Chickpea flour (Recipe: salmon tikka)
- Chickpea flour is, simply, ground up chickpeas, or garbanzos.
- In recipes you'll see it called besan or gram flour, ceci flour or chana flour.
- A nutritional powerhouse, chickpea flour is high in protein, high in fiber, and high in iron. And it's gluten-free.
- The Romans used chickpea flour to make a type of polenta.
- Modern-day cooks use chickpea flour as a thickener, as a base for batters, or mixed with water as an egg substitute. You can even use it to make hummus.
- It's easy to make your own chickpea flour. Rinse and drain dry chickpeas, and leave them out overnight to dry. The next day, grind them in small batches in a food processor. Pass each batch through a sieve, and return any large pieces to the processor with the next batch of chickpeas. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, or in ziploc bags in the freezer. To make toasted chickpea flour, rinse and drain dry chickpeas, and spread them on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in a 400°F oven for 15-20 minutes, then process in small batches in a food processor.
- If you can't find dry chickpeas or chickpea flour in your local supermarket, health food store or Indian grocery, substitute dried yellow split peas and process into flour the same way you'd treat chickpeas. Or use wheat flour; according to the Bob's Red Mill site, 7/8 cup of chickpea flour replaces one cup of wheat flour in baking, and substitutes one-to-one when used for breading or as a thickener in sauces.
- Store chickpea flour in the freezer; bring it to room temperature before you use it. Stored this way, it will keep for a year or more.
- You'll want chickpea flour on hand when you get a craving for Parsi pakoras, chickpea crackers, pithale, crispy farinata with zucchini carpaccio salad, chickpea flour curry or chickpea, chocolate and cashew cookies.
- And if, like me, you're a fan of Julia Child's early television shows, you surely remember her visit to the market in Nice, where she introduced America to socca, the most wonderful street snack ever -- made from chickpea flour.
Loosely adapted from Indian: A Culinary Journey of Discovery, by Mridula Baljekar, this recipe can be made with any firm-fleshed fish. The salmon stays moist from the yogurt marinade, and can be grilled or broiled. Buy the thickest fillets you can find, preferably at least one inch thick. Serves 8.
Pinch of saffron threads
1 Tbsp milk (I use skim milk)
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp garlic puree*
1 Tbsp ginger puree*
1 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 tsp sugar (or equivalent sugar substitute)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp ground chile powder (mild or hot, to taste)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground fennel seed
2 tsp chickpea flour
1-3/4 lb salmon fillets, skinned and cut into 2-inch cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving
Place the saffron and milk in a small glass measuring cup, and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside to allow the saffron to steep.
*You can buy ginger and garlic purees (I buy garlic puree at Trader Joe's), or make your own; toss a head of garlic cloves (peeled) into a food processor with a few tablespoons of olive oil, and process to a paste-like consistency. Store ginger and garlic purees in the refrigerator for a week or two.
Put yogurt, garlic and ginger purees, salt, sugar, lemon juice, chile powder, garam masala, fennel seed and chickpea flour in a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Add the fish, and toss very gently to coat the fish. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Return the fish to room temperature before cooking.
Preheat the broiler. Place the oven rack 8 inches or more below the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and coat the pan with the olive oil. Arrange the fish pieces with a bit of space between each piece. Broil for 3-4 minutes on one side, until the fish starts to brown. Turn each piece and cook an additional 3 minutes.
If you're cooking on a grill or stovetop griddle, heat to high, then brush the grill with oil. Cook the chunks of salmon for 3-4 minutes on the first side, until the fish starts to brown; then turn the fish, and cook for 3 minutes on the second side.
Serve as part of an Indian meal, with rice.
Special thanks to Bob Fishman for the use of his photo of the steaming salmon.