My first attempt at making a chickpea curry was a disaster. At the end of the evening, my aunt gently reminded me to pre-soak the beans before cooking them. Ever since that rock-hard-chickpea incident, I’ve resorted to using canned cooked chickpeas, and generating a lot of discarded liquid in the process. Until now. Aquafaba, the residual liquor from cooking chickpeas, works perfectly as an egg substitute – a boon to those with an egg allergy or a vegan with a sweet tooth.
Aquafaba, from the Latin aqua (water) and faba (bean), is a more attractive name to give the liquid from a legume. This viscous amber-colored liquid is rich in starch and protein plant material that is drawn out from the legume during cooking. Aquafaba whisks into a binding agent for use in cakes or froths up as foam in drinks. Its neutral flavor doesn’t compete with other ingredients when substituted for eggs in mayonnaise or meringue. Goose Wohlt, an American software engineer, is widely recognized as the person responsible for both the name and making the first stable vegan meringue in 2015.
Aquafaba can be made from canned chickpeas. However, using dried chickpeas eliminates the added salt and preservatives found in the canned version.
Dried chickpeas – 2 cups
Salt – 1 tsp
Wash the dried chickpeas with several changes of fresh water.
Drain in a colander.
In a fresh bowl, add the chickpeas, 6 cups of water, and salt. Leave it to soak overnight or for about 13-15 hours.
Pour the contents of the bowl into a cooking pan.
Boil the chickpeas for 1¼ – 1½ hours. Check the chickpeas halfway into cooking time for the frothy scum that rises to the top. Using a spoon and in one continuous motion, scoop out as much of the froth as possible.
Chickpeas are ready when they have no crunch but are firm to the touch.
Strain the chickpeas, reserving both the chickpeas and golden-colored liquid or aquafaba.
One of my new favorite drinks is the Peruvian Pisco Sour – but the cocktail was hard to make for a large holiday party. It would have been a challenge to separate so many eggs and keep the egg whites at an optimal temperature. Substituting aquafaba for egg whites addresses these concerns, and is suitable to serve both vegans and worriers (regarding raw eggs) alike. Cheers!
Pisco – 3 oz
Aquafaba – 2 tbsp
Simple syrup – 2 ½ -3 tbsp (depending on taste)
Lime juice – 4 tbsp
Crushed ice – ¾ – 1 tbsp
Angostura Bitters – 2-3 drops (optional)
Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
Add the crushed ice. Shake vigorously.
Pour in thirds (to create as much foam as possible) into a short glass. Serve immediately.
Note: Use the cooked chickpeas to make a simple Italian appetizer with garlic and chili powder, chickpea curry, or process into a smooth hummus.
After printing a successful issue, my first editor in London brought caviar to the office. The team was excited to enjoy this expensive gesture. The black bubbles of cured sturgeon roe glistened from a small glass container, sitting on top of a mound of crushed ice. A delicate mother-of-pearl spoon rested nearby. While everyone savored the refined treat, I seemed to be the only one who didn’t appreciate the caviar’s long aftertaste. However, I changed my mind about caviar this New Year’s Eve.
To ring in the New Year, my neighbor served a delicious appetizer of caviar, crumbled hardboiled egg, and onion on lightly buttered toast. The two additions provided a delicate balance to the texture and salty flavor of caviar, and for the first time, I enjoyed this extravagant food.
A few days later, I saw the holiday episode of The Great American Baking Show that featured champagne “caviar” as a dessert garnish. The “caviar” was easy to make; the golden champagne droplets were teased out from stock items in my pantry such as gelatin, sugar, and oil. I was inspired to create a whimsical twist on the champagne and caviar pairing. I topped the black sturgeon beads and orange salmon roe with the captured champagne “caviar” bubbles, which added a hint of sweetness to this festive and decadent treat.
Scoop out some of the yolk from the hard-boiled egg, and replace with caviar.
Sprinkle the champagne “caviar” on top of the caviar.
Another option: Combine the hard-boiled egg with caviar and serve on toasted bread. Top off with champagne caviar.
Note: This luxurious treat can be made a little more affordable by replacing champagne with sparkling wine and /or using locally-farmed roe. Here’s to a year of celebratory meals that don’t break the bank!
This has been a week of celebrations, from Cinco de Mayo and ending this weekend on what is known as two-minute sporting spectacle, the Kentucky Derby. Both celebrations feature great food as well as a signature cocktail. Margarita’s tequila and triple sec and mint julep’s bourbon base combine with simple syrup to make easy-to-down cocktails. Most people are familiar with making (and drinking!) margaritas, but the bourbon-based mint julep is just as easy.
