Simple! Sensible! Sensational!®

May 2003
© 2003 by Bret S. Beall

Spring is still in the air here in Chicago, so I wanted to present some recipes that are particularly good in the variable temperatures that typify this season. As is my trademark, each of these recipes is highly flexible and highly flavorful, not to mention nutritious and easy.


This time of year, I can find fresh chickpeas in my neighborhood Indian and Pakistani markets. Fresh chickpeas are wonderful in any of the bean recipes presented in March and April, or try this spicy version. Admittedly, this recipe calls for more ingredients than most I offer, but in this case, the goal is the complexity and depth of flavor that typifies South Indian cuisine. Adapted from multiple sources, but I must credit my friend Beverly for introducing me to the spicy potatoes from Yamuna Devi’s “The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking” that I adapted to this basic preparation.

Add the fat to a large skillet over medium heat (if using butter, allow it to melt before proceeding). Add onion and saute until slightly caramelized. Add ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom (if using), chile (if using) and salt, and stir until thoroughly mixed with the onion, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and greens (if using), stir, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chickpeas, lemon/lime juice and water (and cilantro, and yogurt or cream, if using), and stir until chickpeas are well coated with the mixture. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the mixture has thickened. Serve as a side dish, or as a main course over cooked rice (or try sprinkling some of these flavorful tidbits over a green salad, or putting a spoonful or two inside an omelet or atop scrambled eggs, or toss with pasta [about ½ c of chickpeas per ¼ lb cooked pasta], or top bruschetta with a generous spoonful). Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days, or frozen for later use.


Spicy Indian Chickpea Stew: Follow the recipe for Spicy Indian Chickpeas, but increase the amount of water to 2 c, or substitute with stock (chicken, vegetable, or whatever you have on hand). The greens are especially good in this stew, and add a wonderful heartiness. Serve hot with pappadams, naan or crusty bread.

Spicy Indian Potatoes: This recipe is identical to Spicy Indian Chickpeas, except the chickpeas are replaced with 3 c of cubed potatoes (about 1”). Add the raw potatoes to the sauce at the same time as the citrus juice and water (and yogurt or cream, if using), and simmer, covered, for about 20 or 25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender; occasional stirring will cause the potatoes to lose some of their corners, and absorb much of the delicious sauce. Serve hot, warm or cold. These potatoes are delicious as leftovers, as well.

Spicy Chickpea or Potato Cakes: Leftover Spicy Indian Chickpeas or Spicy Indian Potatoes can be used to make delicious baked patties. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use 1 to 2 c of leftover chickpeas (mashed first!) or potatoes (also mashed!); add and incorporate1 blended egg per c of chickpeas/potatoes (if using 2 c of the spicy mixture, also add 1 T of water). Use up to 1 T oil (canola, vegetable, olive) to grease a baking sheet or large skillet. Add the mixture to the baking sheet or skillet in large spoonfuls. 1 c of mash will yield about 6 cakes. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a light crust forms on top. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature; I particularly like these alongside a simple salad, or as an accompaniment to some type of stew, or as an interesting breakfast or brunch addition to more traditional fare.


Everyone knows artichokes, but not everyone knows what to do with them. I developed this sauce after visiting the Central Coast of California and picking up baby artichokes for 10 cents each at the fabulous San Luis Obispo Farmers Market. Using the theoretical principles of Simple! Sensible! Sensational!® to guide me, along with a general notion of Mediterranean flavors (the original home of artichokes), I came up with this sauce. Later, I was able to find baby artichokes for the same price on sale at my local supermarket. Shop wisely and seasonally, and you can make this sauce for pennies. If you can't get fresh baby artichokes, you can use mature fresh artichoke hearts (trimmed of leaves and the choke, sliced thinly, but not cooked), or canned or frozen artichoke hearts (not marinated, please, unless you are willing to adjust the other proportions yourself!). Alternatively, you could even substitute asparagus cut into 1” pieces or fiddlehead ferns or whole fresh fava beans (shelled) for the artichokes; all of these are springtime delicacies!

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the sliced artichokes and the lemon juice. Saute, stirring often, until the artichokes have softened and caramelized slightly. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and then reduce heat until the mixture is simmering only slightly. Continue cooking until the artichokes are soft and the water has reduced, about 30 minutes, allowing all of the flavors to merge while creating a syrupy sauce around the larger pieces. Serve or use immediately.

Artichoke Sauce for Pasta/Rice/Potatoes: The sauce above is enough for 2 to 3 portions of cooked pasta (1/4 lb pasta prior to boiling), or cooked rice (1 c cooked rice per portion) or boiled/steamed potatoes (about ½ lb of potatoes per serving, prior to cooking). Optionally, you can add some grated hard cheese, such as pecorino, asiago or parmesan.

Artichoke Sauce for Bruschetta: You can “cheat” by just putting the Artichoke Sauce on slices of plain crusty bread, or you can toast the bread in a toaster or a toaster oven, or under the broiler, or in a dry cast iron skillet over high heat, or on your favorite grill. Optionally, you can add some grated hard cheese, such as pecorino, asiago or parmesan.

Artichoke Sauce for Pan-Seared or Poached Fish: Cook the fish separately while preparing the artichoke sauce. When fish is done to desirability, spoon the artichoke sauce over the top. There is enough sauce for 4 portions when used in this manner.

Artichoke Sauce for Pan Fried Chicken, or for Pan Fried Lamb Chops or Pork Chops: Use the olive oil specified in the artichoke sauce recipe to brown the chicken, lamb or pork in a large skillet. After browning the meat, remove to a plate. In the same skillet, prepare the artichoke sauce, scraping the bottom of the pan after adding the artichokes and lemon juice to remove any of the brown bits. When the rest of the ingredients are added to the sauce, add the meat back into the skillet, and simmer with the sauce to complete the cooking. After about 30 minutes, serve.

Artichoke Quiche: Prepare the Artichoke Sauce as indicated, but allow to cool to room temperature when complete. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together 3 to 4 large eggs, and add ½ c milk/cream. Prepare and bake a 9” pie crust of your choice (pastry, white rice, wild rice). Place ¼ c grated cheese in the bottom of the pie crust (for this quiche, I like a strong flavored cheese, like feta, chevre, gorgonzola, pecorino, asiago or parmesan). Add the egg-milk mixture to the room temperature artichoke sauce and mix thoroughly. Pour into the pie crust over the cheese. Top with another ¼ c of the strong-flavored cheese, bake for 30 minutes, and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. I like it served with a salad (young arugula is terrific this time of year, as are mesclun mixes) with a simple vinaigrette; it’s so delicious you could cry.

Now that I’ve made myself hungry, I’m going to start creating some recipes for next month. I’ll look forward to visiting with you then!