Red Pepper Sauce

I really like using vegetable-and-nut sauces. Things like this and the Sorites Paradox Pesto add tons of color and nutrition to a plate, and variety to a vegetarian diet. Plus, because there’s little chopping and prep work, they’re usually manageable for me to assemble and contribute to dinner unless my energy is really, really poor.

This can be used to top fresh vegetables (it’s especially nice on green ones, as it’s a bit like a shortcut romesco sauce, except with red peppers instead of tomatoes), liven up a salad dressing or toss with pasta.

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Sorites Paradox Pesto

I had to ask my husband the professional philosopher tonight, “What’s the name of the idea about how much of something you have to take away before it ceases to be that thing?”

“The Sorites Paradox.”

“May I call this Sorites Paradox Pesto?”

“It’ll be clear that you’re married to a philosopher. It’s also called the Paradox of the Heap.”

“That’s okay. ‘Sorites Paradox Pesto’ sounds better than ‘Paradox of the Heap Pesto’ anway. ‘Heap’ isn’t really a good word for a recipe title.”

Classic pesto: Basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, salt. This shares only the last two ingredients and the method, and is by dint of that vegan and still interpretable as pesto. The method is what’s really important.

We put big dollops of this on top of an otherwise very plain-Jane white bean soup, a place I sometimes put gremolata. It would be good applied to just about anything that would hold still long enough – broiled on bread, tossed with pasta, incorporated into an oil-and-vinegar dressing, heated and mixed with wilted greens.

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Cucumber-Chickpea Salad

This is an easy one for when it’s very hot.


With the presence of the chickpeas, it’s substantial enough to be an entrée salad.  If you buy canned chickpeas, there’s no cooking required. However, if you buy dry ones and fully soak them, you can cook them in the pressure cooker by bringing it to pressure, cooking them under pressure for seven minutes, and then allowing the pressure to drop on its own off the heat. When the cooker is ready to open, they’ll be fully cooked. The nice thing about this method is that it tends to not blow the skins off or split the beans.


Chickpeas:

1 1/2 c. dry chickpeas, soaked for 8 hours or overnight (or two cans, rinsed and drained)

water to cover plus one inch

1 T. olive oil

Salad:

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and cut into chickpea-sized pieces

1-15 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

5 oz. fresh spinach (one bag)

Drizzle of olive oil

2/3 c. fresh parsley, minced

Dressing:

1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 c. canola oil

2 T. red wine vinegar (or more to taste)

2 cloves minced garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Place chickpeas in pressure cooker and add water. Close cooker and bring to pressure. Cook seven minutes, then remove cooker from heat and set on a heatproof trivet. Allow pressure to drop of its own accord.


Place the spinach in a large bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper and a short drizzle of olive oil, then toss. Microwave for one minute, then stir and set aside to finish wilting. When the cooker can be opened, drain the beans and add to the large bowl. Add the cucmber, red pepper, spinach, and parsley as well, and toss.


In a glass measuring vessel, thoroughly mix together all the dressing ingredients, then pour over the contents of the bowl. Toss gently. Serve at room temperature. Makes 6 servings. Leftovers will keep a few days, but the spinach will not look very attractive past the second day.


If you are the type who likes crumbly, salty cheeses, feta or ricotta salata would be excellent atop this salad.


(Note on the slightly inaccurate photo: I thought I’d have the chickpeas separately, but it ended up better when I mixed everything together later that night.  I wrote the recipe as if I had done that straight away.)

 

Chickpea Patties with Arugula Salad

These are sort of like falafel, I suppose, and I already have two falafel recipes up on the site.  Why am I putting this up, then?  They sounded good, and they were unlike both my falafel recipes – one of which has eggs and one of which uses raw chickpeas and this does neither – so we made them. 

The patties are from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, but I did something different with the dressing.  The cookbook called for a olive oil-lemon juice dressing (4 T. olive oil, 1 T fresh lemon juice), but we made that up and I found it overly acidic.  Instead, I mixed a half-cup of plain yogurt with a couple tablespoons of oil and added a little salt and pepper.  Yes, we’re getting closer and closer to falafel, aren’t we?

Additionally, the cookbook called for the patties to be served on the dressed arugula.  I had the patties over raw arugula for dinner, but for lunch today I nuked some for a minute with a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper, and I thought the cooked arugula was a much better companion to the patties than the raw had been..

This originally called for all-purpose flour, and you could certainly do that if you are not me and currently on the boring ol’ wheat avoidance kick.  It also originally called for 2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas…instead of doing that, we used about 3 c. cooked chickpeas. 

My poor husband tried to cook these according to the specified directions, and his first batch went to pieces in the oil.  He thought maybe the problem was the oil, so he switched from olive to canola.  I came in at that point and deduced that the problem must be something other than the type of oil.  I tried using more oil (they still disintegrated), then using less oil, (they disintegrated less).  I added a little more liquid to the patties.  That helped some.  Then I dredged them lightly with chickpea flour and fried them in a very little oil in a non-stick skillet.  That worked.