The mint julep is associated with the American South, where a whiskey/bourbon and mint combination that is savored during the long hot months makes this cocktail a perennial favorite. At the Kentucky Derby, the drink is served in a special silver Julep cup. Using a metal container in the heat is practical as the frosted cup insulates the cocktail. A mint julep is easy to make: Use the best bourbon that you have available, fresh mint leaves for both aroma and aromatics, and simple syrup.
Bourbon Whiskey – 2 oz
Simple Syrup (see below) – ½ –1 oz
Mint Sprigs – 5-6
Crushed ice – enough to fill the serving Julep glass
Mix 4 tsp of sugar and 4 tsp of water. Bring to a boil.
Remove from heat. Add 3-4 mint leaves. Keep aside until the simple syrup is cool.
When ready to serve, add the remaining mint leaves to the serving cup. Crush the leaves lightly (muddle) with a wooden spoon.
Fill the cup with crushed ice. Pour in the whiskey and simple syrup.
Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Cheers to the winner!
Note: If you don’t own a metal cup or silver julep, chill a standard highball glass.
Last week while cooking my favorite root tuber, cassava, I learned that cassava flour (made from cassava starch) is gluten-free. The starch that is extracted from the cassava root is available in two forms – fine white flour or opaque tapioca pearls. When American families and friends with disparate tastes and food allergies gather around the Thanksgiving table, cassava flour and pearls can be incorporated in the meal to include those with gluten sensitivity to the table. The flour and pearls can be used to make cheese bread and dessert (tapioca pudding and falooda), offering simple substitutions to long-established menus.
Gluten is a protein found in grains that give dough its elasticity and bread its texture. Sensitivity to gluten or celiac disease prohibits foods made with many of the traditional grains, such as wheat and rye. Cassava flour is a good alternate for making bread, pancakes, or to thicken gravy. South Americans use cassava flour to make a cheese bread called Pao de Queijo and Chipa – deliciously cheesy with a pleasant chewy bite.
Cheese Bread (Brazil)
Cassava flour – 2 cups
Whole milk – 1 cup
Vegetable oil – ½ cup
Salt – ¾ tsp
Egg – 2, beaten
Parmesan cheese – 1 ½ cup
Set the oven to 400°F.
Add all the ingredients, except for the cheese, in a large bowl.
Mix them together to form dough.
Fold in the cheese to the dough mixture.
Drop a tablespoon of the dough at a time on to a nonstick pan.
Cook the dough balls for 15-20 minutes.
Tapioca Pudding and Falooda are two easy desserts that use tapioca pearls, the starch made from the cassava root. The pearls are available in a range of diameters (1mm to 6mm) and colors (brown, white, and black). Tapioca pearls need to be soaked in water or cooked in milk to rehydrate them. When cooked in milk, they give tapioca pudding a comforting creamy consistency. The water-soaked tapioca pearls in falooda add a chewy morsel in an otherwise rich and milky South Asian dessert.
Whole milk – 3 cups
Eggs – 2, beaten
Tapioca Pearls (white) – ½ cup
Sugar – ½ cup
Salt – ¼ tsp
Vanilla/rose/cinnamon essence – 1 tsp
Mix the whole milk, tapioca pearls and salt in a saucepan and bring it slowly to a boil. Stir continuously so tapioca mixes and thickens as it cooks.
When the milk starts to boil, turn the heat down. Add sugar slowly, while stirring continuously so it dissolves.
Remove from heat and let the thickened mixture cool for a minute.
Add the beaten egg into the mixture (watch it doesn’t curdle).
Bring the mixture back to a simmer and let it thicken, about five minutes.
Add the essence.
Dessert can be eaten warm or cold. Top with berries.
Milk – 1 cup
Translucent noodles (vermicelli) – 1 oz.
Tapioca pearls (black) – 2 tbsp.
Strawberry or raspberry jelly – 1 packet
Rose syrup – 1 tbsp
Vanilla ice cream –1 small tub
Make the jelly according to the instructions on the packet
Soak the tapioca pearls in water for half-hour to rehydrate them.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet or until soft.
Add the drained noodles to half a cup of milk and simmer for five minutes.
Have all the ingredients near at hand to assemble the dessert. Keep layers separate for a colorful display. In a tall glass, start with a layer of jelly, followed by the noodles and a tablespoon of milk, 1 tablespoon of tapioca pearls, and two scoops of ice cream. Finally, drizzle the rose syrup over the ice cream. Serve immediately.