I’m a huge fan of the concept that nature always repeats itself. Examples are all around us. Have you ever seen rivers from the air? They tend to look quite similar to serpents. Or how about the whirlpool that forms as the water drains from your morning shower? Is it not the same swirl pattern you’ll find in many seashells? Ever notice that a wave looks a lot like a curl in a poodle’s fur? There is an entire branch of mathematics dedicated to studying repeating patterns in nature. I know I’m probably boring you because all y’all are undoubtedly big fans of fractal geometry! I know I’ve been having trouble putting down articles on these titillating mathematical principles lately.
But what got me really thinking about the whole topic of nature repeating itself was falafel. I was soaking a bunch of chick peas (four pounds) the other morning and noticed that chick peas look an awful lot like a human brain, which probably qualifies them as brain food. I mean, literally. You feel as if you’re about to consume a mini-brain. There must have been some twisted Hollywood sci-fi producer at one time or another who considered using raw chick peas in a scene much like this: After the victorious alien invaders finish extracting the brains of their overmatched human victims, they prepare the feast. “These brains aren’t spicy enough, more hot sauce and, yes, the puréed ones are extremely satisfying.” “Affirmative, sir, are you ready for the thinly sliced raw section?” “Of course, they’re tentacle-licking good! More brains, brains, brains, brains, haaa, haaa, haaa!”
Fortunately for the faint of heart, once cooked, chick peas no longer resemble mini-brains. And while not truly brain food, they are nutritious, versatile and molto delizioso. Chick peas, aka garbanzo beans, are the second-most widely grown legume on the planet. Though not super-popular in the 904, they are a staple in the cuisines of Mediterranean countries as well as India and Africa, where cooks take advantage the pea’s nutty, rich flavor. If you were in India, you might enjoy them ground into flour for a crispy poppadum cracker topped with fragrant garlic chutney. Maybe try a socca crepe if you’re “slummin’” on France’s Côte d’Azur. They’re called ceci in Italian and you’ll find them in pastas, soups and salads.
I have two favorite ways to enjoy these little brain foods. Much like our new alien invader friends, I appreciate chick peas cooked as well as raw. Cooked and puréed with tahini paste, they become the illustrious hummus. For falafel, you simply soak the chick peas overnight and grind them with onions, garlic and seasonings. I’m sure this would be an alien favorite as well.
Chef Bill’s FALAFEL
• 28 oz. dry chick peas, soaked overnight
• 1-1/2 onion, brunoised
• 5 Tbsp. garlic paste
• 1 cup pearled barley
• 1 cup chopped parsley
• 3 tsp. toasted coriander
• 2 tsp. toasted cumin
• 2 tsp. baking soda
• 4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
• 1 preserved lemon, rinsed and brunoised
• 1/8 tsp. cayenne
• 1 tsp. salt
1. Drain the soaked chick peas.
2. Pulse the drained chick peas, onions, garlic, and parsley in a robot coupe until combined.
3. Add salt, cayenne, preserved lemons and cumin. Pulse until the peas are the size of couscous. DO NOT PUREE!
4. Sift flour and baking soda, add to the chick peas. Pulse to combine.
5. Roll a small amount into a ball, fry at 350˚F to test consistency and seasoning. Adjust if needed.
6. Roll remaining mixture into small football shapes, fry at 350˚F until dark golden brown.