I made Oil-Poached Chickpea Crostini with Grilled Radicchio. It’s got a complicated name I’ll admit, but that’s because I put quite a bit of thought into this appetizer. After all, the plan was to share this little bite at a virtual cocktail party with some friends in New York.
As with a pre-apocalypse cocktail party, it still takes a bit of thought to pull off a group hang via ZOOM, but the rewards are worth the effort.
My local LA-based friends and I have a standing 6‑pm-on-Friday chat scheduled. There’s always an “Oh wow, I didn’t know how much I needed that” message afterward from someone in the group. It’s nice to know we can still be there for our friends, but it’s also funny how the group dynamics aren’t that different than when we’d meet in person. There’s always that friend who likes to hear themself talk, and of course, the quiet one you try to draw into the conversation. Still, there are differences too. I’ve never put any thought into the lighting when I’m meeting friends at a bar. ZOOM cocktail parties are best when there’s a lot of nice gentle light.
There’s a reason I put a lot of thought into this appetizer. You see this New York virtual cocktail party was more than just an excuse to share a drink with good friends. There was a culinary challenge attached. Each party-goer had to present an appetizer and cocktail made from a single can of chickpeas. I used the slimy liquid in the can as a stand-in for egg whites and made a gin fizz. It sounds gross but that stuff in the can, known as aquafaba, is a well-documented vegan liquid protein. I swear you can make meringue cookies or pavlova out of the stuff.
Oil-Poached Chickpea Crostini with Grilled Radicchio
The appetizer presented more of a challenge.
I spent a week thinking about this cocktail party and particularly the appetizer I would serve with the remaining chickpeas in my can. I’m fond of open-faced sandwiches so I started there. Here’s what I came up with: I poached the chickpeas in olive oil with a ton of whole garlic cloves. Then I mashed them and served them crostini-style with grilled radicchio.
The oil-poached chickpeas served on this crostini are rich and luxurious. It only takes a dollop to compliment the slightly bitter bite of grilled radicchio. It seemed like a solid plan. But I felt something was missing and that was the zing! I fixed that little problem with an unexpected drizzle of sweet pomegranate molasses.
I finally had an appetizer and cocktail I could proudly present to my friends. A way to make us all feel a little less alone.
In these times of isolation, we need to try to stay as connected as possible. It takes a little bit of planning, but bringing a group dynamic back to your life is something that can provide an extra bit of joy when your days seem to stretch out with no end in sight. GREG
To prepare the chickpeas: Heat ½ cup olive oil in a small saucepan over very low heat. Don’t be tempted to get the oil hot quickly. Use a simmer plate if you have one. You’ll know it’s hot enough when tiny bubbles appear but the oil does not bubble aggressively. When this happens, add the garlic cloves (they may bubble slightly but it should not sizzle); cook over very low heat, stirring often, until soft and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in the rinsed chickpeas making sure to coat them well in the oil. Add two tablespoons water and a pinch or two crushed red pepper flakes. Bring the mixture back to a very low simmer and allow the chickpeas to gently poach (not fry) in the oil for another 15 or 20 minutes. They should be quite soft and become richer in color. Stir them often being careful not to let the pan dry out or stick; add a splash of water if necessary.
Transfer the chickpeas, garlic, and all the liquid to a bowl along with the salt and white pepper. Use an immersion blender or elbow grease and a fork to mash the mixture until fairly smooth. You may need a splash of olive oil or water to achieve the right “mashed potato” consistency. Set aside, it will firm up some as it cools.
To prepare the radicchio: In a medium bowl whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and sherry vinegar; season lightly with salt. Add the radicchio leaves and massage the marinade into the leaves. Set aside for at least 15 minutes and up to several hours.
Assemble the crostini: Preheat a large cast-iron skillet or grill pan over high heat. Place the radicchio leaves in the pan and cook for 1 minute or so, turning occasionally until caramelized in places but not crisp. Do not crowd the pan work in batches if necessary. Set the leaves aside on a plate as they finish cooking.
Lay the toasted baguette slices on a work surface. Rip each radicchio leaf in half and drape each half onto a slice of toast. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the mashed chickpea mixture onto each slice of toast leaving the edges of the radicchio visible. Make a little divot in the center to catch the dribbles and garnishes.
Carefully move the topped toasts to a serving plate and drizzle each toast with finishing quality extra-virgin olive oil and pomegranate molasses. Garnish with chives and black pepper then serve.
Chickpeas are the underrated vegetable. I can’t hate on the vegetable that becomes hummus.
We’ve been “meeting” friends over the internet too, it’s surprising how much better it makes us feel! A few times, I’ve had to leave the room while on a video call and when I return, for a split second I’m surprised that my friends aren’t in my living room! Absolutely love your idea about the hors d’œuvres presentation, sadly, my friends are not as much into cooking as JT and I are.
I’m intrigued about the oil-poached chick peas! I don’t have canned but I do have dried chick peas, definitely going to try this tasty treat.
Love everything about this! I still have not gotten up my nerve to try aquafaba… what on earth is keeping me from trying?
I want to nibble on those beauties! Great recipe, I will make sure I will serve this if I hosted a cocktail party
Sounds like you have great zoom parties. I agree about the difference in dynamics via screens. It’s interesting. I’m glad the food is not only not forgotten at these virtual gatherings, but prepared with such beauty! ~Valentina
I know about aquafaba, kinda, but I never even thought to use it in a gin fizz. I gotta try that — we use chickpeas at least once a week for something, and I’ve been dumping the liquid. Gotta save it! Anyway, virtual cocktail parties are a lot of fun, even if a bit weird to get used to. Love this appetizer — gotta make it for my next Zoom cocktail party!
Wow, unusual and fantastic. I hope you’ll be posting the drink recipe, too! By the way, I love the new look of your site. It’s so eye-popping.
Greg, what a lovely little cocktail bite! I could make a meal of those!
What a creative spin on your zoom cocktail parties. I would love to know what everyone else made out of a single can of chickpeas! I am pretty sure you were the winner! Great choice of drink and your crostini looks amazing.
Thank you for letting me live vicariously through your Friday night fun.
What a great idea! I can picture lots of wonderful creations.…. Loads of fun, too.