So my advice to you is if you try these and they disintegrate, try  that – adding a small amount of moisture, dredging (for which you’ll need additional flour), and frying in a very small amount of oil.  I think part of the problem also may have been the lack of binding provided by the flour – the chickpea flour would bind some, but maybe not quite like the wheat flour does.

We made smaller patties, too, so as to make them more manageable in the pan.

Basically we futzed around with this thing a lot, so any resemblance of our dish to the original recipe is purely coincidental at this point. 

2 15 oz. cans chickpeas or 3 c. cooked chickpeas, drained
1/2 c. packed fresh parsley leaves
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. hot red pepper flakes
1/4 c. chickpea flour (check the bulk section at your health food store or use wheat flour)
salt

1. Place the chickpeas, parsley, garlic, cumin, and pepper flakes in a food processor.  Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until smooth.  Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the flour and salt to taste.  Shape the mixture into 8 3-in. patties. 

2. Heat 1 1/2 T. of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the chickpea patties and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Carefully turn the patties and drizzle 1 1/2 T. of the remaining oil around the edges of the pan.  Continue cooking until the patties are golden brown on the second side, about 3 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, place the arugula in a medium bowl, drizzle with the remaining 1 T. oil and the lemon juice, sprinkle with salt to taste, and toss gently.  Divide the arugula among four individual plates.

4. Once the patties are cooked, transfer 2 to each plate with the salad and serve immediately.

Asparagus with Romesco Sauce

This romesco sauce recipe comes from Vegetarian Times, and it is better than one I had used previously out of a Williams-Sonoma cookbook. They suggested a blanch-and-grill procedure for the asparagus, to which I said, “On a weeknight? Yeah, right.”

If you have the tomatoes, peppers, and onions prepared in advance, which you could do the evening before or, if you have a husband on spring break, that afternoon – everything else goes together pretty quickly. This dish makes a wonderful light meal all on its own.

The fresh chiles are supposed to be peeled in this recipe – I know that sounds nuts, but it worked better than I thought it would. I cut the stems flush with the top of the pepper, stood them on their heads, and peeled from the tip down using my Oxo peeler. I didn’t get every bit of peel off, but I didn’t sweat it.

Ingredients:

4 plum tomatoes, roasted in oil
2 red bell peppers, roasted in oil
½ onion, roasted in oil
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. almonds
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 ancho chiles (I used pasilla because I couldn’t find any ancho.)
2 T. sherry vinegar (I had to pay out the nose for this, but it tastes great.)
1 T. paprika
1 oz. slice toasted bread
salt to taste

2 lbs. asparagus, peeled if thick
1 T. olive oil
¼ c. water
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Roast tomatoes, peppers, and onions in 1 T. olive oil to coat until soft, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, and, when cool enough to handle, peel vegetables and set aside. Move oven rack to top position and set oven to broil.

Heat 2 T. oil in a skillet over medium heat. Brown almonds and garlic and remove from skillet. Place in blender. Fry chilies for 2 minutes. Peel and seed chiles. Add remaining ingredients to blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt to taste.

Place asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet with a rim. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and add the water to the sheet. Place the sheet on the top rack of the oven and broil for 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness. If your asparagus seems too thick to cook via this treatment, pop it in a nonstick pan with the same additions, cover tightly, and steam over medium-high heat until the water is gone.

Serve asparagus with a generous drape of romesco sauce.

A Fava Bean Endorsement & Spinach Salad

I like preparing Cento brand fava beans. Rather than “de-pod, skin, and cook,” or “soak and cook,” the instructions are “open jar and drain.” They come in a glass jar and we buy them at the Italian Depot on 1st St. near Bullard here in Fresno. Fava beans like being dropped into a spicy tomato sauce and served over pasta, and they also are fond of being tossed with olive oil and greens to make an almost unbelievably healthy and tasty salad. This is great as a meze – a component of a meal of small dishes.

No Chianti jokes, please. Thank you.

Ingredients:

2.5 oz. fresh spinach, (about half an Earthbound Farm box’s worth) cut in shreds
1 jar Cento fava beans, drained and rinsed briefly
¼ of a red onion, slivered
2 T. olive oil
1 T. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Toss all ingredients together. Good both immediately (with nice crispy spinach) and later (when the spinach will have wilted from the oil and salt.) After the spinach has wilted, I’ll happily toss a cup or so of the bean-spinach mixture with more whole spinach leaves or other greens to make a meal-type salad.

Herbed Chickpeas

This is an improvised “how did I end up with so many herbs in the fridge?” dish. You could use other herbs in this application as well; dill would be nice.

1 1/4 c. dry chickpeas, soaked for at least 8 hours or overnight
1 large onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. pepper flakes
1/2 c. curly parsley, minced
1/2 c. mint, minced
1 T. olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
about 1/2 c. cooking liquid
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions until almost translucent, then add 2 cloves of the garlic and the pepper flakes. Place the chickpeas in the pot. Add water to cover plus an inch or so. If using a pressure cooker, bring to pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Otherwise, cover the pot, bring the beans to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender, which may take a couple hours.

When tender, drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid, add the remaining ingredients and toss gently to combine.