Monday, April 12, 2010

A Pedestal-worthy, Sicilian-street-food-inspired Sandwich

Oh yeah, does this sandwich deserve a pedestal.  Look at that gorgeousness.  This sandwich will transport you to Sicily.

Trust me, there is a far better way to get a tasty, satisfying, protein-rich lunch than some limp slices of luncheon meat slapped between two pieces of bread.  Not to mention that those nitrates found in cold cuts are evil incarnate: processed meats (and nitrates/nitrites) are to colon cancer what cigarettes are to lung cancer.  Want the facts?  The American Cancer society summarizes a study that details the risk of eating processed meats here; note that consuming as (seemingly) little as 2-6 ounces of cold cuts a week, which ain't a lot really, a couple of sandwiches perhaps, can raise your colon cancer risk by 50%.  Fifty percent, my friends!  For a lousy old sandwich or two!  Scared straight yet?

The worst part is, we think a sandwich with some low-fat luncheon meat, some veggies, etc., is a good, protein-rich, low-cal lunch.  Yeah, maybe so, but it's a nightmare for our health.  Might I offer a tasty, healthy solution?  I thought so.  Let's keep those colons thriving along with the rest of our bodies.

Here's a basic and super-easy switch: hummus for the luncheon meat.  (Yeah, you could use cheese too, but it's so full of saturated fat, I can't in right mind encourage you to trade colon cancer for a heart attack.  Just sayin'.)  Hummus gives you a rich, creamy taste and creates a nice base for your greens, sliced tomatoes, red peppers, cucumbers, grated carrots, etc.: load it up, my friends and you'll feel fantastic.  You can buy so many flavors of hummus from roasted red pepper to jalapeno, so experiment and build yourself a rockstar sandwich.

Even better than hummus?  Chickpea (garbanzo bean) patties, spiced with a hint of cayenne or chili powder, sprinkled with some salt and pepper and fresh parsley.  These are made with chickpea flour, so they've got a nice smooth texture, and make a dynamite sandwich.  Plus, just a teensy little quarter cup of chickpea flour has 6 grams of protein and 10% of your daily iron requirements.  Yeah, this stuff rocks.

The wonderful Sunset magazine (yes, yes, Sunset again... I'm not a one-trick-Sunset-pony, promise; I simply love fresh, delicious, easy and vegetarian/vegan fare and their recipes often fit the bill) printed a stellar version of "Spicy Chickpea Sandwiches" inspired by a version created by chef Kevin Sandri, owner of the Garden State food cart in Portland.  So many layers of inspiration.  Sandri's cart offers Italian street food, and his chickpea patty sandwich was inspired by Sicilian panelles, fried chickpea patties.  (Note to self: get to Portland and Sicily.)  I recommend -- when you've got the time or want to impress the neighbors -- making the full recipe from Sunset with all the bells and whistles.  You won't be disappointed.

But for the everyday, might I humbly offer this pared down version?  You can whip it up on a Sunday afternoon, and have a batch of chickpea patties ready for sandwiches for the week.  (Or at least for a couple of days if you're as enthusiastic about these as my hubby and I are.)

Ingredients for the chickpea patties:

-- 1 1/2 cups of garbanzo bean flour (the awesome Bob's Red Mill makes this; you can find this at Whole Foods and health food stores, or order online)
-- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
-- a few grinds of black pepper from the pepper mill
-- 1/4 tsp. cumin
-- 1/4 tsp. cayenne or chili powder (optional if you don't like spice or your kiddies don't)
-- 2 1/2 cups water
-- handful of chopped fresh parsley (about a 1/4 cup)

Fancy Vegenaise mayo:

-- 1/2 c. Vegenaise
-- juice of 1/2 lemon
-- sprinkle of chile pepper, cayenne pepper, Sriracha, to taste
-- optional: a clove of garlic, minced; grated lemon zest


-- Lightly oil a 9x13 inch baking pan, then chop your parsley.  Next, in a medium saucepan, whisk together the garbanzo bean flour and the spices.  Keep whisking as you drizzle in the water, and whisk until smooth.

-- Put the pan over medium heat and keep whisking until the mixture starts to thicken, about 3-5 minutes.  Then switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, and keep on stirring.  (This one's good for the biceps!)  In about 4-6 minutes more, the mixture will thicken to the point where it will pull away from the sides and the bottom of the pan.  Voila.  Stir in the chopped parsley, then pour/spread the chickpea mixture in the baking pan.  The mixture will be sticky, so you can put a little oil or water on the back of a spoon or spatula, and spread it with that.  Let cool, then cut into squares, or rectangles, or polygons, whatever shape you feel like.

That's really all you need to do for my easy-peasy version.  Sunset mag. suggests broiling to get that crispy outside (that mimics the original, fried version), or you could heat a little olive oil in a skillet to crisp up and brown the outsides of your cooled chickpea squares if you prefer it that way.  But I like my lazy version just fine.  Up to you.

To make an awesome sandwich:

Stir together the Vegenaise, lemon juice, spices, garlic, etc. (or heck, just use plain Vegenaise if you don't have time to gussy it up), and spread a bit onto the bread, toasted if you want, of your choice.  Add a chickpea patty and whatever veggies you like -- greens, shredded carrots (or the carrot slaw in the Sunset recipe), sliced tomato, cucumber, or avocado, etc.  YUM.  Now enjoy your tasty sandwich guilt-free, knowing you're getting protein and other good stuff.  Those Italians sure have some great food ideas don't they?

Be inspired to experiment with this sandwich: sundried tomato spread on toasted ciabatta?  Yes.  Or cilantro instead of parsley in the patties, and some chipotle-spiked Vegenaise, a drizzle of lime and some greens in a tortilla?  Absolutely.  Mix it up, make it delicious, and health-full.  Lunch will never be the same again.


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