Sunday, March 31, 2013

Roasted Baby Artichokes with Lemon Vinaigrette

The flower bud from a type of edible thistle, artichokes are a different kind of vegetable- a little earthy and somewhat sweet, they luckily happen to be in season in the early spring.
If you've ever seen them growing in a garden, they're actually quite beautiful (maybe unexpected when you see them for the first time, but still beautiful).

And as big as they might appear, one ends up eating very little of the actual plant. The leaves of an artichoke are quite tough and indigestible. Instead, it's the bit of meat at the base of each leaf that it eaten, in addition to the meaty heart inside that ends up being the prize at the end.


With baby artichokes, you can eat a bit more of the plant (the stem is particularly good, and at least here, there's not much of a stem left on the large artichokes when you see them piled up on a produce display... and if there is any, most people cut it off so that the artichoke sits flat while it steams).

If you feel like taking on a pile of baby artichokes, have at it.  It's just you and your knife against a pile a prickly little vegetables.

So it's true, they're not the easiest vegetable to deal with- they take a bit of effort.
The prep work may seem a little daunting, most people probably wouldn't want to deal with it.
But they're special and it's worth it.

A freshly prepared artichoke is so different from the canned variety, likewise a baby artichoke is more tender than the large variety.

Baby artichokes work well as a vegetable side or main, maybe chopped and added to a plain risotto, or as an appetizer with a glass of white wine.

Roasted Baby Artichokes with Lemon Vinaigrette
serves 6 or more 

24 baby artichokes
8 T (120 ml) olive oil, separated
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3-4 lemons
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 T (a small handful) minced parsley

Prepare a bowl of acidulated water by filling a large glass or stainless steel bowl with water (maybe a generous 2 qt or 2 L) and juicing two lemons into it. Drop the juiced halves into the water if you would like.

To prep the baby artichokes:
Remove the outer leaves until you come to a layer that is tender-looking and more of a spring green shade (it will probably be several layers down). Cut off the top 1/3 of the leaves. Cut off the dry and/or dark end of the stem, and with a paring knife or vegetable peeler trim the outer layer of the stem and the area at the base of the artichoke leaves.
Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise and drop them into the acidulated water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
This step could probably be done a couple hours in advance.

Prepare the lemon vinaigrette by placing the minced garlic, zest of one lemon, and 3 T (45 ml) lemon juice into a bowl. Whisk in 4 T (60 ml) olive oil and season with 1/4 t (2 g) salt and 1/4 t (1 g) pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 F/205 C.
Drain the prepared artichokes and pat them dry with a kitchen towel.
Toss the artichokes on a sheet pan along with 4 T (60 ml) olive oil, 1 1/2 t (12 g) kosher salt and 1/2 t (2 g) freshly ground black pepper. Turn all the artichokes so they are cut side up on the pan. Roast the artichokes in the hot oven 20-25 minutes, until tender.

Pour the lemon vinaigrette over the hot, roasted artichokes and gently toss to coat. Sprinkle the artichokes with minced parsley and gently toss to combine.
Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve warm or room temperature.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Rolls

Although it may not look like it, it's spring.

From what I can see as I write, the grass seems to be sporting the "dead of winter" look.  I really do love the snow, but spring is supposed to be more green looking. Though certainly interesting, the almost-April snowstorm seems somewhat inappropriate. It's a bit late.
Well, it'll probably be completely melted within a few days and look and feel much more springlike.

And you know how some foods just seem completely inappropriate at certain times of year? I don't want a hearty stew in July or a tomato salad in the middle of winter.
The same goes for rice paper wrapped (unfried) spring rolls (also called summer rolls).
True, it's not overly warm right now, but even so, spring rolls sound good.
Strange as it may sound somehow, some foods seem like they might edify- it's as if eating them will lead to some sort of self-improvement. Maybe you need a set of guidelines to choose foods in this manner ... as long as there are less than X number of ingredients used, I can pronounce all of them, and they are able to stay relatively al dente, it's edible and good.
Ok, so maybe they won't add anything morally or spiritually, maybe they're not a life changer, but still...
Perhaps I say this about spring rolls because they can be the healthier choice when compared to other options out there. Those heavier foods don't seem so desirable when the weather starts to change. One might feel better in many ways for choosing the healthy over another potential meal, something overly sauced, fried, or greasy.

