I was out at a little lunch place in the Berkshires with my mother and sister, and we noticed they were offering fried chickpeas as a special appetizer. We got an order to share, and we were all instantly transported to the very simple but flavorful seasoned chickpeas my grandmother used to serve along with cheese, chopped liver, crudites, and other simple hors d'oeuvres.
My sister took a stab at it later that week, and reported that my niece loved the fried chickpeas dusted with a little curry powder. So I gave it a shot yesterday, frying one can of drained and rinsed chickpeas (I used the Goya brand, which I generally find are nice and firm and not mushy) in about an inch of canola oil in a deep saucepan. I cooked them until golden brown (and could have even let them crisp longer), drained on paper towels, and then tossed with lemon zest, sea salt, and zaatar, following with a little sprinkle of fresh lemon juice. We devoured them in about 10 minutes, with glasses of Spanish rioja.
Tonight I'm following a pasta recipe from one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks, Jeanne Lemlin's Simple Vegetarian Pleasures (yes, someone who has bacon as her personal icon does enjoy vegetarian cooking). It combines cubes of fried extra firm tofu with black olives, roasted peppers, basil, parsley, and garlic over penne. I'm adding capers, sundried tomatoes, and some red pepper flakes for more of a puttanesca flavor. But the bowl of fried tofu chunks sprinkled with soy sauce is going fast just sitting there in the kitchen. Very tasty, crispy bites that are tender in the center. The key: squeeze as much water out of the tofu as you can before cooking to get a nice chewy consistency.