Vegan Chick Pea Mash

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First things first, please do not be put off by the fact that I named this Vegan Chick Pea Mash. This recipe doesn’t contain any weird, mystery ingredients posing as something else. I would never do that to you. I’m not going to take some soy based crap and try to turn it into bologna. NEVER. This is vegan simply because it doesn’t have any animal products whatsoever.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get down to how this dish came to be. I love a good challenge. One of my skill sets is solution providing. I love figuring out a better way, an easier way or simply just A Way to accomplish a task. So, when I was hired to cater a Traditional British Style Tea Party the major request was to offer gluten free and vegan options. Normally this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, but remember the typical Tea Party food is finger sandwiches, which do not sit squarely inside the gluten free and vegan circle. But I’m so glad I was put to the test because it yielded some good finds. Like this Vegan Chick Pea Mash.

Since the event was all about finger food, I needed to devise a bite sized morsel that would fit the vegan criteria. Chick peas are a hearty protein, and versatile thus the top choice in helping me solve this dilemma. Chick peas being what they are, dense and round, make them easy candidates for rolling off the plate, onto the floor and then ultimately squashed under foot. Goal: No rolling. So, how do you keep them from falling onto the floor instead of your mouth? Smash ‘em before they hit the floor. And so I did. But you can’t just scoop up smashed chick peas with your fingers! They needed a vessel, and colorful would be nice, too. Introducing the baby bell pepper brigade to the rescue. Perfectly suited to be filled up with the robust, chunky flavor of chick peas; smashed, of course.

Since I had a good variety of other food offerings in different flavor profiles, I wanted to ensure that this protein mash could stand on its own with savor. The first thing that came to mind was garlic and onion, but then kept layering more and more flavors as I cooked it, adding cumin and turmeric, cilantro and lemon juice. Here’s how it went down.

Ingredients

1 15 oz can Chick Peas
1/2 red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 t ground turmeric
1/4 t cumin
1 T cilantro, minced
1/4 c Aquafaba (chick pea liquid)
1 T + lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
3 T olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a large sauté pan, heat oil, add onions and cook until softened.

  2. Add garlic, cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper and cook until the aromatics are nicely toasted.

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3. Add the aquafaba and 1 T lemon juice and stir until combined.

4. Add the chick peas, let warm through and then using a fork or a potato masher begin to smash them. I like it chunky so I smashed some very well and other only lightly to give different textures.

5. Squeeze some more lemon juice to finish, then add the cilantro.

You can serve this dish warm, room temp or cold. It truly does work well at any temperature. As I mentioned, the first time I made this was a for a catered event, so making individual pieces was the goal. The baby bell peppers as the vehicle to steer them into people’s mouths was a great choice. The sweet, crunch of the peppers perfectly complemented the earthy flavor of the chick pea mash so much so that it is my preferred serving vessel.

The size of the baby bell peppers makes it an ideal cocktail party bite. And because the chick peas are smashed, no rolling off onto the floor.

You could also, place the chick pea mash in a bowl, place on a platter filled with baby bell peppers and cucumber rounds and use it as a dip. Either way, these made the perfect bite size treat. I recently decided to test drive this again at a backyard party we hosted for our neighbors using the peppers, and then two days later for a small family gathering using endive. Happy to report; it was a hit with every serving.

The tower of offerings. Chick Pea Mash,  Salmon Roll Cucumber Rounds  and  Watercress, Herb Butter Tea Sandwiches .

The tower of offerings. Chick Pea Mash, Salmon Roll Cucumber Rounds and Watercress, Herb Butter Tea Sandwiches.

Since I had some leftovers, I served them up again using endive.

Since I had some leftovers, I served them up again using endive.