Sometimes spring rolls utilize only fresh vegetables, but for this version, the filling is combined and quickly sauteed just until the meat is cooked.
But to me, the best part, the part that makes it so vibrant and green-tasting is the scattering of fresh herb leaves laid between the wrapper and filling. It's amazing what a few leaves can do. Each bite ends up being a little different.
Those little bits of green can add so much.

It only takes a handful of simple ingredients, and not a lot of time to put these together.

Although spring rolls can certainly be made vegetarian, these aren't. But really, there's not as much meat as you might expect- just little bits here and there for flavor. I don't know about anyone else, but across the board I think it's best not to go overkill on meat anyway.
Other things that might be good additions or substitutions: mushrooms, red peppers, shrimp, snow peas, lettuce, or egg.

Bean thread (glass noodles, cellophane noodles...) are noodles made out of bean starch.
(Who comes up with these things?)
When the noodles are still dry and bundled, they remind me of very pale shredded wheat. After a quick soak in warm water they're conveniently ready to use, whether in a soup, stir-fry, salad, or in spring rolls.

As to the wrappers, which side is up? I find that if I leave a wrapper out at room temperature a bit (maybe because of the moisture in the air) it curls. Right out of my package the concave side was up, and that's the side the filling goes on.  Another way to look at up vs. down is the rice paper surface. While both sides are textured because of the pattern in the rice paper, it's the shiny side that goes up (but I thin the curling method is the easier way to tell since sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate). EIther way just be careful, because if the damp wrapper sits too long on a towel before a roll is rolled, the rice paper can stick to the towel.

And voila, that's it! Simple.

All the bright colors are easily seen through the translucent paper. To me, when rolled and finished, spring rolls in rice paper look a bit like foggy stained glass windows.

Fresh Spring Rolls
(yield depends on the size of your wrappers and the amount of filling used, but you should get about 15 if using 8 1/2 inch diameter pieces of rice paper)

1/2 lb. uncooked minced pork (225 g), crumbled
1/2 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (about 1/2 c or 40 g)
About 100 g bean thread (this was 2 bundles of noodles in the package I used), soaked in warm water a few minutes until softened
2 medium carrots, grated
4 oz (110 g) bean sprouts
2 1/2 T (38 ml) tamari (or soy) sauce
generous 1/2 T (4 g) ground black pepper
generous 1/2 T (10 g) sugar
2 T (30 ml) vegetable oil

Rice paper rolls
Fresh basil leaves (torn if large)
Fresh mint leaves
Fresh cilantro or parsley leaves

Sweet chili sauce, for serving 

Place the bean thread noodles in a bowl and add warm water to cover. Let soak a few minutes until softened. Drain and roughly chop.
In a large bowl, combine the pork, green onions, softened glass noodles, grated carrot, bean sprouts, tamari sauce, pepper and sugar. Mix until well combined.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven or wok over medium-high heat and saute the pork mixture until the pork is completely cooked. Remove the filling to a bowl and let cool completely.
(At this point, you can taste the filling and see if it needs anything else. Last time I made a mistake and added double the pepper and sugar since I initially wanted to write for a larger recipe and use 1 lb. of pork, but was only making 1/2 recipe. As it turned out I liked it better that way. I wouldn't recommend that to anyone who's particularly sensitive to that amount of pepper, so I wrote for the lesser amount. You can always add more.)

