find new uses for the parsnips and carrots that have dominated my recipes for the last few weeks, and they are naturally at home here. The nutty, creamy chickpeas paired well with the sweet and earthy carrots and parsnips.
Chickpea & Couscous Patties with Sweet Tahini Dressing
For the patties:
2 cups coked chickpeas (or 2 15-oz cans, drained)
1/2 cup whole wheat couscous, dry
1/2 cup veggie stock (or water)
1 medium carrot and 1 medium or large parsnip, scrubbed and grated (use a cheese grater or vegetable peeler)
splash of olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of parsley, minced (including stems)
2 teaspoons cumin
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup sesame seeds
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon honey
Cook the couscous: in a small pot, add the veggie stock and bring to a boil. Add the couscous, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cover. Allow the couscous to reconstitute for about 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork. You want the couscous to be slightly moist (not super-fluffy), so add a bit more stock or water if needed.
In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas with a potato masher or broad spoon until mostly mushed (a few un- or partially-smashed chickpeas are fine).
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until just tender, about two minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another three minutes. Add the grated carrot and parsnip and stir until just cooked, a little less than two minutes. Remove from heat.
Add the veggie mixture and the couscous to the mashed chickpeas and stir together. Add the parsley, cumin, sea salt and pepper (be generous with the salt here, if you can). Again, add more water or stock if the mixture seems dry; you want it nice and moist. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight if you can. I found that the flavors had more chance to travel when they sat overnight.
For the dressing, simply whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl. Drizzle over the patties when they're done.
To cook the patties, remove the mixture from the fridge and form a thick patty shape with your hands. With your sesame seeds in a shallow dish, dredge each side of the patty in sesame seeds, pressing gently to get them to stick. Spray a large saute pan with non-stick spray or lightly coat with olive oil. Cook the burgers over medium-high heat for about five minutes on each side. They're done when the sesame seeds are fragrant and slightly browned. Makes about 10 patties.