Wednesday, November 25, 2015

29. Chickpea and Eggplant Tacos with Dandelion Greens and Harissa-Yogurt Sauce


This is another recipe that I came up with on my way to and while shopping at the grocery store.  As I've said before, necessity is the mother of invention!

My first impulse was to create a chickpea taco.  I thought that roughly chopping the chickpeas would create an interesting texture (and a more taco-like filling).  The next step was to decide on a flavor profile.  Chickpeas are very versatile.  They are present in many international cuisines, such as Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, and African.  Since I had some preserved lemons and prepared harissa sauce at home, I decided to go in a Moroccan/North African direction.  Keep in mind, these are fairly inauthentic, as usual.  I'm pretty sure they don't actually serve these in Casablanca!

As much as I love chickpeas, a mouthful of chickpea taco did sound kind of . . . fibrous.  Ha ha.  I decided to mellow it out with something a little smoother and milder.  I thought roasted eggplant would be the perfect pairing!

There are a few specialty ingredients in this recipe.  The harissa should be pretty easy to find.  I bought mine at Cost Plus World Market.  It should be available at various specialty grocery stores, or you can buy it here.

Preserved lemons have a unique taste for which there is no possible replacement.  Like the harissa, you may need to seek them out from a gourmet grocer.  You can also order them online here.

If don't want to get the harissa or preserved lemons, you could substitute a hot sauce of your choice and a small amount of grated lemon zest (not a whole tablespoon), but the result will be slightly different.  It will still be good, though.  :)

I also used dandelion greens.  They are a sturdy, slightly bitter green.  I enjoy them now and then in a salad and I thought they would provide some variety to my array of recipes.  If you don't like dandelion greens or can't find them, you could certainly use another raw green, such as spinach!

Here's the recipe:

Chickpea and Eggplant Tacos with Dandelion Greens and Yogurt-Lemon Dressing

Serves about 4 (8 generous tacos)


For the chickpea-eggplant mixture:

1 small to medium Italian eggplant (mine was about 14 oz.)
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more for salting the eggplant
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
One 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 tbsp. finely chopped preserved lemon (rind only)

For the yogurt sauce:

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp. prepared harissa
1 tbsp. lemon juice
A few pinches of salt, to taste

For the dandelion greens:

2 cups thinly sliced dandelion greens (or spinach)
1/2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar (or another vinegar of your choice)
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 multi-grain corn and wheat tortillas (I used Mission Corn & Whole Wheat Blend.)

A couple of small Roma tomatoes, chopped, for garnish

1. Start the chickpea-eggplant mixture.  Peel and trim the eggplant.  Cut into about 1/2 to 3/4 inch chunks.  Place in a colander and toss with several large pinches of salt (to taste).  Let the eggplant sit for about 20 to 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line a baking sheet with foil.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Toss the eggplant with one tbsp. of the olive oil and spread out in a single layer on the foil.

Roast the eggplant until just tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

3. While the eggplant is roasting, make the yogurt sauce:  Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

4.  Complete the chickpea-eggplant mixture:  Heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, lower the heat a bit, and cook until softened and slightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook for another minute.  Add the chickpeas and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are combined and the chickpeas are hot, about 5 minutes.  Add the roasted eggplant chunks.  Cook and stir for another minute.  Add the walnuts, parsley, and preserved lemon and remove from the heat.  Keep warm.

5. While the chickpea mixture is cooking, prepare the dandelion greens:  Wash the greens and spin them dry.  If the ribs are fairly thick, as mine were, cut them out with a sharp knife.  Thinly slice and measure two heaping cups, packed.  Toss with the vinegar and oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6.  Prepare the tortillas.  I heated my tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or so on each side, just like I have done in the past with corn or flour tortillas.  Since this is basically the last step, you don't really need to keep them warm.  Just stack them on a plate or sheet of foil until it's time to assemble the tacos!

7.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Spoon a small amount of the chickpea-eggplant mixture in the center of the tortilla.  Top with some of the dandelion greens.  Add some of the chopped tomatoes.  Finish with a generous amount of the harissa-yogurt sauce.  Enjoy!

My husband said these were one of my most "creative" so far.  Ummmm . . . ha ha.  Is that good or bad?  Well, he assured me that it was good!

These tacos were definitely unusual, but I enjoyed them as well.  I think the filling had a great texture.  I loved the creaminess of the roasted eggplant, the heartiness of the chickpeas, and the crunch of the walnuts.  The dandelion greens were a good choice - they had enough flavor to stand up to the spicy, aromatic filling.  The harissa taste in the sauce was mild.  It definitely provided some heat, but you could certainly use more harissa to taste!

At first, I wasn't sure it was worth the effort to chop the chickpeas, but I loved the way that this short step made identifying the filling a slightly more elusive process!  It doesn't scream "CHICKPEAS!!!"  I didn't tell my husband what we were having, and he honestly had no idea what was in the tacos.  He just said they were good.  After a few minutes, he correctly identified chickpeas and walnuts.  He didn't catch the eggplant.  I think that was probably a good thing.  If I told him we were having chickpea and eggplant tacos, he might have cried a little.

I might have been exaggerating just a bit at the end of that last paragraph.  :)

Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving!  I hope you all enjoy it!  I made my thirtieth taco recipe this evening (bison with guajillo sauce), but I have not had time to document it yet, so stay tuned . . .

I'm still in catch-up mode - I'm shooting for two more recipes (in addition to the bison tacos) before the start of my school day on Monday!  :)

Did you try these tacos?  What did you think?  I'm all ears!

Thanks for reading!  

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