Partially fill a shallow pan or baking dish with lukewarm water. Working with the wrappers one at a time, dip a rice paper wrapper into the warm water until hydrated and pliable (but not falling apart, they will continue to soften after being removed from the water), 5-10 seconds total. Carefully remove the rice paper from the water bath. Place the softened rice paper wrapper on a kitchen towel to absorb excess moisture and scatter cilantro, basil and/or mint leaves across the surface. Do not over-fill the rice paper. Place a portion of the cooled pork filling mixture along the lower 1/3 to 1/2 of the rice paper with about an inch and a half of rice paper as a border on either side. 3-4 T of the filling seems to be a good amount in my case with a wrapper about 8 1/2 inches in diameter.  Fold the lower part of the wrapper over the filling, keeping the filling tucked in with your fingers, fairly tight and compact.  Fold each of the sides into the center to enclose the filling. Finish by tightly rolling the spring roll away from you to create a cigar shape and complete the spring roll. The rice paper will stick to itself to enclose the filling completely. Place the finished rolls on a plate. It make take a little practice to get neat little compact rolls, so don't get discouraged.  Repeat until the remaining filling has been used.

Serve with sweet chili sauce on the side.

*The filling can be made ahead of time and will keep at least a couple days refrigerated. Do not fill the wrappers until right before you intend to serve the spring rolls as the rice paper can dry out if it sits too long.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pistachio Macarons

Pistachios are one of those rare non-vegetable, fruit, or herb, naturally green foods. Really, it's kind of difficult to think of green things not in those categories. Besides the base of green, they've got gold and mauve hues, too, but it's the distinctive shade of green they're identified with.

At the shop we have access to a pistachio oil and wonderful thick, dark evergreen and fragrant pistachio frucht paste (why it's so dark, I'm not sure). It's got a beautiful, deep flavor somewhat similar to cherries and almond.
There was one day when I opened the refrigerator to grab some cream and it smelled fantastic in there (not that the fridge smells bad, but it normally has no scent). It took a bit for me to figure out what it was: a pistachio frucht paste spill. Great smell, not a fun cleanup.
The paste is certainly a nice product for pastry and confections, and a little seems to go a long way to add an intense flavor.
However, that's not the kitchen I live in. While I can find nice things like this at work, they're not found at the grocery store. 
I suppose I can lament the fact that there are many nice things out there that are inaccessible to the home cook. Perhaps the reason is that there's not much call for them, they're more of a niche market sort of thing.
Well, actually, the only person I can think of who would want something like that on hand at all times might be a pastry chef... and I doubt they regularly turn out things at home like they do at the restaurant.
(It's like any other job- work vs. play, and maybe pastry chefs don't "play" like that at home because it's really work.)

So, we make do with what we can find, and in this case raw, whole pistachios are it.

I've been meaning to write about macarons for a long time.  I wrote about them once upon a time...
I make them, but it's very rarely, so I can't say my practice is what it should be for turning out perfect-every-time confections. But even if they're not "perfect", they still taste good.

So, I may have made macarons 12 times in the past four years.
While they usually turn out "fine", they've never been picture perfect. Most of it has to be that they're finicky little things and they take practice. You have to get a feel for them. You have to know the textures you're looking for in the beaten whites, the ground almonds and sugar, the feel of the integrated whites and almonds. They can't be under-folded, and they can't be over-folded.
They can certainly be frustrating.

I've been trying to get these just right.  The combination of measurements and techniques, studying a bit, changing things a little in this way or that with each attempt turned out to be quite a learning experience. 
The same general recipe three times in four days... ugh.
I think I would have had to take a break before I tried again if it hadn't worked out.

But it did (third time's a charm). The batter neither mounded nor pooled into shiny little puddles, the macarons rose better than any I had worked on before, they stayed relatively round, each had a ruffly little pied (foot).

My first attempt at these was a flop. They tasted great on their own without the filling (kind of like wedding cake, and the kitchen smelled like a bakery), but they were lacy from the top all the way through- far too delicate. Too fragile, they pretty much crumbled to sugar when picked up with fingers. Looking into the problems, the textural issues could have been that I needed to pulverize things a bit more in the food processor as well as fold a few times more that I had. After some measurement and technique adjustments, round #2 was certainly better, but still not exactly what I was looking for. This time over-folding could have been an offender as the batter was more liquid than it should have been and though nice and smooth on top, the baked macarons were flat. Although each macaron DID have a pied...

