Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chickpeas and Rice with Zucchini, Dates, and Feta

Chickpeas and Rice is one of those recipes that I am always making around here, and always tweaking.  Last night, however, I think I hit on just the right notes -- it's a great blend of Middle Eastern flavors: cumin, turmeric, marjoram, sweet onions, a hint of heat from crushed red pepper, plus a nice balance from the sweet dates and salty feta.  The reason why I'm always making this dish (and always tinkering with it!) is that it represents for me the perfect trifecta: pretty quick, pretty healthy, and pretty cheap.

I have to tell you though, last night's dinner started with a great tragedy.  It was devastating.  You see, I had bought these really cute globe zucchini at the farmer's market last week.  And I came up with this idea to stuff them with chickpeas and rice.  I was really excited about this.  And I mean, really excited.  But then, as I spooned into the first zucchini to hollow it out, my spoon came out brown.  Not good.  Not good at all.  What is good though is that I managed not to cry, which is more than I can say about a certain incident I  had with pizza dough a couple of months ago!  So I tossed the icky zucchini, cussed out the farmer's market (totally all their fault), and chopped up the other zucchini and just added to my Chickpeas and Rice.  The dinner was delicious anyway, so there you icky zucchini!

Chickpeas and Rice with Zucchini, Dates, and Feta
serves 4-6
adapted from The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene

Ingredients:
Quick-cooking brown rice to yield 2 cups (I used 2 bags of brown rice in a bag!)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 small (or 1 large) onions, diced
1 cup diced zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
2-3 garlic cloves, pushed through a garlic press
1/2 cup warm water
1 19oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 tsp dried marjoram leaves
3/4 tsp dried basil leaves
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red chile pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
about 1/3 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus extra for serving

Directions:
1. Prepare the rice according to the package directions.  Meanwhile, chop the onion and zucchini.
2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or sauce-pan with a lid.  Add the onion and zucchini once the oil becomes fragrant.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.  Then add the pressed garlic and cook for an additional minute, until you can smell the garlic cooking.
3. Add the chickpeas and the basil, marjoram, cumin, turmeric, salt, red chile pepper, and ground black pepper.  Stir through and cook for a minute.
4. Lower the heat to medium-low, and add the rice and the warm water.  Stir through. 
5. Cover the pot and cook for 10-15 minutes, checking on it now and then.  If the rice begins to stick to the pot, add a little more warm water.
6. Add the chopped dates and 1/4 cup feta cheese, and stir through.  Replace the lid and cook for an addition 3-5 minutes.
7. Serve each portion with 1 Tbsp of feta cheese on top.

Other ways to serve include:
-- in a pita pocket
-- with a little plain yogurt on top
-- with toasted chopped walnuts on top
Also, try replacing the zucchini with peas and carrots, or broccoli

9 comments:

  1. I love the interesting addition of the dates! I printed this out to try. It sounds amazing.

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  2. I love it, saving this one for sure - thanks for sharing.

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  3. Oh no! Not the zucchini!!!

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  4. It looks really healthy and yummy! I think these ingredients are perfect together :)

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  5. How spicy is this? 1/4 tsp pepper flakes doesn't seem like much, but perhaps my flakes are old and stale! (And for the record, the spicier the better for my husband and we're working on more no-meat recipes as my stepdaughter has thrown in the meat-eating towel, it seems!)

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  6. I love all the seasonings in this dish - however, I shall leave nut the onions! :D

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  7. Jen -- it's not very spicy at all, just a slight hint of heat. (The leftovers, not surprisingly, are a little spicier.) You could add more red pepper flakes to taste, but I'm also curious to try just drizzling a little hot sauce over the top after serving it.

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  8. So sorry about your zucchini fiasco! But the bright side of it is that you came up with this fantastic dish! I love putting sweet things like raisins and dates into rice recently...it's just perfect!

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  9. Thanks for the link to this recipe! Not sure my hubs will like it, but it would be perfect for one of my lunches - thanks!

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