Sunday, January 20, 2019

Chickpea Fritters

Fun fact: My husband built our dining room table! 
In my journey of cooking, I've found that going back to my roots has been one of the most rewarding explorations I could have gone on. I find that when you look back it can detract from the now, but looking into history one can really learn a lot about cooking, about life, and about how you came to be. The best part, for me, is feeling the souls of my ancestors with me as I learn more about the things they may have eaten and even the things they would try today.

I am descended from Russian/Lithuanian/Belarusian Jews and from the indigenous peoples of the Philippines.  The one thing they have in common is DEEP FRY EVERYTHING. I'm a big fan of deep-frying stuff, so it's no real surprise that Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays. The winter months are both harsh and confusing here in Midwestern Kansas City so I'm not 100% ready to let go of my deep-frying oil...so I may as well deep fry something relatively healthy.

Enter the Chickpea.

Related image
Don't be fooled - she's versatile!
Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, have a low glycemic index. They have a nice amount of fiber and are surprisingly nutrient-dense. They're ideal if you're trying to maintain a vegetarian diet or if you're just trying to shed a few pounds. There's even some evidence that they may help prevent certain chronic illnesses, such as heart disease. Honestly, I could go on and on about chickpeas. These are so filling and a much healthier alternative to potatoes, and I daresay they can be just as versatile.

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are mostly found in India, Africa, and even South America. You can grind it into flour or cook it into hummus or falafel. You'll find these in South Asian cuisines and Middle Eastern cuisines.You'll also see these a lot if you decide to go vegetarian or vegan. There's even a Turkish drink called Boza, made of fermented bulgur, but often topped with cinnamon-tossed chickpeas. The point is that this annual plant is incredibly important to many cultures, and you shouldn't let it pass you by.

Chickpea Fritters
yields 12 fritters (if you don't eat the batter)

  • 2 cups dried chickpeas
  • 2 tsp baking soda, divided
  • 1/4 c finely minced onion
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1/4 c tahini
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
I love to start with dried chickpeas and soak it overnight before I cook them. These take quite a bit of time, and really are a labor of love. I suggest you start these overnight, or at least the morning before you go to work. Cover them with more water than you think you need, trust me. Add your baking soda and let soak for 6-8 hours, but ideally overnight. Why baking soda? Well...

Baking soda has, by itself, a score of 9 on the pH scale, which makes it ever-so-slightly basic. It's not your friend Jessica that bakes the gluten-free cookie recipe she found from Pinterest and insists on you two going to get PSLs and has you take her photos for the 'gram... It's more like my level of basic, in which I really love fall but I refuse to watch "Love Actually" and won't be caught dead in UGs. The point is that it's just basic enough to get that hard chickpea broken down enough to give you the creamiest, dreamiest, most-custardy cooked bean you'll ever consume. 

Once you've gotten your chickpeas all soaked and you come home from work, drain your beans, rinse, and add to a heavy-bottomed pot with another teaspoon of baking soda, and cover entirely with water, having at least two inches of water over the surface. Bring it up to a boil, stir once or twice, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover your pot but leave the lid ajar and allow to cook for about an hour, or until the chickpeas are incredibly tender. Once it's all done, I like to toss in a little sesame oil, just to coat, and then season with salt. 

You can either cover them and pop them in the fridge for later use, orjust use them straight away...just be sure to drain them first, and taste them to make sure they're done! And have a handful for yourself, you've earned it. And,  yes, of course, you can use the canned kind if you want to. Just please drain well and rinse them off. 

"you tryna smash?" "don't make this weird"
In a large bowl, use a fork or potato masher to smash up all of your chickpeas to where it's a creamy mixture. It doesn't have to be smooth, but it can be if you like it. You can also use the paddle attachment of your standing mixer, or even a mortar and pestle and do it in batches! Either way, it's up to you. 

Add in all remaining ingredients and mix rather well. Taste for seasoning and correct as necessary. It shouldn't be overpowering, but you should know that your seasoning is apparent. Scoop them into mounds on a tray line with parchment or a silicon mat and then chill in the fridge. You may coat them with flour, if you like, at this point, but it's entirely up to you. I did not coat them with flour, even though - by definition - a fritter must be at least 35% breading. You can, of course, batter this if you like...but I do not like. I like them the way they are.

Keep in mind, you can make these smaller or larger!
Head up about an inch's worth of a nice neutral oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. You're looking for 350 degrees F. You can check this without a thermometer by taking a sprig of herb or a leaf of a scallion and gently dropping it in. You are looking for a sprig that sputters and dances around the pot, like a someone wearing a very poofy dress that's twirling around a ballroom. This is how I was taught by an old sushi chef to see if your oil was hot enough for tempura, back when I was a young apprentice. 

I like to do these two or three at a time, but you may do it one at a time if you're a little more comfortable with that. If you're nervous about the stuff sticking to the bottom of the pan, get out a bowl of flour and give each of the balls a tiny roll in and a good pat of flour before frying. I use a fork to allow each fritter to ease gently into the hot oil, and then use it to press it down to a flatter shape, much like you'd do with a latke. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes, in the boiling fat before flipping over to cook for another minute. You don't need to cook these much longer than that, but you do need to have a sheet pan lined with a rack on the inside of a warm oven to keep these hot while you fry by the batch. 
A 200 degree oven will keep these warm!
These fritters are fabulous snacks. You can serve them with sour cream. You can add finely chopped vegetables and more herbs to make a full meal. You can have them with a salad of herbs and garden greens. You can serve with a roasted chicken. The fritters can be served either hot or cold, but I think that room temperature is the best. You can use it as a party snack or serve with dinner. Use them to make a vegetarian sandwich with a fried egg and some tofu sausage and some cheeze. Heck, make them thin, spread them with goat cheese and figs and put them on your Seder table for your Tu B'Shevat celebration tomorrow! This is an excellent accompaniment to any dinner, especially a vegetarian one, as chickpeas are high in protein. 

Or, you know, be like me and serve it with a roasted chicken. Whatever you like!



I hope you've enjoyed this! Happy cooking and happy eating! 

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