Now, of course, this dish can be used in a variety of other ways. You should know me by now, everything I make has to do double, triple, well, multiple duties. I had some leftover and tossed it over warm pasta. Naturally, it was yummy. You can spread this on toast and add avocado or tomato or both. Go ahead. Start your creative engines…

Postscript: In reading some of the comments, it got me thinking about this recipe. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before but this can be a heartier substitute for hummus in a pita sandwich. It’s chunkier and therefore will be squish out less than traditional style hummus. Keep it vegan and add cucumbers, sprouts, olives, etc. Keep it vegetarian and add some feta cheese. Just thought I would share the ‘stuff it in a pita’ idea, which quite frankly seems like a no brainer that I’m surprised I didn’t think of before.

Mint Tea Be Cocktail

Just recently I had a full day adventure in NYC with old friends. These were unexpected, last minute plans and were perfect moments for both reminiscing and making new memories. Outings that make life full and rewarding.

First, I met up with college pals. Dianne, who I’ve known since Junior High, and Dominique, since right after college, all of us graduating from University of Binghamton. We walked around eating and drinking, and window shopping our way through Soho. After attempting to eat at a French American Bistro, we ended up in a Sicilian Enoteca. The bistro didn’t open until 12n and it was 11:30a, and apparently we were all so hungry we couldn’t wait the half hour. Not even sexy drinks would tempt us into waiting. I had spotted the Enoteca as we were walking, as did Dom, so suggested it. I figured the Italians would be ready to serve food at any hour. If the sun had risen and people were awake, the Italians were ready with food. I’m glad we didn’t wait for the bistro to open their kitchen. Our Italian lunch was a symphony of delicious simplicity. We shared 3 plates; an Arugula Salad, a Fennel and Orange Salad and then Gluten Free Ziti with Shrimp in a creamy burrata, tomato sauce. I literally lapped up the last morsels of the pasta using a spoon to scoop up all it’s luscious goodness. I enjoyed the dish so much that I asked where they buy their pasta. Fortunately, it comes from Di Paolo’s Italian Market right near by in Little Italy. But before heading over to snag some gluten free goodness, we shopped a bit and I bought these flouncy white pants. Apparently, the ‘one size fits all’ JUST fits, and didn’t deter me one bit from racing to buy that pasta. Once home, I made my own version of it a few days later.

Feeling brave sharing this Rubenesque modeling moment.   Photo credit: Dianne Guarino

Feeling brave sharing this Rubenesque modeling moment.
Photo credit: Dianne Guarino

Really love this brand of gluten free pasta

Really love this brand of gluten free pasta

Paolo’s Gluten Free Ziti with fresh tomatoes and herb goat cheese. Clearly not the same but just as good.

Paolo’s Gluten Free Ziti with fresh tomatoes and herb goat cheese. Clearly not the same but just as good.

After more walking, shopping, talking and catching up we said our goodbyes to our friend Dom, then Dianne and I met up with friends from our elementary/junior high/high school days for drinks and light dinner. My original idea of meeting up at The Ten Bells was quickly shut down when we realized they didn’t open until 5 and we were all meeting at 4pm with a hard out time. Yet another timing dilemma. But I always find that these situations are for the better, as witnessed with the lunch happening. We ended up at Dudley’s, a cute little place with outdoor seating, with good food and drink in the Lower East Side. And that is where this post is really going. To share with you a recreation of the drink I so enjoyed. Sure, I meandered around to get here, but that was what the day was all about. Spending time with old friends with no real agenda but to share old and new memories. This day was not just good for me, but a great way to encourage you to do so too. I know, I’ve spouted a lot of words about a lot of other things just to get to the cocktail. But that is the beauty of life and the road we journey to arrive somewhere. It’s the mishaps and redirects that get you to the exact place you are supposed to be. In this case, Lunch Italian Style plus 4pm consumption of a refreshing cocktail with dear friends.

Friends for life: Dominique, Me and Dianne. AKA 3D. Smiles of well fed women looking for bargains.                       Photo credit: Dianne Guarino

Friends for life: Dominique, Me and Dianne. AKA 3D. Smiles of well fed women looking for bargains. Photo credit: Dianne Guarino

Nancy, Kathy, me and Dianne.                                                                                                                                             Photo credit: Kathy Lashlee

Nancy, Kathy, me and Dianne. Photo credit: Kathy Lashlee

I’m not a big drinker these days. Can’t seem to hold my liquor. But the drink that caught my eye was the cleverly called Mint to Be. An auspicious name for a cocktail that clearly defined the day and all our happenstances. It was so dang refreshing. I suppose I could have used my handy dandy phone to take a photo of the ingredients, but didn’t. Thank goodness, I only had one drink so from memory, it had Vodka, St. Germaine, tea and mint. I had no idea in what proportions so when recreating, I just guessed. And on my first try, I guessed right.
Here’s what I did.