Mistakes happen all the time. There's less room for error with baking than with cooking. And if you have a scale, this is one instance you would really want to use it. A scale will make measurements much more precise.

Another thing, heavy and un-warped pans help keep the macarons ROUND. It's nice that they feel comfortable, like they can relax. They want to be organic and look home-y. Great, but this is neither the time nor place.
Not to be so controlling, but they need to cooperate a little better. It's much easier to match up cookies that are the same shape.

The filling used here is a white chocolate and pistachio ganache with a touch of cardamom. Other potential fillings include chocolate ganache, raspberry, cherry, blackberry, or strawberry jam, vanilla buttercream, lemon curd, or whatever might sound good to you.

You can, of course, add a little food coloring to green things up a bit if you wish.  Remember that the color will always fade upon baking.

Pistachio Macarons
makes about 33

3 large egg whites (about 100 g)
2/3 c (85 g) almond flour (lightly packed)
1/3 c (45 g) ground pistachios (lightly packed)
2 c (200 g) confectioners' sugar
pinch of salt
3 T (40 g) sugar
1/2 t (2-3 ml) vanilla extract (optional)
2-3 drops green food coloring (optional)

*Separate the egg whites from the yolks, place in a covered container, and leave the whites out at room temperature 24 hours. If "aging" the whites ahead of time, place them in the refrigerator after they've been left out at room temperature (this can be done a few days in advance). If previously refrigerated, bring the whites to room temperature before use.*

Have two baking sheets prepared with parchment paper.

Place the ground pistachios, almond flour, and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process the mixture a couple minutes to combine and further grind the ingredients.  Sift the ingredients into a medium bowl and re-process if you have an excessive amount of nuts that didn't pass through the mesh of your sifter. Set aside. 

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt with a hand-held electric mixer until the mixture becomes foamy. Slowly add the 3 T sugar and beat a little longer to combine. Add the vanilla and food coloring (if using). Beat until the mixture becomes stiff- thick and glossy like shaving cream.
Add 1/3 of the almond mixture to the egg whites and fold a few times to combine. Add half of the remaining almond mixture and again fold until slightly combined. Finally, add the last of the almond mixture and fold from the bottom of the bowl, up and over, and pressing the mixture against the side of the bowl. Do this about 10 times and take a look at the consistency. At this point you need to be careful not to over mix- check it, you can always fold once or twice more, but you can't go back. The consistency should be a thick and creamy, an almost liquid-y mixture. When dropped onto itself it should sink back into the mixture after a couple seconds. Fold again as necessary.

Spoon the macaron mixture into a piping bag or into a plastic bag (if using a plastic bag, cut one corner off so that the opening is 1/2 cm across). Pipe rounds of the batter about 1- 1 1/2 inches across onto the parchment paper.
Pick up the pans and hit them against the counter a couple times to release any air bubbles in the cookies. Pop any bubbles that come to the surface with a toothpick.
Set the pans aside for 30 minutes to an hour so that the piped macarons dry on the surface.

Preheat the oven to 275 F/130 C.

Bake each pan 15-20 minutes. Let cool, then using a spatula (a metal pastry spatula if you have it), remove the macarons to a rack to cool completely. If not immediately assembling the finished macarons, place in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to finish.

White Chocolate and Pistachio Ganache

1 c (160 g) white chocolate
1/4 c (60 ml) heavy cream
2 T (20 g) ground pistachios
2 pods cardamom, cracked, seeds removed and finely ground (optional)

Melt the white chocolate with the cream in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water (bain marie). Whisk the mixture until smooth and remove the bowl from the heat. Let cool a few minutes to thicken slightly and add the pistachios and cardamom and whisk to combine. 

To Finish:
Spread a small amount of ganache onto the flat side of one cookie and top with another cookie, flat side against the ganache. Set aside on a sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining macarons. 

