Thursday, October 30, 2008

Macedonian chickpea stew

I was all set for an event post tonight. I had my ticket for New Times Iron Fork competition: five, prominent I presume, local chefs battling Iron Chef-style for the Golden Fork Award. We in the audience wouldn't get to taste, of course, but we'd have samples from twenty local restaurants instead. But I worked a bit late, hit some traffic on my way to the venue and by the time I got there the parking lot was full and the line out the door. So I went home. I hope someone writes it up and has lots of pictures. It seems like it might have been fun.

I had no plans for dinner so I decided to catch up on my food blogs to see if anything caught my eye as doable with what I had on hand. One thing, from The Kitchn which I've just started reading recently, did. Kitchn is kind of a link-blog so they pointed out to this recipe for a lemony chick pea stir fry on a different blog and that pointed out to another blog with a different version.

I decided I wanted a more proper sauce than those recipes provide so I looked through my refrigerator to see what I could use. I came quite close using a tamarind chili sauce I've got, but I settled on a bottle of pinjur, a Macedonian condiment/ingredient made with roasted eggplant, garlic, parsley, olive oil and walnuts. The bottle I've got adds roasted red pepper which is not uncommon and tomatoes which probably is. Once I made that decision I looked up traditional Macedonian flavors to see what else to add. More parsley and paprika (not the smoked sort) as it turns out. So here's how it went:

1/2 can chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
1/4 red pepper, minced (pre-roasted wouldn't be bad)
1 small yellow squash, in 1/2 inch slices and chopped into bite-sized pieces, not necessarily in that order
a few ounces firm tofu or some appropriate meat: lamb I suppose or chicken would do. I chopped my tofu into sub-centimeter cubes. Real meat probably ought to be roughly ground.
hot paprika to taste, paprika quality and intensity varies widely. Use your own judgment.
1 small handful parsley, roughly chopped
2 sizable dollops pinjur
oil for frying
white vinegar or lemon juice

1. In a medium non-stick pan, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil on medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown.

2. Add garlic, onion and pepper. (If you're using roasted red pepper, don't add it yet.) Turn heat up a little and cook until chick peas start to crisp up, smell really good and turn a golden brown. Remove all to a bowl.

3. Leave heat at medium-high-high, add some more oil, let it heat up a bit and then add the squash and tofu (or meat), a pinch of salt and paprika. Cook until squash is soft and browned. It took me around four minutes but my pan was overcrowded.

4. Return chickpea mixture. Add pinjur, chick pea liquid and parsley (and roasted red pepper if you're using it). Stir to combine and heat through. Check for seasoning and add a splash of vinegar and maybe a little fruity olive oil.

5. Serve warm with some pita bread if you've got it.

All the flavors work quite well together, fairly accidentally but predictably as nothing here, bar the mildly flavored squash, is unusual for Macedonian cuisine. It was a quick cooking process so it hasn't really melded into a whole; it's more a medley of flavors as different combinations brush up against each other in each spoonful. It's a good combination of textures too; both the chick peas and the tofu are meaty against the soft squash, peppers and eggplant. It turned out rather better than I had any right to expect considering; it's actually quite presentable.


kat said...

I'm just surprised by the sauces you have in your fridge

billjac said...

I've mentioned before that I'm a sucker for bottled sauces. I keep buying them thinking they'll make my weeknight dinners easier but I rarely use them and am even more rarely happy with the results. I bought a bunch at the Mango Festival over the summer but the pinjur (and the harissa I used last spring were from Trader Joes, I think. Or possibly the food section at the back of TJ Maxx.