Out of Character: Sweet and Sour Chickpeas

 

Can I tell you a secret?  But you have to swear you won’t tell anyone. 

This particular secret involves a clandestine, middle-of-the-night meeting in an abandoned field; secret code names; the removal of clothing; and a vow never to tell another soul.

Oh, and three cans of neon yellow paint.

(And I bet you thought you knew where I was going with this one, didn’t you?)

Allow me to explain.  As a middle child in our family, I exhibited the typical middle-child traits: I was quiet, a peacemaker, and always tried to please everyone.  Middle kids don’t ruffle feathers.  They don’t make waves.  They’re the “good girls”  (well, except for the boys, that is, who I’m guessing are “good boys.”).  In other words, they don’t break the rules.

But  being the perennial ”good girl” can sometimes become tiresome.  Sometimes, you want to break loose and do something wildly out of character. Maybe skip school and have a little adventure like Ferris Beuller.  Maybe just pick up and move to Australia*.  Or maybe even say “what the heck“** and take that leap like Joel in Risky Business

That’s why, though I’d never done anything even remotely similar before, I was inspired to call the HH up for a date after we’d met at a party the previous weekend (seems to have turned out okay in the end). 

That’s why, one evening in university after I’d just called my friend Babe to wish her a happy birthday and sat studying in my dorm room, I turned to my study buddy Elaine and asked, “Hey, do you want to drive to London tonight to visit Babe?”  We arrived just before 10:00 PM, Babe squealed with surprise and delight when she saw us, we shared hugs and a bottle of wine,  and we found ourselves back at the dorm around 2:00 AM (just in time to finish studying before our test the next morning).

That’s why, when I first learned that Ellen DeGeneres had eschewed refined sugar (after being vegan for a couple of years), I thought, “Wow! The treats in my cookbook would be perfect for her!” and mounted a twitter and blog campaign to serve healthy, vegan, sugar-free desserts to Ellen and her studio audience on her show (so far, it’s turned not too badly , but I’m still waiting for that invitation–feel free to send her a message and ask her to have me on the show!).

And that’s why, when one of my best friends in high school thought it would be a good idea for our group of “goody-goody” girl friends to leave our mark (literally) on our high school, I said, “okay, what the heck.” 

Which is how the six of us ended up meeting one night under cover of darkness, changed into sweatpants and sweatshirts, and sneaked into our abandoned-for-the-summer schoolyard.  We pried open the cans of neon yellow paint and drew the largest characters we could muster, as high as our arms would stretch , emblazoning the words, ”GRADS 76″ on the brick wall before we ran off into the night, whispering and giggling.

We made our way back to the schoolyard innumerable times throughout the summer to admire our handiwork.  Of course, no one ever suspected that we were the culprits–after all, we were such “good girls.”  (Oops.  I guess the cat’s out of the bag, now.  But you have to promise not to tell anyone else. ). 

Although the SOS Challenge doesn’t require you to submit both sweet and savory recipes (so please don’t feel obliged to do so), as my final submission to this month’s rhubarb challenge, I wanted to provide our star veggie with an outlet for something a little out of character.  Shrug off the pies and crumbles and muffins, Little Rhubarb, and head over to the savory side of things!  A quick search on the internet revealed a few Indian-inspired dishes, but I wanted to highlight the characteristic most prominent in our featured stalks: the sourness.  I decided to create a vegan variation on a typical Chinese sweet-and-sour dish, using rhubarb to confer the “sour.” 

The result was a little unusual, but pleasing nonetheless.  The tart rhubarb is tempered somewhat by the sweetness of the stevia, and the chilis provide a subtle heat that seems to bring out the individual flavors.  Chickpeas contribute the protein here, but tofu would  seem an obvious choice next time I give this dish a try.  Served over cooked millet, it was a satisfying supper for both of us.

So go ahead, try something a little different.  It will be our little secret. 

