Veggies on the counter

Chickpea and Aubergine Falafel

Posted in main courses by veggies on the counter on April 4, 2012

For a dinner I was invited to on Saturday, I made falafel. Falafel is like the kind of food I’m almost sure every vegetarian on earth has tasted at least once in his/her lifetime. It’s also one of the things I always end up eating every time I travel. However, I had several bad experiences when I tried to make these spiced chickpea balls at home – most of the times, the falafels wouldn’t hold together and consequently fall apart while cooking. This time around I approached the recipe in a different way though – instead of canned chickpeas, I used dried ones, which made all the difference in terms of structure. I also added grilled aubergines to the mixture to provide some depth in terms of flavour. When it comes to falafel, I like it fried more than baked, even though the latter method of cooking is clearly healthier than the former. If you’d rather have it baked, go ahead – just bare in mind the balls won’t be as crispier as if they were fried, even though that comes with the huge advantage of cutting down a bunch of extra calories. Also, frying is, at least for me, a bit of a scary technique – whenever I fry something (which I do rarely), I’m always afraid of getting burnt by the hot oil, so I keep this safety distance from the pan/pot in which things are being fried, and then when I finally decide to turn them over it’s usually too late and they’re already burnt. Anyway, for this post I tried to fry the falafels and the whole process went extremely well – the fact that they were quite firm (I let them sit a few hours in the fridge), has probably contributed to the success. I’ll leave you with this recipe then, but not without the promise of a soon come back.

Chickpea and Aubergine Falafel

(makes about 25 medium sized falafel)

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups (300 g) dried chickpeas

2 tablespoons cumin seeds, crushed

1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed

1 big handful coriander (aprox. 7 g)

1 big handful mint (aprox. 12 g)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ cup regular flour

¾ teaspoon salt

zest and juice of one lemon

2 medium sized aubergines (aprox. 580 g), cut into rounds of about 0.7 cm each

olive oil for frying or baking

1. Put the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough water to cover. Let them soak overnight or for at least 8 hours before using. The day after, drain the chickpeas and wash them thoroughly under cold running water.

2. Now it’s time to salt the aubergine slices: put them in a large tray and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt. Leave them like that for at least 30 minutes – you’ll notice they’ll release some liquid and feel softer to the touch. Then, rinse the slices, wash them thoroughly and dry them with the help of a clean kitchen towel.

3. Add chickpeas and all the other ingredients, except the aubergines, to a food processor, and process everything until a thick paste comes together. Transfer the chickpea mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

4. In a large and lightly oiled grilling pan over medium/high heat, cook the aubergines’ slices for about 3 minutes on each side, or until they’re slightly browned or have grilling marks. When the slices are cool enough to handle, cut them into small pieces and add them to the chickpea mixture.

5. Shape the chickpea mixture into medium-sized balls and line them on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours – the falafels should be cold and firm; if they’re not, let them sit in the fridge for a little longer.

6. Now, you can either fry or bake the falafels. If you want to fry them, heat about 5 cm (2 inches) of oil (I used olive oil) to aprox. 180 C (350 F) in a deep pan or pot. Add the falafels in small batches and fry them for 4 to 6 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the falafels to a plate covered with paper towels to drain the excess oil. If you prefer to have them baked, brush the balls with olive oil and bake them in the oven (180 c / 350 F) for 15 minutes or until golden brown, turning halfway through for even browning.

7. Serve the falafels in pita bread with some yoghurt-based (I used a soy-based vegan yoghurt) sauce, chopped tomatoes, avocados and salad leaves.

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Pea, Apple and Ginger Soup

Posted in soups by veggies on the counter on February 27, 2011

When I was a kid, sundays were the days I used to dislike. I didn’t really adapt well to the kindergarten, and in the late afternoon of every sunday, I’d feel quite sad about the fact that Monday morning I had to go there.  As a child, I was indeed a pretty unsocial human being: I didn’t speak much, and I’d most likely run away when other children would come to talk/play with me – fortunately, I’d overcome this extreme shyness as I was growing up, even though some of it has remained throughtout the years and I’m afraid to assume it still remains as part of my adult personality.

