Meatless Monday for any day of the week: Spanish Chickpea and Spinach Stew

comfort food - veggie style

We have previously discussed my thoughts on being a vegetarian (lovely for many, not for me) and my thoughts on meat (try to make good decisions about where it comes from, etc. I don’t have guilt about eating something that had a good life) but there is this thing that happens in the food blogging world called Meatless Monday, and today, I am contributing.

I am not sure how Meatless Monday came about, but I think the theory behind it is to go a day without meat because it is good for our human selves and the earth. I can get behind that. The funny thing is I actually eat vegetarian plenty of the time. I probably only eat red meat a couple of times a month, maybe once a week, if you count cured meats and the like. I eat a lot of chicken for sure. But I eat meat free meals fairly regularly, especially if I am allowed to count eggs as meat free. My pasta is almost always meat free and I eat that all the time. I just rarely make the connection that what I am eating is vegetarian. I like the idea of Meatless Monday as a broad idea for the betterment of humanity. My only issue with it is maybe the Monday part. As my good friend M said “umm, Meatless Monday drives me crazy because Monday is the day after I grocery shop and when I am most likely to have meat.” Touché M.

This is a long way of saying that this recipe would be an excellent addition to a Meatless Monday repertoire, even if you choose to make it a Meatless Thursday instead.

chickpea and spinach stew

I discovered I like chickpeas fairly recently (I think I have mentioned the deep dark secret I carried around with me for the entirety of my youth and into my adult years as a cooking and food obsessed human – there are plenty of things I did not like at all, but I just never really discussed it, so I don’t think anyone knew…curries, and “Indian Food” more broadly, chickpeas, sauces with yogurt in them, feta cheese (still HATE this one) game meats, sun-dried tomatoes (still not sold) roe of various things, roasted red peppers, smoked salmon (STILL, blech) avocados(?!?!?)) but I am coming around. My palate is expanding. I think my distaste for chickpeas comes from their customary spot in a salad bar. When chickpeas are on a salad bar they look rubbery and shiny and weird and generally unappetizing, so I assumed I did not like them. I still do not like chickpeas from a salad bar, but chickpeas in food are something I can get behind. I started with Chana Masala, and fried chickpeas, and one of my regular “I just got home and I am already so hungry I could eat my hand” thrown together dinners is chickpeas fried for a moment, spiced with ras el-hanout or curry powder, with red onions thrown in the pan to wilt, and then tossed with olive oil, lemon juice and shaved parmesan cheese – so random and really quite good. So when I saw, in my meander through old Food & Wine mags, a recipe for Spanish tapas inspired chickpea stew I decided to give it a go. I am quite pleased that I did. I have already made it a couple of times, it reheats really well for lunches, and it is very comforting while still feeling healthy. And it’s quick!

And now, I bid you adieu. Many apologies if this sounds like it was written by a crazy person, I worked 13 hours today and I am a little punchy…

Before we get to the actual recipe…so many things!

Downton Downton Downton Downton. Oh Downton Abbey how I love thee…

Yo soy fiesta.

One month til Denver to visit the littlest…I can’t wait.

Portlandia? Supposed to be the funniest thing ever? Am I doing it wrong?

I hope you are reading the City Kitchen columns by David Tanis in the New York Times. I want to make everything immediately.

Remember the ginger chicken soup I had on the stove? Umm, I think it might cure colds. I have a sample of one so far, but it definitely worked. If I get another cold I will try it again and let you know.

Chickpea and Spinach Stew (serves 4)

Adapted from Food & Wine

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

Kosher salt

Pinch of saffron threads

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of freshly ground pepper

Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas with their liquid

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1/4 cup golden raisins

10 oz baby spinach

Use the flat side of a large knife and mash the garlic to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the saffron. Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl. Add the paprika, cumin, cloves and black pepper and mash until combined. Stir in 1/4 cup of the chickpea liquid.

Wipe out the skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and tomato and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the spiced garlic sauce to the onion and tomato in the skillet and cook for 1 minute.

Add the chickpeas and the remaining liquid to the skillet. Add the raisins and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the spinach, reduce the heat to moderate, and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer the chickpea stew to 4 deep bowls, drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top, and serve.

Chicken Tinga Tacos…one of my new favorites

You guys are going to love me for this...

I’m sick again. I may have discovered the kink in my plan to be a person that sleeps less and accomplishes more. All I want to do is lay around, drink smoothies and eat chicken soup. This is on the stove as I type. I’m hoping that by virtue of the almost insane amount of ginger in there, I might actually be able to smell and taste it when it’s finished. It would be about the only thing.

Perhaps my most favorite recent discovery, Chicken Tinga Tacos will likely be in the rotation for some time. I spotted these in the pages of Food & Wine, and may have skipped right over them, but for a recent celebration of Taco Tuesday with the gals at La Verdad, where the Chicken Tingas were our favorite tacos of the evening.