* I actually almost did move to Australia, once.  I had arranged a teaching exchange with another teacher in the Land Down Under.  All the papers were in place, the jobs approved, and the only thing left to do was purchase the steamer trunk.  Sadly, once the other instructor learned the cost of renting an apartment in Toronto, she backed out of the deal.

** No, Joel didn’t actually say, “what the heck.”  His particular four-letter term was a little more colorful than that.  But this is a G-rated blog, folks ;)

This recipe is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, a fabulous event started by Susan at the Well Seasoned Cook and this month hosted by Diana at Spain in Iowa.

The Question Question: Before I sign off today, I wanted thank everyone who responded to my query in my earlier post. Your responses were fairly split on the issue of whether or not to include questions at the end of blog posts: the final verdict seems to be, “if they develop naturally from the content of the post, they’re okay.”   Of course, I’d never pose a question that had nothing to do with the post (except, um, for that first question). On the other hand, many of you suggested that you’d simply not comment at all if the question didn’t appeal to you. 

Well, comments are one of my favorite aspects of blogging (both reading them and leaving them on other blogs), and I do enjoy the interaction they encourage.  I’m also all for the recent types of comment sections that allow individual commenters to respond to each other (and I will have to install those–not on the blog right now).  So I’ve decided to incorporate questions only occasionally, and see what happens.  And even if you’re not keen on the questions, please do continue to comment on the blog post itself!

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Comments

  1. Yum yum yum! I love chickpeas! And the middle child…yep, you described us to a T!

  2. HAHA! I can’t believe you all did that! And no one ever suspected, that is brilliant! Great story, Ricki. :-)

    And GREAT looking chickpeas! Simple, hearty, and delicious. Exactly what I need for lunch. Hmmmm…

  3. Despite being the middle child, I’m thinking you have a few more secrets like that one. ;-) I’m wondering how many folks will find ou the truth now from your online confession! :-) That was a great adventure for sure, Ricki. I still think the Ellen adventure will work out, too. I sure hope she doesn’t make you play one of those silly games on her show … those could involve paint or something else liquid. Seriously, I know it will happen and you and Ellen will have a great exchange when you appear.

    Chickpeas … they are my favorite! I still haven’t eaten rhubarb … can you believe it? Maybe this is the dish I should try it in. It sure looks delicious, Ricki!

    Shirley

  4. Great stories. The most amazing part is that with six culprits involved in the paint job, you didn’t get caught!

    I’m looking forward to the rhubarb roundup, but it looks like I totally forgot to submit my entry. Maybe next month.

  5. My savory rhubarb searches turned up similar results. After enjoying a curried,lentil, sweet potato and rhubarb salad at Whole Foods on Sunday I was inspired to try to create an Indian dish at home. I used the rest of my rhubarb stalks in a dahl. It turned out quite well but I won’t have it perfected in time for the round-up. I love that the SOS challenge has inspired some new discoveries in my kitchen. Thank you Ricki!

  6. I really enjoyed this post. :) And I love the sound of those chickpeas!

  7. Your Chinese chickpeas sound amazing! I can’t wait for your round-up for more interesting ideas with rhubarb. :)

  8. what an great idea for incorporating rhubarb. ive never been a fan and dont like it in pie or with sugar, i have some in my garden now so i will take the plunge and try it. thanks for sharing!

  9. What an awesome story! I was a good girl too, but the few times I did do bad things, I felt REALLY BAD. And by bad, I mean, bad-ass.

    The chickpea dish looks like a great way to use rhubarb. I’ve only ever seen it used in pies and crumbles before.

  10. Intriguing – my imagination is trying to pull all those flavors together . . . guess I’ll just have to try it!

  11. Iris,
    So nice to hear from another middle child! Hope you break loose a little once in a while, too ;)

    Voracious Vegan,
    I figured enough time had elapsed that I could come clean. Obviously, though, I’m STILL feeling guilty all these years later! And glad you like the chickpea dish :)

    Shirley,
    Nope, no more secrets. A few adventures, maybe (and I’m certainly hoping that Ellen is one of them)! Rhubarb is definitely worth trying. Though, to be honest, I’d want my first taste of rhubarb in a sweet dish!