Let the macarons sit at room temperature until the ganache is set, then place pan of finished macarons in the refrigerator for a few minutes until they are cold and the ganache is stiff. Remove the macarons to an airtight container and refrigerate at least 24 hours before serving. During this time the macarons will develop their distinctive texture and the flavors will meld. 
Bring to room temperature before serving.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Thai Green Chicken Curry

A green curry is a wonderful addition to "green month" (and I think we can all agree that "green" and "chicken" aren't usually a good pair- it suffices to say this may be one of the few cases where they are).

When I was in Australia, I was very happily able to take a Thai cooking class along with my aunt and one of my cousins. I love Thai food and I thought it would be a fun idea, and I'd be able to see/use/understand/taste the more authentic ingredients, which I'm not always (or, maybe ever) able to find. In addition to the actual food, I also learned that I would probably never get anywhere if I had to use the knives this woman used so masterfully. I've decided that it's got to be French, German, maybe east-west hybrid, or nothing for me. Asian knives with their straight blade are too much to handle- I need something that will rock. That, and I kept hitting my knuckles on the cutting board.

The recipe here is based on the fantastic green curry from that class, with some changes made for taste, location, and ingredient availability. For instance "7-10 long green chiles" are not something I happen to have on hand. Frankly, I cannot remember the specific taste or heat of these particular chiles, but I have jalapenos at my disposal and I know what those are like.

A fresh Thai green curry made with freshly made curry paste is an amazing thing.
Well, I suppose this is more like "freshly doctored"- with a bright and amplified flavor. The scent of the finished curry paste is really fantastic though.

Part of the reason we're doctoring the already made green curry paste instead of completely starting from scratch is that there are some ingredients found in the curry paste that are probably unavailable to many of us. Namely, galangal and kaffir limes. So luckily, we're able to get some of that flavor without having the actual ingredients on hand.

And so sorry, we were told that we were not allowed to substitute ginger for galangal. They're related, true, but very different. Galangal is definitely heavier and more woody than ginger in texture, and has a more spicy and piney flavor. I went against orders and used ginger because I have to make do. As alluded to above, I've never been able to find it, and have always substituted.
Maybe someday I'll happen upon it...

As for the kaffir limes and leaves, also difficult to find in the area, I ended up bringing some back with me. Packaged and dried, they still have that citrusy-lemongrass-freshly cut grass scent. When whole and fresh, the leaves are funny looking, with two leaves lined up together vertically on one stem- the proximal one smaller than the distal. While not required in the recipe since some of that flavor is already in the curry paste, they're definitely a nice addition. If you can find fresh, fold the leaves along the stem and strip the stem away before use. (As you can see in the photo, the leaves have been halved since the stem is removed.)

Another important ingredient in Thai cooking is Thai basil, which is different from the more readily available sweet basil. Thai basil has a purple stem, smaller and more pointed leaves, and a stronger flavor (plus a licorice and mint scent and taste, with a slightly numbing sensation left on the tongue when a leaf is chewed).
Apparently if you can't find it, mint is a better substitute than regular basil. Or perhaps you could substitute half regular basil and half mint.

The one warning I have is that shrimp paste and fish sauce are kind of rank as far as ingredients go. Actually, what I really mean is that they stink in a really nasty sort of way (don't spill). But they're necessary, they add a certain bit of funk that if not present would cause the dish to be off. Without them, things wouldn't be quite right. It's the same thing that anchovies frequently do. For example, anchovies are required in a Caesar salad dressing. If they're not there, the flavor is wrong and it's not really Caesar salad. But does everyone know they're eating anchovies when they eat a Caesar salad? I don't think so (anchovies are usually pretty good at being covert).
But when everything is all together? It's an entirely different story.

And wow, I was not expecting to find Thai eggplants- so I didn't put them on the grocery list. But I got lucky and there they were. What a happy surprise.

So there it is.
The funny thing (to me anyway) was that I was able to tell that it wasn't quite right until everything had been added and was simmering away. Once everything was there it smelled like it was as it should be.

In the end, I think the curry turned out to be a very nice adaptation and I'll definitely be making it again. Sweet, hot, spicy, salty, fresh and each bite left us wanting more.

If you decided to tackle this one, be sure to serve with hot steamed rice.

Thai Green Chicken Curry
Serves 6 or more

Green Curry Paste: makes about 600 g/2 c
4 large jalapeno chiles, ribs and seeds removed, roughly chopped 
4 large garlic cloves
2 stalks lemongrass, dry outer leaves and top removed and discarded, thinly sliced
3 medium shallots, roughly chopped
10 black peppercorns, finely crushed
2/3 c packed (35 g) Thai basil leaves
1/2 t (5 g) salt
1/3 c (80 ml) vegetable oil
1 thick 5 cm piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into about 10 pieces
1 t (8 g) shrimp paste
scant 1/2 c (100 g) prepared green curry paste (if you can find Mae Ploy brand, it's great)

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until the mixture reaches a uniform consistency. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and re-process as necessary.
You will need a slightly generous 3/4 c of this green curry paste for the recipe below (what amounts to around 240 g). Place the rest of the curry paste in an airtight container or tightly sealed freezer bag and freeze for later use (which should give you enough for 1 1/2 recipes more of green chicken curry).

*Heat and sensitivity to it are subjective, but I think I would call this curry a mild/medium heat- nice for winter, but not completely overwhelming. Actual heat can very much depend on the quality of your chiles, never mind the number used. If you want more heat, you're more than welcome to add more chiles than my version calls for, or add more of the curry paste.

The Curry:
1/4 c (60 ml) vegetable oil
3/4 c (240 g) green curry paste (above)
2, 400ml cans of coconut milk
2 1/2 lb. (a generous 1 kg) boneless, skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
kaffir lime leaves (a nice addition if you can find them, but optional- I used 4 whole dried leaves)
1/3-1/2 lb. (150-225 g) green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 lb. (225 g) Thai eggplants, quartered (if you can find it great, if not, substitute something of your choice- bamboo shoots, peppers, onion, mushroom, broccoli...)
1/3-1/2 lb. (150-225 g) zucchini, thinly sliced
3 T (44 g) packed brown sugar or palm sugar
5 T fish sauce (75 ml)

Optional accompaniments:
fresh cilantro (coriander) 
sliced green onions
Thai basil
sliced chili
lime wedges

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the green curry paste and saute a couple minutes until fragrant. Pour in about 200 ml of coconut milk (half a can) and saute a further 2 minutes. Add the rest of the coconut milk and stir to combine. Once fully incorporated, add the chicken, Kaffir lime leaves (if using), green beans, eggplant, zucchini, sugar and fish sauce. Bring the curry to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the everything is cooked through (maybe 15-20 minutes). 

Serve hot with steamed jasmine or basmati rice and accompaniments.

Monday, March 4, 2013


The last time I had falafel was in the Jewish Ghetto of Rome a couple weeks ago. It really hit the spot that day, and underneath the hot and crispy brown exterior was a vibrant green inside. I love falafel, but it's not as prevalent as I think it should be. I'd wanted to make some for a long time, but it never quite happened until now.
Maybe we can call it a Roman Ghetto falafel impetus.

Lots of people don't know what to do with chickpeas (garbanzo beans) other than hummus. (It's difficult to force something to come to mind.)
And really, the texture of canned chickpeas all by themselves can leave something to be desired- just like that of lima beans.
I've never had fresh chickpeas, but I've heard they're quite different from the canned or dried variety. Maybe someday.

For falafel, you need to start with dried chickpeas to get the right consistency in the finished product. They should be more firm than the canned version so that when they're ground down they don't end up becoming a mushy and not-quite-hummus bean dip. The texture you're looking for is almost like a nut in this case- not as soft as a bean.