It might sound weird, but I do think my photographic obsession with still lifes has a lot to do with my childhood and those distressed sunday afternoons. Still lifes are always melancholic, quiet, and perhaps also a bit enigmatic. On the same hand, their classical concept involves the presence of food and some other elements (such as sheets of paper, hardcover books, feather pens, and so on) that, when combined together, almost always make for bucolic, serene scenes.

It’s also surprising that usually, in still lifes, food and writing tools are placed together. It’s as if the first couldn’t live with the latter. Food isn’t dissociated from writing, and that’s also the reason why I find, in the still life, the basis of food writing.

So today is Sunday, seven o’clock in this part of the world – unlike some years ago, there’s no drama involved as I don’t have to go to school tomorrow. My afternoon, as many of my sunday afternoons, was spent in the kitchen, making a big pot of pea soup and a couple other things to be enjoyed throughout the week. It’s not a traditional pea soup the one I’ve prepared today: sweet apples were used as well as a good amount of freshly grated ginger. The end result: you have sweetness from the peas and apples, freshness from a couple leaves of mint, and a light heat from the ginger. Both flavor and texture are well balanced – almost as every still life composition seems to so effortlessly be – contributing for a subtle, yet tasty, outcome.

Pea, Apple and Ginger Soup

(makes 4 servings)

1 large onion (180 grams), finely cut

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup freshly grated ginger

2 medium-sized sweet apples, such as Starking and/or Red Delicious, peeled, cored, and cubed (about 230 grams)

400 grams frozen peas

1 teaspoon fleur de sel

4 cups (1 liter) light stock

1 small handful (10 grams) fresh mint, finely chopped, plus a few leaves, for garnishing

100 ml oat cream (optional)

1. In a large pot over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it starts to soften. Add the ginger, fleur de sel and apples and cook for additional 2 minutes.

2. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the peas and let the mixture boil for 2 to 3 minutes, after which you should reduce the heat and let the soup simmer for 10 minutes, or until the peas and apples are cooked.

3. Remove the pot from the stove. Transfer the soup to a food processor (you can also use an hand blender) and process for 2 minutes or until the soup is creamy and totally smooth. Serve immediately, garnished with a few mint leaves and a couple tablespoons of oat cream, if desired.

Recipe remotely inspired by The Millenium Cookbook

Note: The still life pictures shown here were taken by me and are  part of personal projects.

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Spicy Tofu with Peas and Mint

Posted in main courses, salads by veggies on the counter on November 14, 2010

My week has been really busy, and all I’ve been eating lately is kind of boring and predictable stuff (basically, lots of sandwiches and soup). So today, I finally gave myself some time to go into the kitchen and prepare a proper lunch. That lunch – for which the recipe follows – relies on a favorite combination of mine: peas and mint. As far as the preparation time goes, this is the kind of dish that will only take you a couple minutes to make, but even so, you can certainly prepare the tofu and rub the spices onto it and left the whole thing in the refrigerator until you start cooking.

Typically, I’d serve this along with some raita (with all natural, unsweetened, soy yogurt, grated cucumber, and good pinch of salt), but today, after an hour running, I was craving a more satisfying meal and made, instead, some buckwheat pancakes to go with it. I often like my tofu the simple (and easy) way – coated in a little olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and therefore grilled until golden brown – but rubbing a spice mix into it before grilling/frying, might be a new favorite method. Actually, as I type this, I can’t help myself but thinking on variations to the  mixture of spices suggested below: feel free to add curry powder for a more indian scented flavor, or even going a completely different way, by substiting the cumin, ginger, paprika and turmeric, for dried herbs such as rosemary, thyme and oregano.

Spicy tofu with peas and mint

(serves 4)

400 grams extra firm tofu, rinsed, pat dry, and cubbed

450 grams frozen peas

1 teaspoon powdered garlic

2 teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground powdered ginger

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon paprika

2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

1 ½ tablespoons tamari

a few fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Combine the garlic, cumin, black pepper, ginger, turmeric and paprika in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and tamari and mix well.

2. Rub the spice mixture into the tofu cubes, making sure they’re all well coated. Set aside.

3. Bring enough salted water to a boil, add the peas, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the peas, wash them under cold running water and drain again.

4. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, but not smoking, add the tofu cubes and fry for 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden brown.

5. Transfer the peas and tofu to a large serving plate, and garnish with fresh mint. Serve immediately.

recipe inspired by Rose Elliot’s The Vegetarian Supercook, published by octopus Publishing Group in 2006