Skip to main content

See also:

Vegetable fritters are healthier than starchy potato pancakes

Have a dish of purple sweet potato fritters. Instead of the familiar potato pancakes or hash browns made from slinging grated white potatoes and chopped onions through hot oil in a pan, you might bake a fritter without heating up fats because it has more fiber and carotenoid nutrition.

Purple sweet potato or chick pea vegetable fritters are healthier than starchy potato pancakes.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Instead of frying in oil, you can bake on a cookie sheet sprinkled with seeds and/or nuts. For example, if you're baking, and don't use oil, sprinkle sesame seeds (and/or pumpkin seeds) on a cookie sheet. Or bake on parchment on your cookie sheet.

Try starting with purple sweet potatoes to make baked yam or purple sweet potato fritters with pomegranate juice sauce to bring sweetness to brunch time instead of what's more familiar in pancake-serving eateries such as the fried in fats variety of white potato pancakes and onions served with sugar-sweetened apple sauce.

If you go into an Eastern Mediterranean, Greek, Turkish, Sicilian, Central Asian, or Persian-food-style home you might find jelly-filled donuts called bourekas bubbling on a cookie sheet instead of white potato pancakes and apple sauce frying in fat on a grill or in a pan.

Why limit your sweets to jelly-filled donuts deep fried in oil when you can eat a healthy chick-pea patties baked without added fats with a side of purple sweet potato fritters also baked instead of fried? If you douse your food with extra virgin olive oil or sesame seed oil, at least don't heat the oil. Instead of oil on fritters or pancakes, try a ladle of pomegranate sauce. And bake the fritters instead of frying them.

Looking for more uses for pomegranate seeds? Try roasting them. See, Ideas for pomegranate seeds? - Home Cooking - Chowhound. Also check out, Roasted Squash and Pomegranate Seeds on Arugula.

To make the pomegranate sauce, you could roast the pomegranate seeds and serve them in pomegranate juice thickened with a teaspoon of pectin powder. Or better yet, use pomegranate concentrate. Elliot's Natural Foods in Sacramento sells bottles of pomegranate juice concentrate. Also tasty is cherry juice concentrate for making a sauce. Just thicken the sauce with a little pectin instead of the usual spoon of tapioca or corn starch. Pectin is better for you than eating corn starch all the time.

Now, moving farther south in the Eastern Mediterranean, how about some garbanzo-bean/chick-pea patties? The further north, central and east you go in Europe, the more you find hot cakes, pancakes, or fritters and hash browns made from white potatoes, fried in oil and served with apple sauce. The further south and south west you go, including the south side of the Eastern Mediterranean, you get more chick-pea patties served with pomengranate sauce. That's because more pomegranates grow in the Eastern Mediterranean and more chick peas/garbanzo beans are eaten compared to white potatoes and apples.

If you want a vegan entree, vary choices to work with chick pea (garbanzo) burgers that are all vegan. Instead of grilling meat on open flames and eating all those charred chemical AGEs that's irritating to stomach, how about some of these vegan recipes that don't use meat in exotic cooking for celebrations?

According to Dr. Ted Gansler, director of Medical Content for the American Cancer Society, eating excessive amounts of grilled meat or chicken can increase your risk of developing cancer

This is also true for pan-fried meats at high temperatures.See the article, "Grilling and Cancer." So for variety, try some of these vegan patties.

Here's what you do with vegan patties: Place them on sprouted whole-grain or flaxseed meal wraps, similar flat breads, or crackers or yeast-free breads. For those who can't eat grains, bake your own bread using bean or legume flours instead of grain flours. One example is chick pea flour, available at most health stores. In Sacramento, Elliot's Natural Foods on El Camino Avenue, Arden Arcade area of Sacramento, carries garbanzo bean flour.

For those who are ovo-lacto vegetarian, you can add eggs to your patties and serve topped with yogurt from goat milk or regular cow's milk. Vegans can substitute almond milk or soy yogurt instead of dairy as a topping to veggie burgers. Or you can add sliced tomatoes, spinach, or lettuce and onions to your bean burger. Here's how to make the patties from chick peas, also called garbanzo beans or fava beans.

Mashed chick pea vegan burgers

Instead of using pureed beans as a dip, for example in hummos made with chick peas and ground sesame seed paste (tahini) in Middle Eastern style, try patties or burgers made from mashed chick peas or fava beans, which is served not only in the Middle East, but throughout Central Asia, South Asia, and along the Silk Road to Western China. Don't serve any fava beans to anyone allergic to them as some people have very adverse reactions to fava beans. So use just chick peas/garbanzos if your cooking for guests or family members who can't tolerate fava beans. See, "Fava bean poisoning - RightDiagnosis.com."

Garbanzo/Chick Pea Patties instead of fava bean tameya

(Make sure no one is allergic to fava beans. And serve chick peas instead if you're not sure.)

2 cups cooked or canned (drained and rinsed) chickpeas/garbanzos

1 clove of peeled garlic

1 tablespoon of tahini paste or ground sesame seeds to a paste consistency in a blender or food processor. You can blend chick peas with a little water or a little olive oil, grape seed oil, or sesame seed oil to form a paste consistency or use raw tahini paste/sauce. Or make your own tahini paste by liquefying sesame seeds to a paste consistency in your blender with some water, lemon juice, and/or oil.

1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, celery seed, or any other spice you prefer

1/2 teaspoon red cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon of honey (optional)

1/2 teaspoon of turmeric

1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander

1 teaspoon of cumin

1/3 cup of chopped fresh dill or cilantro

2 cups of healthy oil for frying such as olive oil, macademia nut oil, grapeseed oil, rice bran oil, or sesame seed oil. Or if you're baking, don't use oil, but sprinkle sesame seeds (and/or pumpkin seeds) on a cookie sheet. Or bake on parchment on your cookie sheet.

1/2 cup of sesame seeds

2 tablespoons of ground, milled flax seed and 3 tablespoons of water

Garnish: chopped parsley, cilantro, basil, and mint or plain nonfat yogurt.

Flat, sprouted, whole-grain bread or crackers for eating with the patties. You can substitute cooked fava beans (tameya) for the chick peas.

Method:

Combine all ingredients except the garnishes in your blender or food processor. Pulse until you have a soft patty. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.

Or if you're baking, don't use oil, but sprinkle sesame seeds (and/or pumpkin seeds) on a cookie sheet. Or bake on parchment on your cookie sheet. For those who use a lot of oil, most of the recipes for this type of cooking usually suggest in a deep wok, skillet, or frying pan, heat up a cup or two of oil over medium heat. But you really don't have to use hot oil to cook food. You can bake or steam food or stir fry in diluted apple cider vinegar.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Spread the sesame seeds on a plate. Place a bowl of warm water next to your cooking area to wet your hands. Separate the dough into lumps the size of walnuts. Flatten each lump of dough in your palms into a patty the size of a burger.

Bake or fry the patties for three minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Add more oil when necessary, if using oil. Some people using oil may have to use 2 cups of oil for all the dough. For those using oil, each patty should be covered with oil. When light brown on each side, remove the patties and drain on paper towels. Or simply bake without oil and sprinkle sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds on a baking dish or parchment instead of oil if you're baking the food.

Arrange each of the patties on a serving dish. Garnish with parsley, basil, mint, and serve with warm soy yogurt or soy or grain or nut milk kefir.

Optional: add a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda leavening to this recipe. Serve with brown rice. The brown rice served as a side dish with this vegan feast would be Persian saffron rice with chelow (golden crust).

To make this saffron rice dish, cook 3 cups of washed, long-grain Basmati brown rice in 8 cups of water. Add 1 cup of unsweetened soy yogurt to the cooked rice. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of ground saffron threads in 2 tablespoons of hot water. Mix the saffron into the cooked rice.

If you want a crust on top of your rice, (the chelow) then whisk 3/4 cup of nonfat yogurt with 1/4 cup of oil, 1 tablespoon of saffron, 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds with a little water, and a few tablespoons of the cooked rice and spread this on the bottom of a pan. Then put the rice on top of it and bake the rice until the rice and yogurt mixture on the bottom of the pan forms a crust.

The chelow/rice crust mixture bakes golden and crusty on the bottom of the pan. Add a tablespoon of pureed tofu or soy yogurt to form a thicker golden crust. Add saffron and water mixture (dissolved saffron) to this crust mixture before baking. Also, you can garnish with black sesame seeds.

Whole Foods Market in Sacramento sells small amounts of black sesame seeds in their spices section (in little spice-sized jars/bottles). Black sesame seeds are used in Japan, but are more decorative with contrasting colors than the usual white sesame seeds used as garnish along the Silk Road.

Bake the rice until a golden crust forms on the bottom of the pan. Then turn the rice mixture upside down so that the golden crust is on top. Cut into squares. If you don't want a rice crust, substitute six layers of spinach or collards (stems removed) fitted into the bottom of the pan. But the rice crust is more aesthetic than the baked lettuce.

Variations include rice and cardamom (kermani polow with saffron and pistachios) in the Persian, Azeri, and Caucasus Mountains tradition. As condiments, you'd add a tablespoon of organic rose petals and a cup of fresh, chopped dill. Chopped almonds may be substituted for pistachio nuts. Some varieties of Sicilian, Levantine, Turkish, and Greek cooking also use pistachios and saffron.

For variety it's optional to also mix ice with 4 cardamom pods, crushed, and 1/4 teaspoon of saffron threads dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water to add to cooked rice. The rice can be cooked in vegetable stock. Use brown basmati long-grain rice because it has more nutrition than white rice.