Ingredients

2 oz. Green Tea, brewed with mint leaves & cooled
1 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. St. Germain
Fresh Mint leaves & Cucumber for garnish

Enjoyed this drink so much,I actually almost finished it!   Photo credit: Kathy Lashlee

Enjoyed this drink so much,I actually almost finished it!
Photo credit: Kathy Lashlee

Cocktail set up. Mint, Freshly brewed Green Tea, St Germain, Vodka and cucumber

Cocktail set up. Mint, Freshly brewed Green Tea, St Germain, Vodka and cucumber

I brewed green tea and let it steep with fresh mint leaves and let it cool. In a shaker, I put ice, vodka, St. Germaine and more mint leaves then added the tea once it was fully cooled.

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Shake shake shake, then poured it into a cocktail glass over ice. I added a cucumber slice and more mint leaves.

Refreshing? Almost too refreshing. These babies will go down fast. So be careful. Of course, if you like your drinks stronger, you can certainly add more vodka, although it will change the flavor profile a bit. I like these ratios because it’s very smooth. JuanCarlos, who usually is the one making cocktails around these parts was pretty impressed. So we invited our neighbor friends over to enjoy. I don’t need to tell you that they did, indeed.

It truly was Mint Tea Be.

Served with crisp cucumber slices and crunchy, salty marcona almonds… A perfect cooling cocktail that suits to a T.

Served with crisp cucumber slices and crunchy, salty marcona almonds… A perfect cooling cocktail that suits to a T.

This cocktail paired with pretty much anything. Including langostinos with sautéd tomatoes & peas.

This cocktail paired with pretty much anything. Including langostinos with sautéd tomatoes & peas.

Copper 29 - Bar Bites & More

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As is our tradition for our anniversary, we head to Miami at the end of October each year to celebrate. This past October was no different. In years past, we have hosted little gatherings at our apartment there, but with so many dear friends to visit, it’s sometimes easier to gather at a bar or restaurant to catch up.  With the proliferation of so many cool, happening hangouts cropping up all over Miami the question was where do we go.

For this night out we wanted to keep it centrally located for all parties by staying in Coral Gables.  The Gables is an old historic area of Miami known for its Mediterranean Revival style architecture with streets lined by the famous banyan trees. It's home to such landmarks as the Venetian Pool and the Biltmore Hotel, along with the popular and most noted street; Miracle Mile. And that was exactly where we were headed to try out Copper 29 Bar recommended my our friend, Stephanie.  This Coral Gables bar is reviving the idea of the perfect cocktail. Using the art of mixology paired with bar bites to create a relaxed atmosphere of food and drink, which was what we were looking for.

Stephanie ready to eat, drink and be merry.

Stephanie ready to eat, drink and be merry.

Especially, given that we hadn’t seen each other in awhile, and our goal was to chat and catch up with each other’s lives. However, that was not quite what we got. Well, at least not on a Friday night.  Don't get me wrong, it's not because the place wasn't cool.  It was cool with an interesting mix of decor including an entire wall of plant life.

But when we opened the door, the music was pumping and the place was jamming and we thought we might not hear each other breathe.  

Silly of us to think that a relatively new hangout on a Friday night would be a quiet place to chill. We were told that the owner recently decided to make Friday nights a Happy Hour with DJ music pumping.  That said, the music mix was a fantastic groove, prefect for dancing and keeping it interesting for a proper happy hour.  If we hadn’t wanted to talk this would have been an ideal spot. And on any other night there, we could have done that.  However, Friday’s are made for letting go after a long week of work.  So we stuck it out because the vibe was happening, the atmosphere interesting and the menu looked promising. (Spoiler Alert:  We were all glad we did!)

