Monday, December 31, 2007

Chick Fix

One of the tricky areas of being a vegetarian who tries to eat mostly local foods is finding good sources of protein. Frankly, I feel that if I eat a varied enough diet, getting "Sources of Protein" isn't as critical because I'm picking up small amounts of it through everything. But well-loved family members and friends do occasionally express concern, and I don't want to downplay their concerns.

(Though given how much stronger and more fit I am than I used to be... eh well...)

Earlier this fall, my dear friend, the fair Titania, phoned me to rhapsodize over her farmers' market finds. (We enjoy the back and forth, comparing notes on what we can source locally. She had found a local source for dried chickpeas! And immediately, I was both jealous and shameless in my begging for her to purchase some for me.

Faithful friend that she is, she not only bought me one one-pound bag of the dried chickpeas, she bought two and sent them to me.

Then, of course, the rest of the fall sort of ran away from me, and it's only now -- during my much-longed-for winter break from work -- that I've had time to pull out a bag of beans and cook some for meals.

I've only soaked and cooked chickpeas from dried once before, and it didn't turn out so well, so I was a little nervous about this. But with a little coaching from the fair Titania, I dumped some chickpeas into a bowl, covered them with water, and let them soak overnight.

The next morning, the chickpeas had plumped up significantly, their skins smoothing out and occasionally loosening. I tested one, and while I could smash it with a little force, I knew they would all need a little more cooking. So I drained off the soaking water, poured the chickpeas into a saucepan, and added more water, setting the pan on to simmer.

After an hour or so of simmering, I had a pot full of velvety, tender chickpeas that tasted absolutely fantastic! No slime from the can! No weird off-flavor! Just a mouthful of chickpea goodness!

Ah, that made me happy. And what made me even happier was realizing that I had a few cups of cooked chickpeas ready to use in meals.

For dinner, then, I threw together a pot of chick pea minestrone, using homemade vegetable stock and local onions, garlic, carrots, peas (dried), green beans (from the freezer), tomatoes (canned), thyme (dried), oregano (ditto), basil (yup), and a swirl of homemade pesto. With the chickpeas thrown in, I had more than a meal... I had a heavenly feast!

And let me tell you, that was the best darn minestrone I have ever made. Wow!

Since I only used about a cup of chickpeas in the soup, I still have plenty for future dishes, so I'm sure you'll hear more about them soon.

As for Titania, if I could send her a pot of this as thanks, I would. Instead, I'll be sending off a little thank-you package to her later this week with some specialty baking items (some local!) that I know she'll enjoy using in her own kitchen.

That'll fix us both!


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