|The delicious meal where you won't miss a thing, especially flavor - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
Going meatless for one day out of the week isn't such a chore -- you've probably done it many times, just not realizing it. Some oatmeal for breakfast, a simple salad for lunch and maybe a cheese pizza or grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup for dinner -- not a face on any of those foods. Granted, not vegan, but nobody's perfect. The biggest challenge for going meatless is choosing the right balance of ingredients so you're not just eating grilled cheese sandwiches and French fries, as tempting as that sounds. I've been relying on beans and whole grains like quinoa and pearled barley. I've pretty much changed over to brown rice, only getting short grain white rice once in a while if I'm making the marvelous thing that is Spam Musubi -- gotta have sticky rice. The problem with a lot of classic American and European dishes is that they're built on the notion of an omnivorous meal. By taking out the meat, you cripple the dish considerably -- roast chicken and vegetables is a little lackluster with just roasted vegetables. So I get inspiration from other places, specifically Indian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Indian food, especially, as vegetarianism is a way of life, and their dishes are so rich with flavor and spices, you could put cardboard in a marvelous curry sauce and it would taste like a dream. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine is similar in that their seasonings are intense and they use a lot of citrus and garlic to heighten flavors. The enjoyment of a meal is not focused solely on the ingredient, but how it's prepared and the way flavors are manipulated.
|Don't fear your vegetables, they are your friends! - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
The "meat" of the dish is of course the chickpea and quinoa patties, inspired by falafel, a traditional Middle Eastern style of chickpea or bean-based fritter. This version is fairly simple, with the addition of quinoa to add more protein and a nice bite, as chickpeas can be quite creamy when mashed. I used some cornmeal as well, mostly for added texture, plus it gives it a little sweetness as well. I used an egg to bind, but if you're making this vegan-friendly, consider adding a little tahini paste to help tighten the mix and make it easier to form into their shape. I made these as little patties, versus little round meatballs. It's easier to pan-fry and they cook faster with the widened surface area. I topped them with plain yogurt mixed with citrus zest and juice, chopped cucumber and shredded mint, but the patties are delicious on their own, you don't really need anything, as I was snacking on them plain, without complaint.
|Chickpeas, quinoa and seasonings ready for HULK SMASH - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
|Celebrate the season and try new ingredients you've never used before - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
Chickpea and Quinoa Fritters
(servings vary on how large or small you want to make 'em)
1 can of chickpeas (15 oz)
1 cup of cooked quinoa (follow the preparation on the box or bag)
2 tablespoons of cornmeal
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
vegetable oil to pan-fry
(Optional seasonings to add - if you don't have them, it's fine to leave out)
2 teaspoons dried dill
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon turmeric (mostly for color - gives it a nice golden color)
Take all ingredients and mash in a bowl - a potato masher works well to crush the chickpeas into a soft paste. Once mashed, place in refrigerator to cool and set for at least an hour.Take the mixture and separate into the portion size you want and form into patties.
When ready to cook, take a large frying pan, preheat it to medium and drizzle the bottom with a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil to coat. Carefully place the formed patties into the oil, and cook in batches so that the pan isn't overcrowded. The medium heat will give the patties a nice, crispy outer toasting and gently cook the inside, but not burn the patties. You want a nice crust, which will help keep the patty shape, as it will still be more delicate than a meat patty. Cook on both sides and set finished patties on paper towels to drain before serving.
They can be served with a yogurt sauce or enjoyed on their own. If made into larger patties, they can be a vegetarian option for a hamburger.