Monday, October 24, 2011

Crocktober: Mediterranean Chickpeas with Roasted Beets from the Crock Pot

I cooked two different things! At once! In the same crock pot! And since its the start of cold and flu season, one of those things is perfect for your daily dose (overdose?) of antioxidants and other healthy things. Enjoy it with crumbled feta and fresh parsley on top.
Beet juices will stain like no other, so don't make this dish when wearing.. I don't know.. a wedding dress?
Even I am getting a bit tired of stew, which is why I adapted a chickpea stew recipe involving balsamic onions and black olives to cook with as little liquid as possible, so it's more of a bean dish than a soupy one. The beets cooked on top of the chickpeas, just sliced in half and laid on top. This wasn't my original plan. I was going to do little Hersey's-kiss-type packets for the beets, but guess who forgot to get aluminum foil? I still think that the packet plan would work out great - a theory that I will test another day.

1 bunch beets (usually 4 bulbs), trimmed and thoroughly washed
1 cup dry chickpeas (or about 2 cups canned or prepared chickpeas)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
A couple tablespoons coarsely chopped black or kalamata olives
2 tsp dried oregano
Feta cheese and fresh parsley for serving
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Aluminum foil (optional)

[PREP: If you're using dry chickpeas, sort and rinse them thoroughly, then soak in plenty of water in the fridge overnight or for up to 24 hours, changing the water at least twice in this time. If you're using canned or prepared beans, just rinse and drain before adding them to the crock.]
1. Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add onions and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, cover and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add oregano and a couple tablespoons of water, and cover again until onions are deep golden brown (about another 15 minutes). Stir in balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and an additional couple tablespoons water. Cover the pan and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Stir in tomatoes and olives. 
3. Spray your crock insert and pour in chickpeas, adding the onion mixture on top.
4. Thoroughly wash your beets. (You can peel yours if you want to, but I didn't).

Option 1: Cut pieces of aluminum foil that are large enough to completely wrap up each beet without much excess, taking care to be sure that they (probably) won't let any liquid in. Plop the packets on top of the chickpeas. 
Option 2: Slice your beets in half vertically, and rest them cut-side-down on top of the onion mixture.

Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or until your chickpeas are tender and your beets are done. (Your beets are done when you can insert a knife into the top through the thickest part of the bulb with no resistance).
5. Remove beet packets or halved beets, and stir chickpeas in with onion mixture. Transfer chickpeas to a covered serving dish or individual bowls, (if you did packets, cut beets into wedges and) serve on top or alongside of the chickpeas. Garnish with feta and fresh parsley.

I am sure that my instructions about cooking with dry beans versus canned are probably tiresome for some readers, but every once in a while I get the mental image of somebody soaking canned beans (and ending up with hopeless mush) or trying to cook dry black beans (famous for their slow cooking) and ending up with tiny little rocks even after a full day of cooking. I hope that the dry-to-cooked measuring conversions are workable. Maybe I'm secretly trying to get you all to switch to dry beans. It's a conspiracy to save you money. Spoooky!

This will likely be my last post until next weekend, but I'll be back with a crock pot spiced apple cider recipe before Crocktober is out. This theme thing has been working for me. Hm, what rhymes with November...

Quote of the Day: Beets are the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious. ~ Tom Robbins

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