Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mock Tuna (Chickpea) Salad

In the veganverse, a recipe for mock tuna salad may seem just a touch like reinventing the wheel. You know, everybody has their own recipe and is convinced that it's the best, but we're mostly dealing with slightly modified configurations of the same basic ingredients. Nevertheless, for those of you who haven't yet waded into the fecund waters of mock tuna, I offer my own variation on the theme. C and I like to eat this in the summer when neither of us feels particularly inclined to cook. I make up a huge batch, and we eat it for days. My sister recently asked me if I gave some away to friends when we had had all we could eat. I assured her that she dramatically underestimated the dent that C and I can put in a veritable shit-ton (technical term, excuse the jargon) of chickpea salad. We like to eat it tucked into tortillas with mounds of fresh, crunchy salad. I wasn't feeling super creative yesterday, so all this consisted of was green lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. When I'm more on my game, the salad might also involve things like sliced radishes, bell peppers, capers, and the like. On a similar subject, I think C and I are probably single-handedly supporting the folks over at the Ezekial bakery. Ever since we discovered the flourless sprouted grain tortillas, we've been eating them several times a week. If you decide to bite our style and pick up some of these to go with your mock tuna salad, I strongly recommend tearing them into fourths and making sort of mini-tacos out of them. The flourless thing is super healthy and very tasty, but it doesn't lend much in the bending department.

Also, these directions use dried chickpeas. Personally, I only use canned beans in conditions of duress or extreme laziness or poor planning. For what you get, they're kind of expensive, frequently packed in some kind of preservative, and have the added annoyance of the packaging. Dried beans, on the other hand, are probably the best available bang for your vegan protein buck. Buy them bulk for that extra special feeling of environmentally-savvy self-righteousness and save even more money while you're at it. As an added bonus, cooked beans freeze beautifully, so I like to prepare them in huge batches and freeze whatever I'm not using right away. The next time I want beans, I just grab a container from the freezer and dump them into my soup or thaw them in the fridge for my next mega-batch of mock tuna salad. With all that said, of course you can use canned beans. Scale the recipe down accordingly.

One final note, it may be sort of misnomer to call this a recipe when it's really more of a method. Experiment with other ingredients if you're feeling crazy (cayenne, anyone?) or just adjust the proportions to your own taste.

Mock Tuna Salad--To feed an army (or C and I)

3 lbs dried organic chickpeas
5 stalks celery
2 large pickles
pickle juice (right from the jar, folks)
3-4 T prepared mustard
1/2 - 1 c vegenaise (depending on your fatty quotient)
1 T kelp powder
1/4 c nutritional yeast
4 T Braggs amino acids

The night before, put the dried chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water. You want at least three inches of water over the top of the peas because they swell a LOT. In fact, funny story: The night I was soaking these particular beans, C just happened to be up late and heard a bizarre popping sound. He eventually discovered that the source of the sound was the chickpeas cracking as they absorbed the water. Weird, right? Anyway, the next day, whenever you get around to it or at least two and a half hours before you want to eat, drain the chickpeas and transfer them to a large stockpot. Do NOT use the soaking water for boiling. Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Skim the foam off the surface of the water, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the chickpeas are tender, probably 30-45 minutes. Remove from heat and drain. Allow to cool, then scoop half the beans into containers and freeze for next time. Pat yourself on the back for being so forward-thinking and frugal.

Dump the remaining beans into a large, sturdy bowl. Mash the beans with a large mallet or potato masher or whatever's handy. Whenever I mash beans, I miss our friend Keith from Buffalo who was seriously the best bean masher ever. He would patiently, stolidly, demolish the beans until not a single whole bean remained. I weep a little when I think about how awesome it was. Maybe you have a bean masher in your life. If you do, don't take him/her for granted. Treasure every moment like it's your last. It may very well be. When your beans are suitably demolished, mix in all the other ingredients and adjust the seasoning to taste. I would add the pickle juice last in whatever quantities you desire. Full disclosure? I use a lot. I like the moistness the juice lends to the salad, and I think it can stand in for a lot of the fat that I would otherwise rely on. Just go easy with the juice/vegenaise proportions until you find one pleasing to your pallet. And seriously, you can't screw this stuff up. 

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