Vegan Crab Cakes
In my earlier post about Spring vegetables, I had mentioned how I needed take advantage of using artichokes more this season. While I'm still intentionally shying away from preparing fresh artichokes like I should be doing, I would like to share a recipe where I am at least using the best part of the artichoke-the heart. Baby steps.
Paired with one of my absolute favorite underrated vegetables, hearts of palm, this duo makes one stellar vegan crab cake. At some point, I'll play around with this recipe and introduce some nori to impart a more "crab cake" like flavor, but for now, these ingredients make for a crisp, light, and very, very healthy dish.
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 jar, marinated artichoke hearts
1 jar, hearts of palm
1/2 cup jicama, finely diced
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 flax "egg"
1 cup whole wheat panko
1/2 cup vegan parmesan
Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute (to taste)
1 tbsp Sambal Oelek (or sriracha)
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
There are many versions of preparing crab cakes. My particular preference is a chunky, light cake, where you can really see, feel and taste all of the ingredients individually in one bite; in other words, not blended or fried to unrecognizable results. These cakes are baked, which is a welcome invitation to indulge in several in one sitting.
The binder will consist of two ingredients: pureed chickpeas and a flax egg. A flax egg is nothing more than a 3:1 ratio of water to flax seed. I toss this mixture in the ninja for a few seconds to break apart the seeds a bit and then just let it sit in a mason jar while I'm preparing the crab cakes. In about 30 minutes, this will turn into a thick and gelatinous paste, which works wonders as an egg replacement. Chia seeds do the trick just as well, but for this dish, I thought the flax seed would pair better with the other flavors. The drained chickpeas can also take a whirl around the Ninja or food processor for a few seconds until fully blended (a few chunks are totally fine, even preferred). Set both of your binders aside while you prepare the rest.
The artichoke hearts and hearts of palm will be drained from their jar brine and loosely chopped (to resemble crab meat). This will yield 2 cups total. Dice the celery, onion and jicama to fine and equal proportions. They are a supporting cast, so we don't want the dice to be too big and have them compete with the stars of the show. The entire cast will be tossed in a medium sized bowl and introduced to the chickpea puree. Once incorporated, I add in the spices: mustard, garlic, paprika, celery seed, parsley, lemon, salt, pepper. I also take a tablespoon or two of my flax egg and incorporate as well, being mindful not to make the mixture too loose. Time to taste. At this point, you can play around with the seasonings as you wish, adding a little more of this and that here or there, but overall the mixture will look like this:
Mix the panko, parmesan and seasoning in a flat dish for dredging. The mixture is wet enough to gladly welcome this coating on its own. The cakes are formed in "slightly larger than" golf ball sized spheres with your impeccably clean hands, dredged in the breadcrumb mixture, and placed on a Silpat, slightly flattening the balls with your hands. This batch will yield about 12-15 crab cakes. Small, but mighty:
In a 400 hundred degree oven, the crab cakes brown up beautifully in about 35-40 minutes, depending on your preferred shade of doneness and calibration of your oven. You are free to flip them over and bake each side evenly, but I didn't need to with the Silpat. It did it for me. After about 20 minutes, I check to see how everyone is doing, twist them a bit to make sure they're not sticking to the mat and leave them alone to bake for another 15 minutes. You will find that they bind very well and do not fall apart. Repeat the examination at the 35 minute mark and finish the job for another 5 minutes or so, or 40 minutes total.
The cakes are formed in small discs, so that they may serve as a main dish or as an appetizer. Here, I've placed them on a bed of lightly sauteed swiss chard from the garden, but they also look amazing displayed on a thin slice of lemon as an appetizer. In case you were wondering, my "Final Flourish" is intentionally fiery hot and spicy. I am absolutely crazy about that itsy-bitsy dollop of heat with the crab cake and the lemon, that just makes all of the flavors dance. If that's not your thing, you can absolutely cut the heat with vegenaise, dijon, or just go with a simple cocktail sauce for that added pop of flavor and color.