Out of Character: Sweet and Sour Chickpeas
Can I tell you a secret? But you have to swear you won’t tell anyone.
This particular secret involves a clandestine, middle-of-the-night meeting in an abandoned field; secret code names; the removal of clothing; and a vow never to tell another soul.
Oh, and three cans of neon yellow paint.
(And I bet you thought you knew where I was going with this one, didn’t you?)
Allow me to explain. As a middle child in our family, I exhibited the typical middle-child traits: I was quiet, a peacemaker, and always tried to please everyone. Middle kids don’t ruffle feathers. They don’t make waves. They’re the “good girls” (well, except for the boys, that is, who I’m guessing are “good boys.”). In other words, they don’t break the rules.
But being the perennial ”good girl” can sometimes become tiresome. Sometimes, you want to break loose and do something wildly out of character. Maybe skip school and have a little adventure like Ferris Beuller. Maybe just pick up and move to Australia*. Or maybe even say “what the heck“** and take that leap like Joel in Risky Business.
That’s why, though I’d never done anything even remotely similar before, I was inspired to call the HH up for a date after we’d met at a party the previous weekend (seems to have turned out okay in the end).
That’s why, one evening in university after I’d just called my friend Babe to wish her a happy birthday and sat studying in my dorm room, I turned to my study buddy Elaine and asked, “Hey, do you want to drive to London tonight to visit Babe?” We arrived just before 10:00 PM, Babe squealed with surprise and delight when she saw us, we shared hugs and a bottle of wine, and we found ourselves back at the dorm around 2:00 AM (just in time to finish studying before our test the next morning).
That’s why, when I first learned that Ellen DeGeneres had eschewed refined sugar (after being vegan for a couple of years), I thought, “Wow! The treats in my cookbook would be perfect for her!” and mounted a twitter and blog campaign to serve healthy, vegan, sugar-free desserts to Ellen and her studio audience on her show (so far, it’s turned not too badly , but I’m still waiting for that invitation–feel free to send her a message and ask her to have me on the show!).
And that’s why, when one of my best friends in high school thought it would be a good idea for our group of “goody-goody” girl friends to leave our mark (literally) on our high school, I said, “okay, what the heck.”
Which is how the six of us ended up meeting one night under cover of darkness, changed into sweatpants and sweatshirts, and sneaked into our abandoned-for-the-summer schoolyard. We pried open the cans of neon yellow paint and drew the largest characters we could muster, as high as our arms would stretch , emblazoning the words, ”GRADS 76″ on the brick wall before we ran off into the night, whispering and giggling.
We made our way back to the schoolyard innumerable times throughout the summer to admire our handiwork. Of course, no one ever suspected that we were the culprits–after all, we were such “good girls.” (Oops. I guess the cat’s out of the bag, now. But you have to promise not to tell anyone else. ).
Although the SOS Challenge doesn’t require you to submit both sweet and savory recipes (so please don’t feel obliged to do so), as my final submission to this month’s rhubarb challenge, I wanted to provide our star veggie with an outlet for something a little out of character. Shrug off the pies and crumbles and muffins, Little Rhubarb, and head over to the savory side of things! A quick search on the internet revealed a few Indian-inspired dishes, but I wanted to highlight the characteristic most prominent in our featured stalks: the sourness. I decided to create a vegan variation on a typical Chinese sweet-and-sour dish, using rhubarb to confer the “sour.”
The result was a little unusual, but pleasing nonetheless. The tart rhubarb is tempered somewhat by the sweetness of the stevia, and the chilis provide a subtle heat that seems to bring out the individual flavors. Chickpeas contribute the protein here, but tofu would seem an obvious choice next time I give this dish a try. Served over cooked millet, it was a satisfying supper for both of us.
So go ahead, try something a little different. It will be our little secret.
* I actually almost did move to Australia, once. I had arranged a teaching exchange with another teacher in the Land Down Under. All the papers were in place, the jobs approved, and the only thing left to do was purchase the steamer trunk. Sadly, once the other instructor learned the cost of renting an apartment in Toronto, she backed out of the deal.
** No, Joel didn’t actually say, “what the heck.” His particular four-letter term was a little more colorful than that. But this is a G-rated blog, folks
Sweet and Sour Chickpeas on Brown Basmati Rice
suitable for ACD Phase I and beyond
This makes a nice quick supper and is a great way to use up extra rhubarb. The rhubarb melts into the sauce and isn’t discernible as distinct chunks.
1 cup (240 ml) water or vegetable broth or stock
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Bragg’s liquid aminos, tamari or soy sauce
2 Tbsp (30 ml) potato or corn starch
(110 g) rhubarb (about 2 stalks), chopped
1/2 large red pepper, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/8-1/4 tsp (.5-1 ml) chili flakes, to your taste
10-30 drops of plain liquid stevia, to your taste
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked chickpeas, drained
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish
In a small saucepan, combine the water and Bragg’s. Remove about 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the liquid to a small bowl, and add the potato starch to the bowl. Stir to mix well. Set aside.
To the pot, add the rhubarb, red pepper, garlic, ginger, lemon zest and chili flakes, and bring to boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and allow to simmer until the rhubarb begins to break up. Add the chipeas and stevia to taste. Stir the liquid in the bowl again and slowly add it to the chickpea mixture, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Stir for another 30 seconds. To serve, ladle over cooked grain of your choice; sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Makes 4-6 servings. May be frozen.
The Question Question: Before I sign off today, I wanted thank everyone who responded to my query in my earlier post. Your responses were fairly split on the issue of whether or not to include questions at the end of blog posts: the final verdict seems to be, “if they develop naturally from the content of the post, they’re okay.” Of course, I’d never pose a question that had nothing to do with the post (except, um, for that first question). On the other hand, many of you suggested that you’d simply not comment at all if the question didn’t appeal to you.
Well, comments are one of my favorite aspects of blogging (both reading them and leaving them on other blogs), and I do enjoy the interaction they encourage. I’m also all for the recent types of comment sections that allow individual commenters to respond to each other (and I will have to install those–not on the blog right now). So I’ve decided to incorporate questions only occasionally, and see what happens. And even if you’re not keen on the questions, please do continue to comment on the blog post itself!
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© Diet, Dessert and Dogs 2010