From my very scientific web searches on the topic, it appears Tinga is a stew of braised chicken, pork or beef, with tomatoes, onions, garlic and chipotles in adobo. Which is good, because that’s what it is in this recipe, so it appears we’re on the right track. A couple of the recipes I saw also called for Mexican chorizo (definitely different than Spanish chorizo, if you are reading a recipe that specifies you definitely want to get the right one, Spanish chorizo has the very distinctly flavored Pimenton in the mix, Mexican chorizo uses chile peppers.) I am sure that would also be quite delicious.

This recipe calls for chipotles in adobo. I have mentioned them before for the Chilequiles, and when I finally get a B&G Pantry page together for your viewing pleasure they will definitely be on it. They are spicy and smoky and add a ton of flavor and background smoke and some excellent heat to things. They are also potent. A little goes a long way. I am guessing you can find them in most grocery stores. Whole Foods carries them, and any market with a decent international section probably does too. (I wonder if my dad can get them? I think yes, even in good old small town CT he can find them, so it is looking good for the rest of you.)  They last pretty much forever in the fridge so don’t be afraid to buy a can or two if you see them. They look so innocuous, but they are spicy. Chipotles are, after all, smoke dried jalapeños, and the seeds are still in there.

This would be a great dinner during the week, it only takes about an hour, and better yet, I think the Tinga would only get better with time, though I can’t say I’ve had many leftovers to test this theory. There is also something that feels very Sunday about it, probably the braising part, even though it is a short braise. It also would be great game day food, and easy for a group. I served it the first time with a combo of hard shells* and soft shells – the hard shells won the day – and it would also be great as a tostada topping, or for nachos, or probably on a roll of some sort like pulled pork. And also just with a fork. Or any spare tortilla chips you might have hanging around. (*Do me a favor next time you are making tacos of any kind, heat some oil in a frying pan ¼ – ½ inch, I’d say, fry corn tortillas until they start to get just a bit stiff, then fold them over so they are taco shell-like and fry for another minute until they are just barely brown and crispy, but not stiff and shatter-y like those gross ones you buy in a box. Truly, it makes a world of difference and takes very little work.)

someday we'll talk about that corn...

There are really only a couple of steps. First you brown the chicken thighs in a little oil, then take the chicken out and add some sliced onion. Let it soften and brown a little, then add the garlic, cook for a minute longer, and then add the tomatoes, chipotles in adobo and chicken stock. This combo simmers for about 20 minutes. Turn the heat off for a couple minutes and let it cool slightly, then puree it in a blender, add it back to the pan and add the chicken back in.

pureed

Simmer for another 20-30 minutes and voila! Shred the chicken and you are ready to serve.

shredded

I serve mine with corn tortillas, either fried into hard shells or just warmed in foil in the oven. Cotija cheese is a must, and I like avocado and something pickled too, radishes or red onion. And finish it with a squeeze of lime.

toppings

Hold UP. I think, I THINK I just saw a commercial for TGI Fridays that involved allusions to romance and cute bartenders. Is Fridays a martini bar now? With an app and entree combo for $10? When did that happen?

Is there ANOTHER GOP debate tonight? Are there more debates this primary season than ever before? Doesn’t it seem that way?

I am trying to turn over a new leaf in 2012. I am trying not to let people annoy me for no reason. It’s their life, and if they want to jump around like a fool like the Sweaty McHeadband in my kickboxing class, or kill themselves with cancer sticks like half the people I get stuck behind walking to work, that’s their problem, not mine. It means I will be putting the next blog I wanted to start, peopleiwanttopunchintheface.wordpress.com on the back burner for the time being. Here’s to new beginnings!

I’ve gotten locked in my bathroom twice in the last week. I thought I was going to waste away on the floor of the smallest bathroom in the world. It was terrifying so I took the doorknob off. Now there is no doorknob, but also no chance of getting locked in there. Probably time to talk to the landlord.

I am currently obsessed with Ryan Adams’ “Easy Tiger.”

I am reading The Line of Beauty, and am having difficulty getting into it, but that is probably because I don’t get in bed to read until about 11pm and one of my eyes is already pretty much shut from exhaustion.

This is awesome. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9NF2edxy-M

So is this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF9-sEbqDvU and this (even better): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta9K22D0o5Q&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

And now, please enjoy your Tinga…

Chicken Tinga Tacos (serves 6-8, probably with leftovers)

adapted from Food & Wine

1/4 cup plus 2 tbls extra-virgin olive oil

2 1/2 lbs trimmed, skinless, boneless chicken thighs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 canned chipotles in adobo, coarsely chopped

1 cup chicken broth

24 corn tortillas

Cotija cheese, avocado, pickled onions, slaw or toppings of your choice

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper, add it to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned, about 12 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate and pour off the fat.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and then add the onion. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned and softened, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the chipotles and the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and slightly reduced, 20 minutes.

Transfer the sauce to a food processor and let cool for 15 minutes. Puree until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Add the sauce back to the pan and add the chicken. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Simmer the sauce and chicken over medium low heat until the meat is tender and the sauce is very thick and darkened around the edges. Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm them in the oven for about 10 minutes or fry into hard shells.

Shred the meat, spoon about 3 tablespoons of chicken onto each tortilla and sprinkle with the crumbled cheese and toppings of your choice.

