harissa chickpea hotdish (vegan!)

(you are a hotdish!)

It feels like we are living on a cloud or another planet right now. Outside the window it’s just all white, there’s no real dividing line between the snowy ground and the air and the white sky, it’s a total snow globe and it’s been like this since last week. Driving into town has been the trippiest thing because it’s as if we’re floating down the road or in a bright white roller coaster tube, a Buick LeSabre roller coaster, which I guess would be the knock off of the Back to the Future DeLorean ride, but instead of going to 1955 you go to the Super Target.

We’re basically in a snow cocoon. A+ for coziness, but I’m starting to run low on indoor activities to do: over the weekend we brunched with friends, went to the gym, went to the toasted frog for pizza, made a new friend at pizza who gave us UND basketball tickets (omg! So fun!), went to the Valentine’s Day candy section and inhaled the unique Valentine’s Day candy smell, and danced on the dance floor at Eggboy’s trombone gig. It was all very good times!!! But this morning I woke up stressed that it’s still been too cold to practice our skiing skills or test out the new ice skating path at the park and nervous about my vitamin d levels and now I’m just hitting refresh on the Nike website over and over until their podium set is for sale. I don’t think I’ll buy it I just want to admire everything in depth. I asked Eggboy if he’d like to take up a new indoor sport like racquetball but he has something going on with his leg that makes him sound like he is 97 years old, so it looks like I’m on my own for running around. Maybe I’ll finally take up swimming at the gym. Or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to buy a Mara Hoffman bathing suit. Maybe I’ll take up fondant. 

This slight restlessness came out last week at the grocery store when I went to replenish my tater tot supply to make this chickpea hotdish. I just got a little bored with tots and wanted to explore other potato nuggets, namely those smiley faces that I’ve seen around the internet. I didn’t find the smiley faces but I did find potato letters!!! So cute. I bought all of them. I wanted to write “chickpea hotdish” but there was no “k” so I thought about “chic-pea,” like a fancy chickpea, and then tried out writing “fart” over and over after Kristin suggested warning people that they will fart a lot if they eat this, but decided against it and went with something more valentine’s day appropriate.  

Wouldn’t you rather be called a hotdish than a q-t pie? Or at least rather eat a hotdish than a conversation heart?

You want to eat this hotdish!!!! It’s chickpeas, braised in a little wine and smoky harissa, that go swimming in a delicious, just-spicy-enough tomato sauce. And everything gets soaked up with potato nuggets. It is an awesome hearty filling comforting meal that oh just happens to be vegan. I first made this at camp last summer as the vegan option on hotdish night, the only difference was that I used some of eggmom’s tomato squash soup, thickened with a little potato starch, as the base instead of the tomato sauce (find that recipe in Molly on the Range). That was delicious too!! The tomato sauce version is way less time consuming and equally tasty but if you happen to be making a big batch of that tomato squash soup, I’d highly recommend using the leftovers for this. 

I love serving this with feta, which de-veganizes it, but it’s not necessary, or you can use your favorite vegan cheese. And grilled lemon adds a great hit of smoky brightness at the end (and it looks cool). Also, this dish requires ingredients that are all pretty easy to have on hand so if you don’t want to go out in this snow, look in your pantry because you probably have at least most of the ingredients already??

A harissa note: any harissa will do here but I've made this with Ray Restaurant's Harissa and NY Shuk's Fiery Harissa Spice, both are on the spicier end of the Harissa spectrum and I'd def recommend both!

A potato nugget note: the letters are really good but they don't get as crispy as tater tots! And if you're gluten free, check the label because the ones I bought contained wheat flour but the nutritional facts on the website didn't list it as an ingredient. "Adventures in potato nugget googling" was the title of my afternoon.


harissa chickpea hotdish

serves 4-6

ingredients

Chickpeas:

2 tb + 1/2 c olive oil, divided
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tb harissa
1/2 c dry white wine
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 sprigs thyme
Black pepper

Sauce:

2 tb olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 large stalks celery, finely chopped
Kosher salt
Black pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 tb harissa
1 tb tomato paste
2 tsp aleppo pepper or paprika
1 (28 oz) can or carton chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
 

About 1 1/2 lbs tater tots or potato nuggets
1 lemon, to serve
Fresh cilantro and parsley, finely chopped, for serving
Optional serving accoutrements: crumbled feta or other cheese/vegan cheese of your choice

clues

Preheat the oven to 425ºf. 

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and harissa and cook for 1-2 more minutes, until fragrant. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the chickpeas, 1/2 cup olive oil, thyme, a bunch of turns of black pepper, and a few good pinches of salt and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are soft.

Meanwhile, make your sauce. In a separate pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, a pinch of salt, and a few turns of pepper and cook, stirring until soft, about 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic, harissa, tomato paste, and aleppo or paprika and cook for another minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar and cook, covered, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chickpeas to the tomato sauce, draining the chickpeas of excess olive oil (and discarding the thyme twigs when you come across them). Transfer the mixture to an 8x12 casserole dish and cover with tater tots. Season with salt, pepper, and more aleppo and bake until the tots are golden, 30-40 minutes. 

At some point while it’s baking, grill your lemon: heat a skillet over medium high, cut the lemon in half and then place it face down on the skillet until it gets nice brown marks. 

