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Chickpeas to the Rescue

Lately I have been making vegetarian dishes a main part of my diet. With overconsumption of meat being a major driver of climate change, going meatless for at least some of your meals is an important choice we can make for a sustainable future.  

Living here on the North Fork, we are blessed with an abundance of seasonal produce and the arrival of fresh local cauliflowers inspired this month’s good-for-the-planet and good-for-your-health menu. I have used gluten-free, protein-packed chickpea flour to make tasty pancakes paired with spice roasted cauliflower and a side of vibrant beet relish. Chickpea flour is versatile, inexpensive and easily available at local markets. Purchase a bag and become an instant convert to one of my favorite pantry staples. I hope you enjoy this recipe and that it inspires you to get creative with plant-based dishes. 

Chickpea Pancakes with Spiced Cauliflower and Roasted Beet Relish

There are several stages to this dish, so prepare the beet relish, yogurt sauce and cashew topping ahead of time. 

Roasted Beet Relish

The relish is also delicious served as part of a mezze plate or salad bowl or as an accompaniment to grilled fish.

1 lb. beets, trimmed with skins on
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. capers
1 small clove of garlic coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped mint leaves
2 Tbsp. rice wine or sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Fresh black pepper
½ tsp. fine sea salt

Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place on a heavy sheet pan. Roast in a preheated 375-degree oven for 40 minutes, until a knife can easily pierce them but they are still firm. Remove from the oven and cool until comfortable to handle. Peel and chop into chunks and set aside until completely cold (they are easier to peel when they are still warm). 

Roasted Cashews

Place the shallot, capers and garlic in a blender or mini food processor. Process until finely chopped before adding the beets and pulse the mixture until everything is finely chopped. Place in a small bowl and add stir in the vinegar, olive oil and mint. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Leave the mixture at room temperature for at least an hour for flavor to develop. Can be refrigerated for a couple of day in a sealed container. Adjust the seasoning before serving.

½ cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped
½ tsp. fine sea salt
¼ tsp. smoked paprika

Place the cashews on a heavy sheet pan and toss with the salt and smoked paprika. Place in a preheated 350-degree oven and roast for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Yogurt Sauce

1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
¼ cup whole milk
Zest of half a lemon finely grated
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely grated
Pinch of Aleppo pepper or chili flakes
Fine sea salt

Mix the yogurt and whole milk in a small bowl to until creamy. Stir in the lemon zest, garlic, pepper flakes and salt and refrigerate covered until ready to serve.

Spiced Roasted Cauliflower

For the freshest flavor, use recently purchased spices, preferably from a specialist vendor such as www.kalyustyans.com. You can serve the spiced cauliflower as a side dish or light supper, where it pairs well with warm flatbreads, mango chutney and yogurt. Make sure the cauliflower is totally dry before cooking or it will steam instead of roast. 

Spice Paste

1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
¼ small red onion coarsely chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp. tamari or light soy sauce
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. garam masala
Fine sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Place the garlic, onion and ginger in a blender or mini food processor and process until blended. Add the olive oil, soy sauce, spices, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly to a smooth paste. Scrape into a bowl and store covered at room temperature for several hours or in the refrigerator overnight. 

Cauliflower

1 large North fork Cauliflower, cored and separated into small florets
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Spice paste (recipe above)
Fine sea salt

Rinse the cauliflower in a large bowl of cold water. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and add the cauliflower. Once the water returns to a boil, immediately remove to a strainer and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Drain on a dishtowel until cauliflower is dry. Once completely dry, toss with the olive oil and salt and spread in a single layer on a heavy sheet pan. Place in a preheated 400-degree oven and roast for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and mix in the spice paste, making sure every piece is thoroughly coated. Return to oven and roast for a further 12 to 15 minutes until cooked through, stirring from time to time to make sure the mix is not sticking and burning.

Chickpea Flour Pancakes

I have used plain batter for this recipe, but feel free to experiment with other add-ins and sweet and savory toppings. You can make a complete meal by adding cooked spinach and finely chopped onion to the batter. I often add a dusting of grated Parmesan cheese to breakfast pancakes topped with eggs and mushrooms. You can also use it to replace some of the regular flour when making tempura batter or vegetable fritters. 

Using the right pan is very important, as the batter can stick easily. I use a 10-inch Cuisinart crepe pan, which is excellent for all sorts of pancakes and flatbreads. You could also use a non-stick griddle or, at a pinch, a non-stick skillet.  

1 cup chickpea (garbanzo flour)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water
(Use 1 1/2 cups of water for a vegan/dairy free version)
Fine sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil or ghee for cooking

Place the flour in a mixing bowl and gradually whisk in the water to make a thick cream. Once the mixture is smooth, add the milk (or extra half cup water), salt and pepper. You can also mix up all the ingredients in a blender. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes. Can be stored for 2 days in the fridge, but be sure to bring to room temperature before cooking. 

Heat a crepe pan, griddle or flat non-stick skillet to medium heat and add a thin coating of olive oil or ghee. Add 1/3 cup of batter and swirl to coat the entire surface. The edges will have a slightly lacey appearance. Cook for about 2 minutes (bubbles will form around the edges) before flipping. 

If you cannot easily slide the spatula under the pancake, cook for a little longer before turning. If the pancakes start to brown too much, turn the heat to low. 

As you cook each crepe, place on a baking sheet in a 325-degree oven, placing greaseproof or baking parchment between each layer and topping with a sheet of aluminum foil. This will help to hold the heat and moisture as you cook the rest of the pancakes. Repeat using the remaining batter, adding olive oil or ghee to the pan each time. Makes about 8 pancakes.

Assembly

Top each crepe with generous serving of spiced cauliflower, drizzle with yogurt sauce and top with a sprinkling of roasted cashews. Add a dollop of beetroot relish on the side. You can also place some filling in the middle of each crepe and roll to make a stuffed pancake.

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