Some say it's rude to ask a hostess in advance of a dinner what she's planning to serve, as if her answer would determine whether you'll show up. I don't mind being asked, because most of my guests want to know what's cooking in the same way they'd want to know the itinerary for a trip--they're anticipating an adventure.
All except J.L., who asks in order to make sure that garbanzo beans are not on the menu. J.L. hates garbanzo beans, and so far he's been wise to my efforts to disguise them in soups, spreads and sauces.
This recipe was recited to me by my Armenian aunt. It's a project for a Sunday afternoon. Just remember, start soaking the garbanzo beans a full day before.
GARBANZO BEAN DUMPLINGS
3 cups cold water
1 cup garbanzo beans
1 small potato, boiled in skin
1/3 cup boiling water
1/4 cup very fine bulgur wheat
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large white onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup currants
1/3 cup tahini or 100% pure peanut butter (with no added sugar, salt or oil)
Pour cold water over garbanzo beans and soak in refrigerator 24 hours. Drain. Process in food processor or pass through food grinder to make paste.
Peel potato and mash into garbanzo bean paste until well combined.
Pour 1/3 cup boiling water over bulgur and let soak 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in skillet and saute onion until translucent. Add allspice, cinnamon and cumin. Stir until well combined. Remove from heat. Stir in walnuts and currants. Drain bulgur and add to onion mixture. Add tahini and stir well.
Take 2 pieces unbleached sturdy cotton or calico cloth, 20 inches square, and blanch in boiling water. Wring out and place flat on work surface. Place half of garbanzo bean mixture on middle of cloth and spread evenly into 8 inch square. Drop half of filling in center.
To enclose filling, lift 2 diagonal corners of cloth toward each other until garbanzo bean paste joins at center. Do same with remaining diagonal corners. Smooth seams in dumpling so they seal well.
Tie corners of cloth together to enclose dumpling.
Bring large pot of water to boil and lower cloth-covered dumplings into water. Cover and boil 15 minutes or until dumplings rise to top and feel firm.
Lift out and place on tray to drain. Untie and let cool.
To serve, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with parsley and lemon. Slice and serve with green salad and pita bread, if desired. Makes 4 servings.