Some of us started off with Moscow Mules served in cool copper mugs which keep the drinks nice and chilled. If you enjoy a spicy drink, this one delivers. The ginger beer brings that bite while the mint is refreshing and surprisingly light.  

The rest of our group ordered Martinis and Old Fashioned and they were like a good ole fashion should be…good.

From there, we began ordering a dish at a time, each as good as the last.

Martini, dry, shaken with olives

Martini, dry, shaken with olives

Good Old Fashioned... good

Good Old Fashioned... good

Jalapeño Corn & Cheese Biscuits

These are decadent balls for yum.  Crispy exterior, doughy middle with whole pieces of corn throughout served with a Bourbon Honey Syrup that has even your biscuit begging you to dip for more.  I loved watching everyone's expression as they popped these in their mouths.  

Eyes wide and then the expressive smile that gleamed; 'what did I just eat and is there enough for everyone else?'.   Only wish there was a bit more jalapeño in these biscuits.  The Bourbon Honey Syrup provided enough sweet that they could have used a bit more heat…  at least for my, and everyone at the table’s taste.  Even with that slight spice suggestion, we would order this again in a heartbeat.

Glistening with honey wonder.

Glistening with honey wonder.

Tuna Tartare

Classical and good balance.  Slight hint of heat that was a nice play off the creaminess of the avocado.  Served with chips for scooping and enjoying each bite.  Well done.

Kale Salad

We’ve all eaten tons of kale salad.  The key is the cut of the kale. The chop on this one rendered the kale tender, and manageable to eat.  The Caesar dressing was creamy but not overbearing and softened the salad just the right amount.  The Parmesan cheese in nice big shards added the salty sharpness we all want. Then there was the addition of radicchio and sunflower seeds that were subtle while still imparting an effective crunch and earthiness. And last but seriously not least; the croutons, which were more like lightly grilled garlic toasts.  Much better than the average crouton who would be ashamed to show up in a salad against this king of crouton. Would you guess that everyone thoroughly enjoyed this salad?  Good guess.

Mac n Cheese

Creamy with lovely Fontina and a deep truffle flavor that perfumed the entire dish.  Sprinkled with bread crumbs and pancetta, this is a dish worth the calories on a Friday night.  And with the music playing,  there is no need for guilt since you can get up and dance some of those calories away.

Looking dark and sultry, this mac n cheese was just that.

Looking dark and sultry, this mac n cheese was just that.

Short Rib Sliders

Oh the juxtaposition of these pretty, almost dainty little sandwiches that deliver a fun rollercoaster ride of flavor.  The short ribs were tender and juicy, layered on top of the surprising and interesting addition of polenta.   Caramelized onions sweetened the pot while the alioli had a horseradish note that provided the right kick. Needless to say, these were devoured by our group.

Key Lime Pie in a Jar

Tart and Tangy and Luscious.  Topped with grapefruit that was a surprising, refreshing touch, this dessert was right on point.  Team vote:  Approved. Team goal:  Polish this off.  Goal: Accomplished.

Oreo Cookie pie in a jar

This dessert was decidedly too sweet for my palette and everyone in our group but for those with a true sweet tooth it might just hit the mark.

Music getting our table moving in our seats.

Music getting our table moving in our seats.

A very cool vibe, as if you were hanging out in your own cozy, stylish lounge.

A very cool vibe, as if you were hanging out in your own cozy, stylish lounge.

Overall, the joint was jamming.  A great spot for a Friday night Happy Hour if you want to move to the groove of hip swaying music, enjoy good drinks and upscale bar eats.  If you want to chat and have a quieter evening, I would highly recommend coming on a weeknight to work your way through the menu and have the mixologist blend you up some cocktails.

The food, good service and overall vibe are definitely worth the trip.  So with winter still brewing here in the Northeast, this might just be the right time to head south for more reasons than just the sun. 

Cooper29 is located at 206 Miracle Mile, Miami FL / 786.580.4689