When the hotdish is done baking, let it cool slightly, top with fresh herbs, squeeze with lemon, and serve with feta or other cheese/vegan cheese as desired. Enjoy!


-yeh!

 

classic tater tot hotdish

These last couple of post-harvest, post-travel weeks have been but a dream, filled with hockey games and cat belly rubs and house concerts and Sunday meatballs. Eggboy has been power washing all of the tractors and combines so that they can get tucked in for their winter slumber and I’ve been finishing up my yogurt book and studying Hebrew! So far I think I know about half of the alphabet, or at least enough to know that it’s going to be a very long time before I can read the Instagram captions of my Israeli food blog friends. Because the vowels! Where did all of the vowels go??? From my limited understanding, modern written Hebrew doesn’t have vowels, so, like, “pizza” would be “pzz.” I appreciate the minimalist nature of this but I am also anxious to be able to read Al Hashulchan and this one Janna Gur book that I have that’s only in Hebrew, and I see a long road ahead of me. Regardless, I’m having a bunch of fun learning it and the classes are giving me more ways to get rid of the 12,000 scones and things that I’m having to test for yogurt book.

Now that yogurt book deadline is very near, I’ve begun thinking about all of the projects that I’d like to do after it’s turned in. Like make potstickers and kubbeh and maybe start a soup and bread club, and maybe do Facebook lives??? Do we like those? Do you watch those? Oh and (!) did I tell you this, we are in the beginning stages of planning to build a house or remodel our current one. We don’t know what the heck we’re doing so if you have links to posts that are basically like house building for idiots plz send. 

It occurred to me recently that I’ve never posted a classic hotdish. I just went straight to Chinese hotdishes and miniature hotdishes, but there’s a reason that the classic is a classic and that’s because it’s delicious and comforting, and for the lucky people who grew up with it here in the upper Midwest, as nostalgic as can be. 

To review, a hotdish is: a meat, a vegetable, creamed soup, and a starch. Hotdishes make up a subset of casseroles that are a very hearty meal in a pan. They're like creamy meat pies that are everything you could ever want when it's cold, and they're also great make-ahead meals. The battle for most classic hotdish usually comes down to wild rice versus tater tot, and because I have a kick butt recipe for wild rice hotdish that I’ll be posting a little bit later, in time for you to make it with all of your Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, we’re starting here with tater tot. 

The flavors are not fancy, they are meat, potatoes, and very basic soup seasoning. But they are cozy and lovable, like your oldest fleece pullovers. This is what you need for your winter hibernation. The fanciest we’re getting here is in making our own homemade creamed soup, because mum would text me some very sassy bitmojis if ever she caught wind of me buying canned creamed soup. But it’s easy, just make a roux! The hardest part is arranging the tater tots in perfect rows and columns that would have made egggrandma proud. Wait no the hardest part is waiting for it to cool so you don’t burn your mouth (but we have ketchup to help with that)!

It’s supposed to snow on Thursday, so I suggest you pickup some tots. 


classic tater tot hotdish

serves 8

ingredients

1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter, divided

2 carrots, finely chopped 

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

1 large onion, divided and finely chopped

Kosher salt

3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour

3 c (715g) whole milk 

2 tb chicken, vegetable, or beef soup mix (i prefer the orrington farms brand, but something similar, like a bouillon cube or better than bouillon or a homemade bouillon will work)

Black pepper

2 1/4 pounds ground beef (I typically go for around 85% lean)

9 oz frozen peas or corn

1 1/2 pound tater tots

 

If you’re feeling wild: a few handfuls of shredded cheese, for topping

If you’re feeling fancy: fresh chopped parsley, for topping

If you’re feeling like you and I should be bffs: ketchup, for serving

clues

Preheat the oven to 400ºf. First, make the creamed soup: in a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add the carrots, celery, half of the onion, and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until soft, about 12-15 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Stir in half of the milk and cook, stirring, until thickened. Stir in the remaining milk and cook, stirring, until very thick. Add the soup mix, a bunch of turns of black pepper, and a teaspoon of salt. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Pour into a heat safe bowl and set aside. Wipe out your pot and set it back over medium high heat. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and add the remaining half of the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the peas or corn. Using a slotted spoon to drain the juices, transfer half of the beef mixture to a 4-quart casserole dish and spread it out evenly. Layer on half of the soup mixture, and then the other half of the beef, and the other half of the soup. Cover with perfect rows and columns of tater tots. Sprinkle with another pinch of salt and pepper, top with cheese, if desired, and bake until the tots are golden brown and crispy on top, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly, top with parsley if desired, and serve with ketchup.

To make ahead: complete the steps up through topping with tater tots (and cheese, if using). Let cool, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook. It'll last 2 days in the refrigerator and 3 months in the freezer. If reheating from the fridge, proceed as directed but add on a few more minutes in the oven to ensure that it’s heated through. To reheat from frozen, cover with foil and bake at 350º for an hour, and then uncover and then increase the heat to 400º and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until tots are golden brown and the innards are heated through. 


-yeh!

p.s. vegetarian friends!! i have the tastiest hotdish cooking up for you (it is also vegan). it's quite different from this one but if you're looking for a straight up vegetarian version of this classic tater tot hotdish, jenny has cooked up one idea and it's north dakotan husband approved!

pictured: casserole dish, ketchup dish