Chicken Tinga Tacos

Working my way back to you babe – Scallion Pancakes for the (Chinese) new year…

Happy New Year!

It’s 2012! How did that happen?

This post is a total cop out. Two months I’ve been gone. TWO MONTHS! And all I have for you is this dumb recipe. Just kidding, it’s delicious. It’s not dumb at all. There’s just not much to it. There are approximately four ingredients and one of them is water. But somehow, in spite of its simplicity, it is a delight.

Scallion pancakes are one of my most favorite Chinese take out treats. They are crispy and delicious and taste like scallions and you get to dip them in soy sauce. Please tell me one thing that is bad about that?

And, bonus, they are very easy to make.

start with the flour

Flour in a bowl. Add a little salt.

Flour and water

Add boiling water to the mix and stir it (not with your hands, because it’s hot.)

When the dough starts looking shaggy, take it out of the bowl and clump it together on the counter. You won’t need much flour on the counter, as this is a pretty dry dough, but have a little there to be safe.

shaggy

Clump the dough into a ball and start kneading. It will take anywhere from five to ten minutes of kneading to get the dough where you want it.

after one minute

after four minutes

after nine minutes

You should knead until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Then cover the dough with a damp towel and let it sit for 30 minutes while you do something else. Slice the green parts of some scallions, perhaps. Or make a dipping sauce (soy sauce, chopped scallions, a couple drops of sesame oil, and a splash of rice wine or rice vinegar.) Or watch a sitcom. Or something else you like to do. I don’t know, I don’t know your life.

After the dough has rested for 30 minutes it will be even smoother and stretchier, if you can believe it. Cut the dough into eight pieces (I find cutting it in slivers like a pie is the easiest.) Then the fun part begins. Roll each piece of dough into a circle. They are not going to be very big, please see the photo below for a gauge. That is my creepy hand next to the dough.

about the size of my hand...which is a helpful measure for the rest of you...

It’s a wonder I haven’t made it as a hand model.

Then brush the round with sesame oil and sprinkle with chopped scallions.

brushed and sprinkled

But you’re not done yet. Now you roll it into a cylinder, like you were rolling a…umm…rug, or something.

a scallion pancake taquito

Then role THAT cylinder into a pinwheel thing. Like so…

scallion pancake snail...now with more creepy hand

And NOW, and now, stick with me one more minute, roll the snail into another scallion filled pancake…

aaaaand, we're done!

And now all that’s left is frying them up. You don’t need much oil for these, and you don’t need much time either. They fry up in minutes. These are not huge, the ones I’ve gotten from Chinese restaurants are bigger. If that is what you’d prefer, I suspect you could just divide the dough into four or six pieces and roll them out bigger. Heat the oil over medium heat until hot, drop one of the pancakes in the pan, and watch it carefully, it will be ready to flip in a minute or two.

fried

I have found the pancakes will sometimes puff up in the  middle a little and the edges will get crispy while the center does not. I found pressing gently on the center of the pancake when it first goes into the oil helps that.

Once you flip it, the second side cooks even faster than the first. When it is browned to your likeness, take the pancake out of the oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with a little salt, cut in quarters and serve with dipping sauce. Delectable Chinese take out with out the take out!

scallion pancakes at home

I think I would like to get this out before another New Year passes – and incidentally, it just so happens that the celebrations for the Chinese New Year are beginning (I believe the actual date is January 23rd) so make these and raise a glass to the Year of the Dragon – so I will wrap this up. But (and I know I say this a lot) I have so many things to discuss with you. This month’s project is noodles. Udon, ramen, and egg yolk filled ravioli, which I have been working on forever and can’t manage to perfect. But I am getting closer. And I want to share it with you. And I want to do some new things for “Meatless Mondays” and I want to talk about soup. And so many things. And I miss this little spot. So I will be back. Stick around.

Scallion Pancakes (makes 8 four inch pancakes)

Adapted from Delicious Days.

1 1/2 cups flour, plus additional for rolling out the pancakes

Pinch of Salt

1/2 cup water

1 bunch of scallions, green parts only, sliced into thin rounds

2 tbls sesame oil

canola or other neutral oil for frying

Whisk together flour and salt in a medium bowl. Boil the water and add to the flour slowly. Stir the dough until it is shaggy and cool enough to touch. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and pliable, anywhere from five to ten minutes. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

After the dough has rested, cut into 8 equal pieces. One at a time, roll the dough pieces into thin rounds, approximately four inches across. Brush sesame oil onto the dough with a pastry brush, and sprinkle on a couple pinches of the scallions. Roll the dough round up like a cigar, and then roll the cigar into a pinwheel shape as shown above. Press the edge lightly to seal the round, and then roll again into a think 4 inch pancake. Set aside, and repeat with the remaining dough. As you complete the pancakes, pile them up with aluminum foil or parchment paper in between them.

Heat just enough oil to cover the bottom of the frying pan over medium heat until hot. Fry the pancakes one or two at a time in the oil until the bottom is brown and crispy, 1-2 minutes, and then flip, doing the same to the second side. Remove the pancakes to a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt, cut each pancake into quarters, and serve with a dipping sauce.

Enjoy!