Chickpeas are one of my favorite legumes. Seriously. Not cuz I like eating them in salads, or main dishes, really, but because I LOVE almost everything made with them obliterated into a paste. And if you give this Modular Menu a try, you will, too! This Modular Menu is a little different than others, because the basic recipe is not really a recipe, or even cooking. For these recipes, you will need BIG bowls, a crockpot, and a food processor.
The Starter “Recipe” – Soaked Chickpeas
2-4 pounds dried chickpeas (or garbanzos, same thing)
1. Pick through, wash, and rinse your chickpeas, removing anything that is not a chickpea. Put 1-2 pound of chickpeas in each large bowl you have. You can use the insert of your crockpot for half. Remember that these will swell, so don’t fill the bowl/insert to the top with chickpeas.
2. Top with one inch of water and let sit overnight. In the morning, pour off the extra water.
Meal #1 – Falafel
serves 8, 30 minutes, $1.05/serving
1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic
4 t. cumin
1 T. salt
1 t. coriander
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground red pepper
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1. Place chickpeas in food processor (note, these are only soaked, not cooked) and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add onion, parsley, garlic, cumin, salt, coriander, baking soda, and ground red pepper, and process until the mixture is coarsely pureed. Remove from processor bowl into a large bowl and stir in flour.
2. With wet hands, form the chickpea mixture into 8 oval patties, about 1/4″ thick. (These will fit nicely into pitas, but you can also make smaller round patties for bentos or side dishes or appetizers.) Let stand for 15 minutes (during this rest time, you can be mixing up some Tzatziki and a salad – recipe below).
3. Pour oil into a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Saute patties on both sides, until they are nice and golden and crispy (it will probably take 2 batches). Drain on paper towels if necessary.
These babies are delicious, and easy to freeze. Just flash freeze after cooking. Serve them, as I said, as an appetizer, a side dish, a main dish, or as a bento filler. They are great for filling pita halves, with lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki sauce; with this great salad on the side:
4 servings, 10 minutes
3 roma tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 bell pepper (red or green or half and half)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 T. olive oil
1. Seed and chop the tomatoes (about a 1/2″ dice), and drop into a large serving bowl as you chop. Sprinkle with salt to draw out the tomato juice. Continue chopping the rest of the vegetables the same size, and dropping them in as you go. Once all of the vegetables are chopped, sprinkle with lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper, and toss to combine/coat.
Ideally, this should sit at least an hour to let the flavors meld, but it’s still delicious eaten right away. And it is a wonderful, if very juicy salad to send in a bento box (drain well before packing, more juice will be drawn out!).
Meal #2: Hummus and Dippers
serves 4, 20 minutes, $1.26/ serving
We love homemade hummus so much, I literally don’t have this recipe written down in my database. I just make sure we have chickpeas, because we always have everything else.
2 cups chickpeas
2 cloves garlic
1 T. tahini
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. cumin
1 T. olive oil
4 stalks celery
1 bell pepper
1. Cover soaked beans with water, and cook in a crockpot on low for 8-10 hours. (If you are packing this as a lunch, do it overnight. If this is dinner, cook all day long). Once beans are fully cooked so that they mash easily, but don’t fall apart when you look at them hard; drain the cooking liquid into a bowl and reserve. If you cooked additional chickpeas (which I recommend), pack those up and freeze or refrigerate as needed.
2. Put 2 cups of cooked chickpeas into the bowl of your food processor, along with garlic, tahini, seasonings, oil, lemon juice, and 1/4 c. of the reserved cooking liquid (don’t throw the rest out!); and start spinning. Once everything is processed into a paste, you’re going to start looking at consitency. For dipping and spreading, I like a good thick paste, like toothpaste. You can also thin it out more to use as a sauce. Most recipes will tell you to thin it out with olive oil, but you can use the reserved cooking liquid which is healthier and free. Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary. Pour finished hummus into a serving bowl (or lunch box container), and put in the fridge to cool while you finish cooking the meal.
3. Peel and cut carrots into sticks, cut celery into sticks, and cut bell pepper into sticks. Peel and cut cucumber into discs. Plate.
4. Heat a big nonstick skillet over medium heat. Press each pita to the bottom of the pan, until it gets nice and toasted, then flip and repeat. Repeat with the other 3 pitas. Cut into wedges, plate and serve.
Meal #3 – Curried Chickpeas and Cauliflower
1 serving, 1 hour, $1.30
When my family tried this recipe from Fitness Magazine, the kids loved it! This recipe does take a long time, because brown rice takes so long to cook. If your kids aren’t huge fans of cauliflower like mine are, you can try what I tried to get them interested: buy the purple cauliflower. It won’t be nice and purple once you cook it in this recipe, but they will likely get a kick out of knowing that it was before you covered it in curry powder.
Modifications: I used 1 onion for 4 servings, and used regular brown rice, not instant. And since i am the only one who likes green onions, I generally leave them out. Make sure you quadruple the ingredients, though. The original is sized for singles.
Meal #4: Mediterranean Skillet Dinner
serves 4, 50 minutes, $1.18/serving
from The Monday to Friday Cookbook by Michele Urvater
6 sun-dried tomatoes
1 T. oil
1 c. bulgur wheat
1 c. chicken stock or water
2 T. pesto
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes finely and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bulgur and saute until brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add stock to pan.
3. Cover the skillet and cook until bulgur is tender and has absorbed the liquid, 10 minutes.
4. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and pesto to the wheat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the chickpeas over the mixture; cover and cook, stirring the mixture once, until the chickpeas are heated through, about 10 minutes.
My family loves this recipe. I can find bulgur in the bulk bins at HEB, but you can also use tabouleh. You can also add in some leftover cooked chicken or other meat to this recipes, and it tastes even better.