Chickpea Flour-Kale Bites

Another chickpea flour-inspired recipe! This is a variation of an Indian dish known as kothimbir vadi–a popular Maharashtrian street food. Years ago I used to make this dish during my ashram days–a time when I experimented with quite a few traditional Indian creations. I had forgotten about this recipe until recently. I’ve been enjoying showing people all of the wonderful things you can do with chickpea flour–and here is another one. I prepared this at work recently and our customers were as excited as I was. I modified the recipe by using mild seasonings rather than the traditional Indian spices and fresh coriander/cilantro (you can season to your personal preference). This dish is also typically deep-fried, so to make it healthier I pan-fried the bites and added kale. You can also try baking them.  It is a great snack food or you can serve as an appetizer with a dipping sauce. Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups finely chopped kale (you can use other leafy greens as well)
¼ teaspoon salt
2–3 tablespoons water
1 cup chickpea flour/garbanzo bean flour
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Pinch of black pepper
Pinch of turmeric (optional, for color)
1½ cups vegetable broth*

Heat oil in a medium-size saucepan. Add garlic and sauté briefly to release aromatics. Add chopped kale and salt and stir together. Cook for a couple of minutes then add water. Continue to cook kale until it becomes tender. Leave in pan and set aside. **

Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment (9”x 5” rectangle or similar rectangle or smaller square pan). Set aside. Add chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, pepper and turmeric to a bowl and mix together. Add cold vegetable broth and whisk until you have a smooth batter (with no lumps). Pour the chickpea flour mixture into cooled saucepan with veggies and cook over medium-low heat, stirring continuously. The mixture will start to thicken as the pan heats up. Cook for 6–8 minutes, until mixture stiffens. Spread the mixture onto prepared sheet and even out to ½” thickness, using spatula or patting with hands, if needed. Let cool, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set. Cut into strips, cubes or squares. Heat a little oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a non-stick (preferably ceramic) pan. Cook squares/bites for a couple of minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve warm.***

* If desired, use water and ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
** You can add fresh chopped spinach in place of sautéed kale/greens
*** Bake the squares instead of pan-frying (on a well greased cookie sheet—high heat)

Benefits of Chickpea Flour

  • Chickpea flour, also known as besan, garbanzo flour or gram flour — not graham — is a wheat-free flour alternative made from lightly roasted, dried and ground garbanzo beans or chickpeas. Indian markets and/or health food stores are the best places to find this legume-based flour. It is high in carbohydrates and protein, contains some fat and is gluten-free. This nutrient-rich flour is a food source of many vitamins and minerals as well as dietary fiber.|
  • Ethnic cuisines worldwide, from India to the Middle East to Italy to Provence, France, use chickpea flour. It is extremely versatile, in addition to being a nutrient powerhouse.

       Basic Nutrition Value

  • Chickpea flour is loaded with vitamins and minerals. It is particularly high in folate or vitamin B9, thiamin or vitamin B1, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, copper and manganese. It is a good food source of other micronutrients, such as vitamin K and zinc. Few other flour substitutes, with the exception of soy flour, are more nutrient-rich.

Minerals and Dietary Fiber

  • A 100 g serving of besan meets 41.5 percent of the DV for magnesium; 24 percent for potassium; 32 percent for phosphorus; 27 percent for iron and 19 percent for zinc. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans reports that children, adolescents and adults in the US do not consume enough magnesium-potassium- and fiber-rich foods. The minerals are important for maintaining strong bones, regulating blood pressure, aiding in energy metabolism and muscle contraction. Dietary fiber promotes regular bowel movements. In addition, iron and zinc may be deficient in the diets of older Americans. Iron plays a role in transporting oxygen throughout the bloodstream. Both nutrients support a healthy immune system and zinc helps regulate blood sugar, promotes wound healing and performs other functions.

      Uses Worldwide

  • Indian cuisine incorporates chickpea flour into more dishes than other cultures. It is used as a thickener and to make pancakes and fritters, such as chilla, an Indian “street” or fast food. In the Middle East, chickpea flour is an important ingredient for making falafel, deep-fried chickpea ‘balls.’ French Provençal chefs use chickpea flour to make socca, a pancake popular in Nice. Liguria, Italy is known for ‘panissa,’ a chickpea flour-based polenta. For vegan recipes, you can replace eggs with equal parts chickpea flour and water. If you do not eat it, you can wear it, literally. Indian women make a paste composed of besan and water or yogurt and apply it to their face as an exfoliant.
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