Friday, August 12, 2011

Chickpea Tostadas

Once upon a time, I realized that I didn’t need to put meat in my tacos. Or burritos or enchiladas or on my tostadas or nachos. This isn’t much of a revelation, since the part of the world in which these dishes evolved housed a culture that thrived on beans, corn (maize) and other grains. You have to understand, however, that just about all the suppers in the house in which I grew up were based on some kind of meat. If the meal didn’t have meat, it was because it was Friday and it was Lent, and it wasn’t meat because it was fish, which had been disqualified by Decree.

And so, when I discovered the bean and rice taco that at one time was a staple in my diet (it being cheap as well as quick and easy), it was kind of a big deal. Then I moved on to other legumes, being bean-curious as I am, and have had a pretty good time. Chickpea taco recipes as I read them, however, needed a bit of an adjustment. Being firmer and rounder than other beans, my chickpeas would roll out of their wrap. I might as well have been eating the whole mess with a fork or a spoon.

Well, of course, there is an easy solution to the problem of roly-poly chickpeas: mash them before they can even try to escape. I cooked them simply with onion, garlic and cumin and pressed them with the back of my spoon. I kept my mash coarse, so the mixture was still plenty chunky, and didn’t reach the refried bean stage. I achieved such a non-rolling state amongst my chickpeas, that I could confidently spoon the mixture onto crunchy tostadas to serve. No secure wrapping required.

I accomplished more with this dish than just corralling my protein source and finishing up the package of chickpeas I had purchased to make falafel. I also got to test the concept of putting cucumbers in my fresh salsa topping, or Pico de Gallo. It was kind of a no-brainer, since I had plenty of cucumbers on hand. It was more delicious than your average no-brainer, though, and I was really happy with the results. The cucumber added some wonderful crunch to the Pico de Gallo, which contrasted nicely with the softer mashed chickpeas. This topping, with its acidic tomato and lime juice, and zesty chile and scallions also perked up the flavor of the tostadas, as did the spicy buffalo-wing infused Monterey Jack cheese I melted on them. (You can get such things when you shop for cheese in Wisconsin supermarkets. You could use pepper Jack or something milder.)

While serving this tostada-style was delicious (and proved a point), you could wrap it all up in a tortilla (like these, or these if you want to go homemade). I also think this would make great nachos. Just try balancing an un-mashed chickpea on a tortilla chip.

Chickpea Tostadas with Tomato and Cucumber Pico de Gallo

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ½ cups cooked or canned chickpeas (about 1 16-ounce can)
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup water
½ cup (more or less to taste) shredded Monterey Jack, pepper Jack or cheddar cheese
6 crunchy corn tostadas
1 recipe Tomato and Cucumber Pico de Gallo (see below)
sour cream (to serve), optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet (I use nonstick) over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté 3-5 minutes or until soft and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic. Cook and stir about 30 seconds more.

2. Add the chickpeas, cumin, salt and water. Cook a minute or two, stirring often, until the chickpeas are softened. Coarsely mash the chickpeas with the back of a spoon (or you could use a potato masher or the bottom of a mug) as they cook. Cook until the liquid is evaporated or absorbed. If the liquid is gone before you finish mashing the chickpeas, remove from the heat to continue.

3. Place the tostadas on a baking sheet. Spoon an equal portion of the chickpea mixture on each tostada. Top with cheese. Bake at 350 F for 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

4. Remove from the oven. Top each tostada with Tomato and Cucumber Pico de Gallo and sour cream if desired.

Makes 2-3 servings.

Tomato and Cucumber Pico de Gallo

1 cup finely chopped tomato
½ cup finely chopped cucumber (peeled if desired, but I like to leave the skin on)
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh chile (or more to taste)
2 finely chopped scallions
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and tender stems)

1. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir together. Taste for seasonings and adjust as desired. Serve with tortilla chips or as a garnish for tacos, nachos and tostadas, such as the Chickpea Tostadas above.

Makes about 1 ¾ cups.

Other recipes like these: Tacos with Sauteed Greens and Fresh Cheese, Black Bean and Corn Croquettes, Soup Beans, Corn and Black Bean Salad with Peppers and Cherry Tomatoes

Two years ago: Corn and Black Bean Salad with Peppers and Cherry Tomatoes

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