An interesting article popped up on my Quora feed recently, asking what dishes have the best effort-to-result ratio. It’s a great question; who isn’t always on the lookout for a really quick and easy, yet delicious, meal idea? The article offers some inspiring suggestions (and a few sketchy ones), and it also got me thinking about the dishes I go back to again and again when I need to make a great dinner, fast.
I think my favorite is a dish that requires an ingredient that is not typically found in American pantries, but it’s well worth your while to seek it out. You can find chickpea flour, which is also known as besan, gram or garbanzo bean flour, at most local Indian and Asian markets (they carry it at India Bazar, next to The Curry Pot on Lee Highway); you can buy it online; or you can make your own.
Chickpea flour is, as you might guess, made of finely milled chickpeas and is much more nutritious than regular old white flour. It is lower in carbs, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, while packing more protein than any other kind of flour. Chickpea flour is gluten-free and, when mixed with water, is sometimes used as an egg substitute in vegan cooking.
I originally hunted down chickpea flour years ago after I read about an Italian dish called farinata (I’ve since learned that the French version is socca). After reading about how people would line up at bakeries to get some while it was fresh from the oven, I had to try it. And it is indeed wonderful! Simple and easy to prepare, it is creamy in the middle, crispy at the edges and bursting with oily flavor. It is especially awesome as soon as it comes out of the oven, but later on, once it’s cooled, it’s just not as exciting. So I started making it only when I had a lot of people to feed to avoid having any leftovers (or I’d only make a single one, in a small cast-iron skillet, using a quarter of the recipe’s portions).