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Epicure: April 12, 2011

Original post made by Jacqui Love Marshall, San Ramon, on Apr 13, 2011

This is difficult to admit in writing -- my oldest child turned 40 a few days ago. He said he was in a funk about it. I told him I was the one who should be in a funk – having your first born child turn 40 makes ==I me== feel older than anything he's probably feeling.

We reminisced about the "good ole' days" of his childhood, including the fact that he lived most of his childhood as a vegetarian. As vegetarians, it wasn't easy for our kids to curry favor with their friends. They didn't have the coolest snacks at home and they brought strange bag lunches to school, the kind that don't trade well with others. This conversation included the infamous chickpea meatloaf that I used to make regularly. It is the dish that unequivocally represents our vegetarian years and, to this day, the mention of it evokes chuckles from my kids and my strictly-meat-and-potatoes family members. For my husband and I, the dish was a wonderful alternative to meat, especially when dosed with a little hot sauce to give an extra kick. It could be easily combined with other foods for complete ==I "protein complimentation,"== AKA nirvana for vegetarians. But, to our kids, it was a bland slice of a casserole that bore no resemblance to regular meatloaf; it resembled all your least favorite vegetables smushed into one large space on your plate. Bottom line: No respectable kid would trade it for a bologna or even a PBJ sandwich.

All that food talk got me to thinking though: how would chickpea meatloaf translate in today's epicurean world? I had to give it a try.

I called a vegan friend and mentioned "vegetarian meatloaf." Stephanie quickly responded "chickpea." I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the dish had survived the last three decades. She offered a recipe but before I started making it, I surfed the internet to review a few variations. Like a disc jockey, I enjoying blending several recipes to create my own mix.

So, what was the final result of my chickpea adventure? It's as good as I remembered…and, for anyone, a delightful (and cost effective) alternative to meat. I will definitely make it again soon.

Still, I'm thinking: The true taste test would be for my 40-year old son to 1. Take a chickpea meatloaf sandwich to work and 2. Not trade it for something else. Then, I'd know for sure that the dish could last another 30 years.

Here's my updated version. It's tasty as a hot entrée with sides (i.e. wasabi mashed potatoes and corn) or as a cold pate with crackers. It even makes a pretty good sandwich.

==B Chickpea Meatloaf==
2 small carrots
½ small white onion, chopped
1 rib celery, minced
½ cup oats, toasted
1 Tbsp thyme
1 Tbsp rosemary
1 Tbsp parsley
¾ cup walnuts, toasted
3 cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp each chili powder, paprika, cumin
¼ cup sundried tomatoes
2 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 eggs
½ cup goat cheese
1½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 heads roasted garlic
½ cup flour
Ketchup for glaze, optional
½ cup vegetable stock (only as needed to make the batter moist)
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor; blend until smooth. Add chicken stock, if needed, to achieve a moist but not mushy mixture.
3. Transfer mixture into 1 large loaf pan and glaze the top with ketchup, as desired.
4. Bake loaf covered for 45-60 minutes at 400F, until cake tester comes out clean.
Note: You can also split mixture between 2 loaf pans and freeze one loaf for later.

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