August 28, 2012
If I had to guess which pantry item I use with the most frequency and enthusiasm, it would be either tahini or chickpea flour.
Tahini is an obvious choice for someone who lived in the Middle East and loved the food. I use it in traditional ways—hummus, tahina, moutabbal, chicken fatteh—but also in some pretty unusual concoctions that arose, as all great ideas have, from desperation.
My favorite thing to use tahini for is salad dressing. I mix the tahini with lemon juice or vinegar (it thickens to a paste), and then thin it with water and more vinegar if necessary to make a very flavorful, creamy dressing that’s perfect on a number of salads. Sometimes I’ll add chopped herbs, like parsley or cilantro, or spices, like coriander and cumin. Always salt and pepper. Any type of vinegar is fine—I’ve used apple cider, red wine, and rice wine. If you ever find yourself out of olive oil and need to make a dressing, this is a great solution. But I suppose I’m the only person who runs out of olive oil before tahini.
On the opposite side of the food spectrum—for what could be a better antithesis to salad than cake?—I occasionally make chocolate-tahini pudding cake in the microwave. This always happens after 10 PM when I’m craving dessert and have very limited baking supplies. There are a few things I tend to have lying around, however: cocoa powder, flour, tahini, and almond milk. I combine unmeasured quantities of these ingredients with whatever sweetener I can find (usually agave) and throw in a pinch each of salt and baking soda. Then I stir together some more cocoa, sweetener, and almond milk and pour that over the cake. I mix the cake batter in a ramekin or mug and don’t bother to transfer it before I cook it on high for maybe 30 seconds. The pudding cake will dry out if not eaten right away, but that’s the whole point of making a microwave cake—immediate gratification.
Chickpea flour is an even more versatile ingredient than tahini. Panisses—French “fries” made from a chickpea flour polenta—were my initiation into the wonderful world of chickpea flour. They’re crisp on the outside, fluffy and nutty on the inside, and one of my favorite appetizers when served with romesco sauce.
I also use chickpea flour in fritters, chickpea flour crepes, my favorite veggie burger, and homemade pasta. Some of my more recent adventures with chickpea flour include peanut butter cookies and tofu.
The peanut butter cookies were crumbly and peanut-y but had an unpleasant raw chickpea flour taste. I’m new to gluten-free baking so I cut myself some slack this time. I’m excited to try them again though, either with a mixture of chickpea flour and another flour, or by cooking the chickpea flour in water first, which would get rid of the raw taste but might ruin the texture. I came across a few recipes for Tunisian and Persian chickpea flour cookies, so there’s got to be a way to make this work!
I had the opposite problem with the chickpea tofu. It tasted great—I added garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, and garam masala to this recipe, so that may have been why—but it disintegrated when I tried to pan fry it. I’m determined to perfect the recipe and when I do I think it will become a staple in my diet.
I think of chickpea flour as the vegan answer to eggs. When I became interested in vegan cooking and baking, I quickly realized that eggs are irreplaceable in many recipes—soufflé, mousse, custard, sponge cake. No other ingredient can thicken and aerate a batter like eggs. And think about how different eggs taste when they’re scrambled, boiled, or baked in a cake. Chickpea flour may not be quite as miraculous as eggs, but it’s pretty close. Close enough that you can use it in an “omelet.”
First, before we get to the recipe, let me adjust your expectations just a bit. This chickpea flour omelet does not and is not intended to taste exactly like an omelet. It is, however, similar in taste and texture, but less bland and a little denser. Think of it as the offspring of two great breakfast items—omelets and pancakes; it has elements of both its parents but also has its own style.
This Eggless Omelet is definitely my second favorite savory vegan breakfast, the first being Egyptian ful medames. It also holds up against traditional egg breakfasts in my opinion. I highly recommend it for anyone with high cholesterol who can’t eat eggs. Feel free to use different veggies (or even cheese!) for the filling, and if your omelet breaks when you’re cooking it, make scrambled “eggs” instead.
Gradually whisk the water into the chickpea flour (to avoid creating lumps), and then stir in the tsp of olive oil, cumin, onion, red pepper, salt and black pepper. I like to do this the night before and refrigerate it overnight so the flour soaks. Stir in the baking soda right before cooking the omelet.
Heat a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle a little olive oil into the pan and when it's hot, add the chickpea batter. When the bottom of the omelet is lightly browned, loosen it from the pan and then flip it over. Place the spinach, tomatoes, and cilantro on one half of the omelet. When the bottom is golden brown, fold it over and transfer to a plate to serve with hot sauce.