    Andrea,
    I know–but this was at 3:00 in the morning, don’t forget, in a small suburban town. . . nobody else was really around at the time. One of the gang let it slip the very next year, but I think no one else believed her! ;) Sorry you didn’t make the roundup, but no worries–next time. :)

    VeganLisa,
    I saw that salad when I was there the other day, too, but sadly couldn’t have it because of the sugar in the ingredients. It did sound great, though!

    Mo,
    Thanks so much, and thanks for commenting! Glad you like the look of the recipe. :D

    Saveur,
    Yes, I’m looking forward to the roundup, too–lots of interesting recipes (yours included, of course) ;)

    JC,
    Thanks for your comment! Let me know what you think if you do give it a try.

    Bianca,
    Well, I did feel really bad. . . but only a few years later, after I fully understood the import of what we did. Then again, we were sixteen, so I guess I’ll cut my younger self a little slack. The dish was good–even better the second day, once the flavors melded.

    Mom,
    I’ll be curious to know what you think!

  12. I’ve been waiting to see what savoury dish you make with rhubarb but this one took me by surprise – but in a good oh-what-a-great-idea way! I am back eating sweet rhubarb crumble tonight after my savoury experimenting lately

  13. ricki, i’m shocked! :) loving this recipe, and reminding me to get some rhubarb before it’s over!

  14. Chickpeas are so versatile–I love them!

  15. Your chickpeas look scrummy. Sweet and sour’s a nice treat. I made an “Indian-inspired” dish recently (but w/ jaggery and tamarind) – it was different, but I loved it. Would love yours, too.

    Though I’m late to the discussion, I don’t mind questions, especially if an answer helps the blogger out (as is this answer ; )). Seems, though, that social networking in general has become more demanding (FB, Twitter, Flickr, Foodbuzz, etc., what next?), that many readers plates are really full trying to juggle time and energy. We all like comments, but I’ve noticed a general drop in comments on most blogs unless you have gazillion subscribers.

  16. This sounds really good. I love the swwet and sour balance in chickpeas.
    I make a sweet, sour and spicy version with a little more gravy to serve with chappathis or rice.
    My sweetener is jaggery and souring agent is tamarind.

  17. These look wonderful, Ricky. Although I have to admit I am not a fan of sweet and sour or sweet and savoury. But I can still be here and admire your gorgeous picture!

  18. These are going straight to my “must make soon” list of recipes. Thanks, dear Ricki!

  19. Johanna,
    Oh, that sweet crumble sounds better to me! But glad you like this one. :)

    Shannon,
    I’ve been holding the secret all these years. The guilt was too much to bear! Hope you don’t judge me too harshly ;)

    CaSaundra,
    Me, too! :)

    Susan,
    Thanks for your input re: the questions. I have to agree–I’ve noticed that comments have diminished, too. And all the social networking can take its toll!

    Aparna,
    Sounds like your dish is much like Susan’s. I’m not allowed jaggery OR tamarind, but they both would be delicious in this. :)

    Mihl,
    Aw, thanks! :D

    Gena,
    Thanks so much! That’s pretty much how I feel about all of your recipes. ;)

  20. Great story! As a fellow middle child, I can definitely relate to the traits that go with the role, secrecy and all. ;)

    The chickpeas sounds delicious! I love the sweet-and-sour flavor combo.

  21. you are quite the rebel, aren’t you! chickpeas look super yum.

  22. Of course, now that you’ve done it, rhubarb seems like an obvious choice for a sweet and sour dish. The result must be quite interesting; I’ll have to give it a try one of these days!

  23. Great use of rhubarb in a savoury dish! I never would’ve thought to do something like this.

  24. Hi Ricki

    This is another winner, we did it with lemon juice instead of rhubarb to finish up some languishing chick peas. Fabulous!

  25. So pleased I finally got round to trying this recipe. Very tasty! I discovered we still had plenty of rhubarb in the freezer from the summer. Will have to search your blog for more rhubarb recipes now :)

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