Monday, March 24, 2014

Chickpea Crackers with Za'atar and Maldon Salt

Do you ever have those days where it feels like your cupboards are completely bare and there is nothing in the fridge besides condiments, a couple of beers and some limp vegetables, but the mere thought of grocery shopping is completely out of the question? 
Well... that was me this past weekend. It was cold and I was hung over as hell and had no intention of leaving the house for any reason whatsoever.  I decided to challenge myself to make some snacks and come up with dinner based on whatever I had kicking around the kitchen.  Now, keep in mind I am not one of those people that stockpiles soup, casseroles and meat in the freezer, so I can have dinner ready at the drop of a hat.  Take a peek into my freezer and you will find a large bottle of Bombay Sapphire, flax seed, a giant jar of walnuts and some spelt flour.  So, pulling something out of the freezer for dinner wasn't really an option.  Staring bleary eyed into the cupboard for what felt like 30 minutes, I was finally able to get my brain to work and figure out what I was going to make as a snack to accompany the beer I had in the fridge.  Sure, I could have just whipped up a bunch of popcorn and called it a day but I figured if I wasn't going to leave the house, I should be somewhat productive and make something fun.

Weeks ago while riding my stationary bike I came across a recipe for these chickpea crackers with zaatar spice.  Of course I told myself to write down the name of the blog AS SOON as I got off the bike.  Did that happen? No, of course not. I found a big ass jar of za'atar and a large bag of chickpea flour in my cupboard and spent a good 20 minutes searching for the recipe.  Fortunately, I had everything on hand to make them and got to work!

Chickpea Flour (also known as gram flour, besan or garbanzo bean flour) is made from ground, raw or roasted chickpeas, commonly used in Indian or Pakistani cooking to make papadum (lentil wafers), and pakoras (vegetables fried in chickpea flour batter).  Chickpea flour is also used in Southern Europe to make an oven baked flatbread of sorts called Farinata (Italy) or Socca (France).  I've used this awesome flour to make besan ka cheela and socca with leeks and herbed almond spread, and now these delicious crackers that are vegan, gluten free and high in protein and fiber!

Making crackers from scratch can be a little labor intensive but the taste difference between store bought and homemade is like night and day.  The trick to perfect crackers is to roll out the dough evenly; If the crackers are too thick they will take forever to cook.. too thin and they will burn. 
These are great as is, but pairing them with hummus (chickpea madness!!) will give you a super healthy, protein rich vegan snack... and if you have everything on hand, you don't even need to leave the house!

Chickpea Crackers with Zaatar and Maldon Salt (makes 32 large crackers)
From Dolly and Oatmeal

2 cups garbanzo bean flour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/3 cup + 1-2 tablespoons warm water, plus more if needed
2-3 tablespoons za'atar 
maldon sea salt for garnishing

In a large bowl, whisk the garbanzo bean flour with the salt and baking powder until combined. using your hands, rub the olive oil into the flour to distribute evenly; about 2 minutes - make sure there are no large clumps.
Transfer the flour mixture to a food processor.  With the processor running, drizzle the 1/3 cup of warm water until the mixture comes together.  If your dough is still dry, add more water by the 1/2 tablespoon until dough ball has formed
Knead the dough for 5 minutes.  Divide it into two pieces and wrap each piece with plastic wrap. let it rest for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper

Prepare a flat work surface with two pieces of parchment paper.  place one piece of dough on top of one piece of parchment, wet your hands a bit and flatten the dough with your palm.  Cover dough with second piece of parchment and roll out to an 1/8-inch thickness with a rolling pin.

Trim edges and set scraps to the side, sprinkle with za'atar.  Use your rolling pin and roll over the dough once more to push za'atar into the dough's surface.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush tops of crackers with olive oil, sprinkle with maldon sea salt.

Transfer the crackers to prepared baking sheets and bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Crackers will be lightly browned on the edges when done.  Remove from oven and let crackers cool.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Crackers can be stored in an air-tight container at room temp for up to 4 days.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon


Lately, I have become obsessed with preserved lemons. Maybe it's due to their beautiful, intensely yellow color, a respite to this gloomy, cold weather that at this point is making me rethink WHY THE HELL I moved back to New York in the first place. 

Commonly used in Moroccan cuisine, preserved lemons are basically whole lemons that have been packed in salt and sent to chill out for a month or two. Over time, the peel softens and the flavor intensifies resulting in a tangy, sour, salty condiment that can be added to foods.  These lemons are commonly added to the infamous Moroccan tagine, a slow cooked savory stew made with meat, poultry of fish paired with vegetables, fruit (fresh or dried), and spices such as cinnamon, cumin, saffron, coriander and paprika.

Unless you are making Moroccan food on a regular basis, it's not too often that you will come across a recipe that calls for this delicious condiment. I first tried preserved lemons on a dare.  Having no idea what they tasted like, I shoved a quarter of a lemon in my mouth and instantly my tongue started burning and my eyes were watering from the overwhelming salty, sour flavor.  I quickly learned that these are best enjoyed in small amounts, cut into thin strips and simmered with broth, aromatics, spices and dried fruit to make a lovely sauce for chicken or fish.  You can make them yourself or buy them in an ethnic market or specialty shop and they last forever! I have had the same jar in my fridge for months, using a bit here and there to top off a plate of slow roasted root vegetables or adding a bit to a vinaigrette for a tangy salad dressing. 

This Moroccan chicken dish that I came across on Food 52 had all my favorite flavors on one plate: ginger, garlic and onions, olives, currants, buttery couscous and lots of spice... and of course preserved lemon.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemon (serves 2)
Adapted from Food 52

2-3 T. safflower oil
2 lbs. chicken (I used 2 legs)
sea salt
black pepper

1 1/2 c. yellow onion, diced
1 t. ginger, minced
1 t. garlic, minced
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. ground coriander
1 1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. turmeric
1/8 t. cayenne
2-3 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 c. green olives (I used castelvetrano)
3/4 whole preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind cut into thin strips
1/3 c. currants
2 T. chopped cilantro

3/4 c. couscous
3/4 c. vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 t. sea salt
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. butter

Heat 2 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.  Brown the chicken on all sides and transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 T. oil.  Add the onion and sautee until slightly softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne and cook an additional minute or two. If the mixture starts to stick, add a splash of chicken stock.  Add the chicken back to the skillet and coat both sides with the onion/spice mixture. Pour the stock into the skillet so that 2/3 of the chicken is submerged.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes. While the chicken is simmering place the couscous, sea salt and olive oil in a medium sized glass bowl. Bring 3/4 c. stock to a boil. pour over the couscous, mix with a spoon and cover with a lid or tightly seal with plastic wrap. Set aside for 15- 20 minutes.

After the chicken has simmered for 20 minutes, add the olives and preserved lemons and cook for an additional 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the skillet.  Add the currants cook over medium high heat until the sauce until it reduces by half, about 6-8 minutes.

To serve: Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the butter. Mix again and divide between two shallow bowls or plates. Place the chicken on top and spoon the reduced sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.