This would be the reason to start with dried. However, please remember that they're thirsty little things and will soak up lots of water. Better safe than sorry: give them plenty to drink overnight. Another tip about chickpeas is that the older they are, they harder they'll be.  If they're old, you run the risk of them remaining pebbles no matter what you do to them. Make sure they're from a store with good turnover, and if pre-packaged, check to see if there's a date on the package.

You won't see a lot of fried options here on this blog.

Admittedly, I fear frying. It's not my favorite thing to do- first, there's an extreme aversion to the amount of oil used. Due to this, I usually use less than what's called for. Second, burns along my arms and hands are not my favorite (and kids, burns can be nasty things). Plus, I have a fear of grease fires...  I'm not sure where this came from because I've never experienced one. Horror stories? A home-ec safety video?
But, I do utilize a pot of hot oil every now and then, and it's probably not a bad thing.
The really nice thing is that these falafel cook pretty quickly. There won't be a lot of standing around or flipping on this one.

Once the gorgeous little fritters are cooked you could choose to do several things with them.
Eat with pita, as part of a salad, with hummus, tzatziki, tahini sauce, feta cheese, chili sauce (sriracha or harissa), tomato, cucumber, plain yogurt, lettuce (as a wrap or shredded in the pita), mint, extra parsley.

Today we just mixed plain yogurt with a little salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and dipped them.

I think falafel are just about the best thing you could do with a pound of chickpeas.

makes about 45
Based on Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything

1 lb. (454 g) dried chickpeas
6 cloves garlic, crushed and roughly minced
1 medium onion, quartered and cut into large pieces
1 1/2 c (75 g) roughly minced parsley and/or cilantro leaves
1 1/2 t (4 g) ground coriander
1 generous T (7 g) ground cumin
1 t (4 g) cayenne pepper
1 1/2 t (11 g) salt
3/4 t (3 g) freshly ground black pepper
1 t (6 g) baking soda
2 T (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more to taste)

Optional additions:
sesame seeds
lemon zest
a pinch of cardamom
a little cinnamon
1 beaten egg (if the ground chickpea mixture is not holding together when it's moulded)

Neutral tasting oil (peanut, corn, canola, vegetable, grapeseed), for frying

Place chickpeas in a large pot and cover with about 3 inches cold water. Bring to a simmer, turn off the heat, give the chickpeas a stir, and let them soak overnight. 

Remove some of the cooking water and reserve. Drain the beans well and add them to the bowl of a large food processor (if yours is smaller, you may want to do this in a couple rounds).

To the beans, add the garlic, onion, and parsley/cilantro. In a small bowl, mix together the ground coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and baking soda. Add the spice mix to the food processor along with the lemon juice. 

Pulse the whole mixture several times, until broken down and the chickpeas are about the consistency of finely chopped nuts. Scrape down the sides of the food processor and re-process as necessary. 
If necessary, add some of the reserved water, a little at a time (no more than 1-2 T/15-30 ml total) and process until the falafel mixture holds together when moulded (if it holds together without the water, which it may well do because of the moisture from the other ingredients, don't add water as excess moisture may cause the falafel to fall apart when being fried). 
Pour the mixture out into a large bowl and give a few stirs to make sure everything is fully incorporated.

Scoop up a generous 1 T (generous half-golfball) sized portions of the falafel mixture (mine were around 25 g in weight after frying). Shape into slightly flattened discs and set aside on a pan. 

Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a tall stockpot over medium-high heat. When the mixture reaches about 350 F/175 C (or when it shimmers), carefully add some of the falafel. Do not crowd the pan as the temperature will drop and the falafel won't have room to cook properly (I cooked about 6 at a time). Let the falafel fry until a deep golden brown- it only takes a few minutes. 
Remove the falafel to a paper towel lined sheet pan to blot excess oil.
Serve hot or room temperature. 

Note: Once falafel are cool they can be frozen if well-wrapped.  Frozen falafel can be and re-heated in a moderate oven until hot all the way through and the outside is crisp.