I know what it’s like to feel the time crunch of a quickly approaching meal or potluck, on a day where you have an almost bare fridge and no interest in completing a complicated recipe. For those days, turn to these croquettes for help. All of the ingredients are easily found in your pantry, and they manage to be both easier to make and more impressive to serve than an uninspiring pasta or fruit salad.
These croquettes come together in less time than it takes to boil water, yet nothing about them would reveal their speedy origins. They boast vibrant flavors and colors that are tied together with simple and elegant garnishes. For a reference point, I came home from summer school at 2:00, the croquettes were finished by 2:15, and by 2:30 they had all been eaten. (To be fair, I have a perpetually hungry brother for a taste tester, but I’m sure a similar scenario would happen anywhere.)
The always versatile chickpea forms the base of the croquette, while garlic adds freshness and fresh basil pesto gives a jolt of color to an otherwise beige palette.
The croquettes work well in a variety of settings and can be shaped into small appetizer sized cakes for parties, or larger portions for entrees.
What I love the most about them is that once they’re pan seared, they develop a crispy golden brown crust that yields to a delicate center. Having a textural contrast like a crust or crunchy garnish is what takes any dish from boring and mainstream to instantly restaurant worthy. This is why things like croutons, crostini, cheese wafers, chopped fresh vegetables, and toasted nuts are such popular ingredients—each one of them breaks up the monotony of an otherwise one dimensional dish.
The best part is, you don’t even have to use a food processor—which means no cleaning the food processor. All you need to make these are a plate, a fork, and a skillet.
Other than texture, there are a few other things that I look for when creating a recipe. I always make sure that the finished dish has all of the key flavors: hot, sour, salty, sweet. The heat comes from the pepper and the salt is in the pesto, but still missing are the sour and sweet components. A simple balsamic reduction takes care of this with its syrup-like consistency and mild acidity. In just 20 minutes over low heat, inexpensive supermarket balsamic vinegar reduces to a fraction of its original volume that can be drizzled over the croquettes.
For a finishing touch, the croquettes are topped with shaved parmesan cheese for a complex garnish that adds more savory undertones to the dish.
Try these croquettes when you’re low on time and ingredients and find out for yourself how delicious they are. I guarantee that once you taste these, they’ll become part of your regular recipe rotation.
Chickpea Croquettes with Balsamic Reduction
Serves 2 (easily doubled)
1-15 ounce can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons pesto (see this post for a pesto recipe)
¼ teaspoons freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ ounce of parmesan cheese, shaved into curls with a vegetable peeler
- On a large plate or shallow bowl, mash the chickpeas with a fork until no large pieces of beans remain.
- Add the garlic clove, pesto, salt, and pepper, and mash to combine.
- To shape the croquettes use either ¼ cup or 2 tablespoons of the mixture for large or small croquettes, respectively. The smaller croquettes make excellent appetizers, while the larger ones are better suited for a main course. Tightly pack the mixture into flat disks and set aside on a plate.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until just below smoking. Add the croquettes and cook 4-6 minutes per side until golden brown. Take care when flipping the croquettes to ensure that they stay intact. Remove the croquettes to a paper towel lined plate to cool briefly
- Meanwhile, slowly reduce the balsamic vinegar over low heat for 15-20 minutes, until syrupy. Make sure take the vinegar off the heat before it burns or reduces too much. You should have about 1 tablespoon of reduction.
- To serve, place 1 serving of croquettes on a plate and top with a few shavings of parmesan. Drizzle the balsamic reduction around the croquettes and serve immediately.