Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chickpeas and Greens with Moroccan Spices

I get asked quite a bit about vegetarian and/or vegan options for dinners so here's one I can highly recommend as a one-dish meal that provides plenty of protein, carbs, and healthful fat as well as amazing flavor. This version comes from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, which anyone who frequents this little corner of the Intertubes knows is one of my heavily dog-eared cookbooks. This is one of the opportunities for me to incorporate from the jar of homemade preserved lemons that a good friend, who also happens to be one of my favorite home chefs, gave to us as a Christmas present last year. I also got to use some of the tomatoes from last summer's garden that my wife peeled and froze last fall.

 Paste of fabulous flavors - spices with garlic, fresh herbs, and oil
 Parboiled chard
 Cooked chickpeas with skins removed
 Bell pepper, onion, fresh thyme, and chili pepper
 Preserved lemons with flesh and pith removed
 Spice paste added to the cooked vegetables
 Chickpeas, chard, and tomatoes added to the pan

Ingredients:
If using dry chickpeas(garbanzo):
1 cup dry chickpeas (garbanzo beans) soaked overnight

If using canned:
2 15 oz cans, rinsed

1 large bunch chard, stems removed
6 garlic cloves
kosher salt
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 white onion, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced into 1/2 inch squares
several twigs fresh thyme
1 small dried red chile
4 tomatoes, peeled
1 preserved lemon, skin only, diced in 1/4 inch pieces (optional)

Directions:
If using dried chickpeas, soak overnight, drain then cook in water to cover, simmering for an hour with a quartered onion, several whole black peppercorns, several parsley twigs, and a few crushed garlic cloves for flavoring the beans and the resulting broth. 1 cup dry should yield 3 cups cooked. (Make sure to not overcook the chickpeas with too much heat or for too long so that they get mushy - you just want them tender - a hour will usually be enough time to cook.) Drain saving the broth, and allow the chickpeas to cool.

Parboil the chard for a few minutes until wilted. Remove from the water, placing it aside to cool then chop coarsely. Cover the chickpeas with cold water and gently rub them between your hands to loosen the skins then tip the bowl to allow the skins to flow out. Drain.

Prepare the spice paste by pounding the garlic in a mortar with 1/2 teaspoon of salt until smooth (or mince with a knife). Add the dried spices, 1 teaspoon oil to moisten the mixture, and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro and the parsley. Continue to pound to a rough paste.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper, thyme. and dried chile. Cook for a few minutes, until the onion and pepper have softened considerably, then stir in the spice paste, chickpeas, and 1/2 cup of the bean broth (or water if using canned chickpeas). Cook for a few more minutes then add the tomatoes, greens, a pinch of salt, and another 1/2 cup broth/water. As the tomatoes cook, use a wooden spoon to help break them down. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for a few more minutes. At the end, add the remaining cilantro (and, if using, the preserved lemon), do one final stir then remove from the heat to serve. We ate this with a simple brown rice accompanied by one of my wife's tremendous beets and greens salad. A very nice flavor making for a very satisfying meal.