(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
2 tb + 1/2 c olive oil, divided
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tb harissa
1/2 c dry white wine
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 sprigs thyme
2 tb olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 large stalks celery, finely chopped
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
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!