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Chickpea kufteh

June 25, 2008

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Serves 6

Although traditional kufteh are meatballs, chef Kyle Mendenhall of the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse developed this chickpea version to appeal to vegetarian customers. His kufteh are served with tomato sauce and a garnish of sauteed spinach and toasted pine nuts.

TOMATO SAUCE

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes (enough to make 6 cups), crushed
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a large flameproof casserole, heat the olive oil. Cook the onion and garlic over medium heat, stirring often, for 8 minutes.

2. Add the cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and honey. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes more.

3. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Simmer the sauce for 25 to 30 minutes or until it has thickened slightly.

4. In a blender or food processor, puree the sauce and return it to the pan.

MEATBALLS

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
4 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
Canola oil (for frying)
1. In a large flameproof casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Cook the onion and garlic over medium heat, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until they soften.

2. In a food processor, combine 1 cup of the chickpeas with the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Puree until smooth. Add the remaining chickpeas, parsley, mint, cumin, honey, eggs, onion mixture, salt, and pepper. Pulse 5 or 6 times. The mixture should not be completely pureed.

3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the bread crumbs. Form the mixture into 20 balls.

4. In a large flameproof casserole, heat enough canola oil to make a deep layer. When the oil reaches 350 degrees on a deep-fat thermometer, add about 8 meatballs. Cook about 2 minutes or until the outside is firm. Transfer the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels.

5. When all the meatballs are fried and drained, transfer them to the tomato sauce. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.

Note: You can make the sauce and meatballs in advance and refrigerate them separately. Reheat them together until the meatballs are cooked through.

Adapted from the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse