Summer Recipes For The Single Guy (Or Girl)

Canton’s Avi Shemtov, owner of the Chubby Chickpea food truck, has a cookbook devoted to quick and easy comfort food for a party of one.

By Jessica Bowne

One would expect the owner of a popular eatery called the Chubby Chickpea to be funny and easygoing, and chef Avi Shemtov doesn’t disappoint. The affable chef is a bit self-deprecating (he reads his Yelp reviews) and dishes out straightforward culinary advice that has helped him succeed in the kitchen (ask him for his quick ice cream recipe).

“I would say diving into the restaurant industry was heavily influenced by my dad being a chef and owning small food-related businesses throughout my childhood,” says Shemtov, who recently released The Single Guy Cookbook: How to Cook Comfort Food Favorites Faster, Easier and Cheaper Than Going Out (Page Street Publishing Co.). He had just purchased a condo in Canton with his wife in 2010 when his retired father, Yona, leased a space nearby for a new restaurant concept. When his dad experienced health setbacks, Shemtov, who was then working as a real estate agent on the South Shore, “jumped in with both feet,” he says, to fill the space and the Chubby Chickpea food truck was born.

Shemtov’s Israeli-American background has always been a big influence in his life, especially when it comes to the Middle Eastern food he loves. “I knew that if I was to open a restaurant, it would serve Israeli food,” he says. “Six years ago people called this type of quick-serve Mediterranean food innovative and crazy, and now this is the norm.”

Shemtov now has a larger facility in Canton where he holds cooking classes and does food prep for catering. The Chubby Chickpea food truck is still a large part of the business, serving meals six days a week around Boston, including at Rowes Wharf, SoWa Market and its marquee spot on Stuart Street near Copley Square. Shemtov hopes to soon operate the truck in the evenings and on some weekend days at Trillium Brewing’s new Canton facility.

For two years, Chubby Chickpea had the largest food truck menu in Boston. This season, Shemtov is offering a more curated menu as everything except the pita is made from scratch. Diners can choose among falafel, chicken schnitzel, chicken shawarma and fried eggplant, and can have it served either in a wrap, in a yellow jasmine rice bowl or on laffa bread. The lunch plate comes with hummus, Israeli salad and pickles, tahini sauce, imported Israeli pita and a choice of garden salad, chickpea salad or rice. A new addition to the menu is chickpea fries, which Shemtov spent the winter perfecting.

So, what was the motivation behind The Single Guy Cookbook?  “The inspiration was the journey I was on to teach my friends how to cook,” says Shemtov, who is married with two children. The cookbook contains helpful advice on cooking for one, choosing healthy options and repurposing leftovers into new meals. “My friends felt like they would be more of an all-around catch if they were better in the kitchen,” says Shemtov. If that means whipping up tasty chicken skewers or homemade falafel then we can’t object.

In the spirit of culinary brotherhood, Shemtov shared a few of his recipes with us, courtesy of The Single Guy Cookbook.

Makes 12 – 15 falafel balls

These crispy Middle Eastern chickpea balls are light, somewhat healthful and definitely a great game-day snack. They take a little bit of work, but they’re worth it. The mix can be kept in the freezer for a quick-and-easy sandwich or snack. Serve with the tahini sauce and hummus.

1 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
2 tbsp water
Pinch of salt
Pinch of granulated garlic
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 cup dried chickpeas
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of ground coriander
1 tsp salt
Pinch of black pepper
2 cups canola oil
Hummus for serving, homemade (see recipe)
or store-bought

Combine the ingredients in a blender and blend until
smooth. That’s tahini sauce! Pour into a bowl and set
aside while you make the falafel.

Wash off the chickpeas to get rid of any dirt and put them in a medium-size bowl. Cover the chickpeas with at least 1 inch of the hottest water your sink will run (somewhere around 110°F). Let the chickpeas sit for 1 hour or so. They should double in size.

If you have a meat grinder, this is the time to use it. If you don’t, grab a food processor or blender. Feed the chickpeas and parsley through the meat grinder together and into a bowl. If you’re using a food processor or blender, make sure to pulse the chickpeas, turning the machine on and off every few seconds to get a ground-up batter. Transfer to a bowl and add the garlic, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or saucepan over medium heat until a pinch of falafel batter sizzles as soon as it’s dropped in. Shape the falafel balls with your hands, dipping your fingers in water to keep the batter from sticking to them. Pack them well, but don’t squeeze them too tight, or they’ll be dense. Put them in the oil and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, depending on how large you made them. If they aren’t fully covered in oil, flip them after 1 minute. Serve them with hummus and tahini sauce.

Makes 2 servings

Hummus has quickly become America’s favorite game-time dip. It’s creamy and smooth and has a really great garlicky flavor. Stir in some hot sauce or Cajun seasoning to kick it up.

1 tbsp water
2 cups canned
chickpeas, rinsed
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp tahini paste
1 tsp granulated garlic
Pinch of salt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch of paprika
Crackers or bread for
serving (optional)

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the chickpeas and boil for 20 minutes. Once the chickpeas easily mush in your hand, they’re ready for hummus. In a food processor or blender on high speed, mix the chickpeas (still hot), the ¼ cup oil, tahini, garlic, salt and lemon juice. Add a few drops of water at a time to help it all blend. Process or blend until creamy and smooth, which may take as long as 4 minutes. Put the hummus on a plate and sprinkle with paprika. Enjoy with your favorite crackers or bread.

Makes 2 skewers

This recipe uses pineapple and just a little honey to bring out the sweetness. It’s a fresh take on fried wings, which goes great with rice.

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup water
1 (8-oz) boneless chicken breast half
1 red bell pepper
½ white onion
1 tsp salt
8 chunks canned pineapple

Preheat the oven to 400°F. If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water
for at least 30 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and add the honey. Stir in the red pepper flakes and add the water. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often so the mix doesn’t burn as it cooks down to syrup.

Cut the chicken breast into 8 equal chunks. Cut the sides off the red pepper and cut them into 8 pieces also. Cut the onion into 8 chunks, each with 3 to 4 layers of onion. When your sauce is ready, salt the chicken and put it in the sauce, along with the peppers. Make sure they’re completely coated, and then pull them out. Thread a skewer with 1 piece each of the chicken, pepper, pineapple and onion, in any order you like. Repeat 3 more times, so the skewer has 4 pieces of each ingredient. Do the same thing with the second skewer.

Put the skewers on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, and put them in the oven. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes, turning them halfway through.

Makes 2 servings (2 fish tacos)

These are the best fish tacos you will ever have! The fish batter is a little sweet and not too heavy, and the fish comes out juicy and perfectly cooked. But the star of the show is the spicy and sweet coleslaw, which has a much better crunch than lettuce! The toppings are optional, but try it once this way and you’ll never go back.

½ ripe mango
1⁄8 habanero pepper
1 cup coleslaw mix (veggies only)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar
¼ cup mayo

½ dill pickle
¼ cup mayo

5 oz fresh haddock
2 cups canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup beer (your choice)

2 (6-inch) flour tortillas
1 ripe avocado
1 vine-ripe tomato
2 tbsp sour cream

Try to locate the pit in the mango. Cut the flesh off in chunks with the skin on, avoiding the pit. Once you have the mango in pieces, use a spoon to separate the flesh from the skin. Or, save yourself a lot of trouble and buy already peeled and cut mango at the grocery store. Chop the mango flesh into small pieces. Cut the habanero pepper into fine pieces, trying not to include any seeds. Transfer the mango and pepper to a small bowl and add the slaw mix, salt, sugar and mayo. Set aside.

Cut the pickle into tiny pieces. In a small bowl mix the pickle with the mayo.

Cut the fish into 6 equal chunks. Heat the oil in a medium-size frying pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and beer. Mix the batter until it is smooth, without any lumps. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping a little batter into it. If it sizzles right away, the oil is hot enough.

Put the chunks of fish into the batter, coating them completely. Place them in the oil, one at a time, moving them after about 30 seconds so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook the fish for about 3 – 4 minutes, turning the pieces after about 2 minutes, until golden and cooked through. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.

Microwave the tortillas for 15 seconds. Place each one on a plate and smear the tartar sauce evenly on both tortillas. Cut the avocado into 8 slices and put 4 pieces on each taco. Dice the tomato and put a few spoons on each taco. Put 3 pieces of fish onto each taco. Finally, heap the slaw on top. Bang–that’s two fish tacos!

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