Fresh fruit for dessert

Serve fresh fruit for dessert such as fresh in season or frozen dark cherries and blueberries, strawberries, or apples baked in pomegranate juice. This dish is served with carrot palov with cumin. That's grated carrots cooked with brown rice and spiced with cumin. Most Silk Road cultures eat white rice. But you can use brown rice because it's more nutritious.

To make Silk Road palov with cumin, use short grain rice. In a nonstick pot or wok, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add a handful of almonds and currents. Stir fry the almonds and currents in the wok and set aside after draining off any oil on paper towels. But save the oil in the wok, skillet, or frying pan.

Cooking with cumin

Add a pinch of cumin and cook for a few seconds, until you smell the perfumed aroma. Use a cover if the cumin seeds start to pop at at you. Add a handful of chopped onions and fry for 10 minutes or more until golden brown.

Add a cup of chopped or shredded carrots along with 1/2 seeded red bell pepper. You can also add a pinch of cayenne or chopped, seeded serrano chili.

Add two cups clean, washed, long-grain brown Basmati rice. Stir fry or steam for a few minutes. Then add a pinch of turmeric and some water to cover the rice. You can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water for the turmeric or use both.

Sprinkle with chopped cilantro

Add 2 cups chopped fresh cilantro just as the rice is about to finish cooking. About 3 cups of water may be needed to soften the rice enough for cooking until chewy. Simmer the rice for 30 minutes. To keep the cilantro fresh and crisp add it only as the rice is done. Add to the cooked rice a handful each of chopped almonds, currents, and any other chopped green vegetable you prefer such as parsley or spinach along with the cilantro.

Serve with fresh sliced or chopped tomatoes and sliced cucumbers. If desired, add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves, and 2 pinches of ground cardamon. This variation also is known as Chahar Masala. Enjoy a Silk Road celebration. The vegan-style feasts of the Silk Road are traditionally served with pomegranate punch.

Pomegranate Punch with Rose Petal Extract (Water)

To make Silk Road pomegranate punch, mix a quart of pomegranate juice with your favorite spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, and lemon-tasting tart sumac spice. For a slightly peppery zest, you can add a pinch of ginger.

Or serve a punch made of pomegranate juice and a teaspoon of chopped crystallized ginger topped with a pinch of almond meal. Also you can mix rose petal water with pomegranate juice, about 1/4 cup of rose petal extract to a quart of pomegranate juice.

The pomegranate juice also may be mixed half and half with dark red cherry juice topped with a sprig of mint. Or you can mix dark purple grape juice with pomegranate juice. Another version is to mix a quart of pomegranate juice with 1/4 cup of lime or lemon juice and float dehydrated nectarines on top.

If you're looking for Persian-style and Silk Road area recipes, try the book, Silk Road Cooking, A Vegetarian Journey, by Najmieh Batmanglij, 2004. (Mage Publishers, Washington, DC).This wonderfully illustrated cookbook is chock-full of vegetarian recipes in the Silk Road adventure style of cooking. Excellent for ovo-lacto vegetarians.

Chick Pea Celery Root Vegetable Fritters

Try the stir-fried celery roots or the chickpea vegetable fritters, and the Armenian bulgur and pomegranate stuffed with grapevine leaves in this book of recipes. You mix lentils with bulgur wheat, pitted prunes, spices, mint, parsley, and pomegranate paste with lime juice and chili flakes in the sauce. It's on page 84, under the "salads" chapter. It's great. When you're allowed to eat fermented items again, try the yogurt and cucumber cold soup with walnuts and rose petals on page 100 of Batmanglij's book.

Central and South Asian lands are known for some of the most exotic vegan cuisine. How about some Silk Road-style vegan recipes with fragrant citrus spices--that you can buy at local food stores in Sacramento? You can find the zatar and sumac spices in any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean-style grocery. In Sacramento, you'll find some of the ingredients such as spices at the Mediterranean Market, 1547 Fulton Avenue. Read the excellent reviews of this store.

Vegetable Fritters

Serves a dozen people.

Ingredients

2 large onions, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

2 red bell peppers

4 shredded carrots

8 Idaho potatoes

4 tablespoons of ground, milled flax seed and 3 tablespoons of water

1/2 cup of shelled pistachio nuts, ground

A pinch each of the following spices and herbs: black pepper, thyme, celery seed, oregano, sumac, garlic, onion, turmeric, curry, cumin, parsley, saffron, and zatar.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F and grease a 9x13 pan or two 8-inch pans with sesame seed oil or bake on parchment on a cookie sheet sprinkled with sesame seeds if you're not using oil.

  1. Saute in water, diluted vinegar, wine, or bake veggies (aside from potatoes) until the veggies are limp and slightly colored. Some people still prefer to saute in oil, and others like to steam or heat in vegetable broth.
  2. Grate potatoes.
  3. Add vegetables, pistachio nuts, ground, and ground flax seed with water to grated potatoes and mix well.
  4. Pour into prepared pan and bake 45-60 min or until light brown and crusty. Serve warm. Makes about 12 small servings.