Nervous. Excited. Anxious. All three of these adjectives describe how I’m feeling before my first day of organic farming. As of 8 a.m. tomorrow, I will begin as one of eight farmers on a medium-sized vegetable farm outside of Washington D.C. Coincidentally, tomorrow is also my birthday, and I can think of no better gift than one of a new job, especially one that will teach me all about food!
A few months ago, I mentioned I had an interest in farming, but at that point I hadn’t interviewed for this position. Now, here I sit back on the East Coast, in an on-site stone house feeling a bit like tomorrow is the first day of school. Common feelings once again arise, such as: ‘I hope I fit in’ and ‘What should I wear?’ Nerves aside, there’s something amusing about a girl that’s never grown a tomato that’s going to organically farm for a season!
Laughs aside, I’m incredibly excited for the next six months — I’ll be working here through the end of October — as touring the farm today with my new colleague left us wondering what various baby plants, shrubs and the like would one day grow up to be. Every nook and cranny had things I didn’t understand. Before today, I thought I knew a fair amount about vegetables. I now realize the enormous amount I have to learn about vegetables is truly humbling.
Onto the quiche.
I’m not a quiche girl. I’ve never been a quiche girl. Even in my days of eating eggs by the truckload did I ever take to quiche. Yet, for some reason, when I stumbled upon this recipe, “Besan” in Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking, I had to run to my kitchen to see what an eggless quiche is all about. Answer? Delicious. And so you know, this is good warm or cold, especially when your favorite hot sauce is added.
Jaffrey describes this as:
This dish resembles quiche only in as much as it is like a set custard that can be cut and served in sections. There the similarity ends. If you have a socca in Nice and can imagine something similar made out of chickpea flour but much thicker, then you have the Kutchi dish called besan.
Noodle arms beware: this baby calls for being stirred for 20 minutes straight, and after the first five minutes it thickens considerably, to the point where you may want to have someone…anyone…as back-up in case your arm(s) need a break.
Usha’s Mother’s Besan (A Savory Chickpea Flour Quiche)
Serves: 6-9 depending on what it’s served for (i.e., snack, side dish, main)
Source: Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking
2 1/2 C chickpea flour, sifted
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed to a pulp
1/2 t fresh ginger, finely grated
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t turmeric
1/2-1 t cayenne pepper
1 medium-sized onion
5 T oil
5-6 dried or fresh curry leaves
2 t salt
1 T lemon juice
1 T fresh parsley, minced
1-2 fresh hot green chilies, minced
1/4 C grated fresh coconut
- Put the sifted chickpea flour in a bowl. Slowly add 4 1/4 cups water, a few tablespoons at a time. Stir as you do so, breaking up all lumps with the back of a wooden spoon. (If the batter still has lumps in it, put through a strainer.)
- Combine the garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric and cayenne, according to your taste, in a small cup. Add 1/4 cup water and mix well. Set aside.
- Pell and cut the onion in half lengthwise, then slice into fine half rings.
- Heat the oil in a heavy, well-seasons (or non-stick) 2- to 2 1/2-quart pot over a medium flame. When hot, put in the curry leaves and then, a few seconds later, the sliced onions. Stir and fry the onions for 2-3 minutes. Do not let them brown. Add the spices in the small cup. Stir and fry them for about 1 minute. Now put in the chickpea flour mixture and bring it to a boil, stirring all the time. Turn the heat to medium-low/ Keep stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture seems to leave the sides of the pot. This should take about 20 minutes. Add the salt and lemon juice. Stir to mix. Taste the chickpea flour mixture. It should have a cooked taste. (In other words, it should not taste raw.)
- Empty the mixture into a 9 x 9 x 1 1/2-inch cake tin. Smooth over the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the parsley, green chilies — as much as you like — and coconut over the top and allow to cool. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares.