Since my last post on here was all into nitty-gritty food philosophies and things otherwise known as deep thoughts, I thought we should do something fun and irreverent for a change. Sound good? I thought so. And so was born the idea for a Middle Eastern fetteh meets Mexican-American snack food love child: the Nile Nacho.
I know, I know, sacrilege you say! But this idea actually came about because nachos, a food I almost never eat, are surprisingly popular in Cairo. One of our favorite local restaurants, Tabla Luna, does a rendition of them so good it could transform even the most nacho-averse eater. And it got me thinking, layering tasty gooey things with tortilla chips isn't really that far from layering tasty things with pita chips, right? Plus, putting tahini on said pita chips can only make them better. Then I started thinking about substituting the usual black beans from some spicy roasted chickpeas, and how pickled jalapenos are surprisingly common in Cairo, and the whole idea just made sense.
The Nile Nacho consists of pita triangles layered with a tahini-yogurt sauce, spicy roast chickpeas, smashed chickpeas, tomatoes, radishes, herbs, and sumac. If you think it's heretical to have nachos without cheese, then by all means add some feta or Middle Eastern-style string cheese (I'm lactose intolerant, and wanted to save myself the stomach cramps). These are surprisingly delicious, fun, and a great way to introduce people to new ingredients like tahini and sumac in a familiar format. Also: NILE NACHOS!
When I made these the first time, I roasted the pita triangles in the oven. While the nachos were still delicious, the pita got soggy, so I switched to frying the pita triangles so they stay crispy. The roasted chickpeas are so good they are worth making on their own. I like to use canned chickpeas here since they are crispier than freshly cooked from scratch chickpeas. Whatever you do, rinse and dry your chickpeas before using. Feel free to experiment with your own toppings, my friend Nick recommended some crispy roast schwarma meat would be a good addition, and I agree.
3 large thin pita breads, preferably stale, cut into triangles
neutral oil for frying
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 can)
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tomato, seeds removed and discarded, flesh cubed
2 radishes, halved and sliced
4 sprigs mint, leaves sliced
optional: 1 pickled chili or jalapeno, sliced (or you could use chile flakes)
optional: creamy feta cheese or Middle Eastern string cheese
sumac, for serving
1 cup thick Greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon salt
1. Prep all your ingredients. Set up a draining/cooling rack over some paper towels on your counter.
2. Heat about 1-2 inches of oil in a wide deep-sided skillet or saute pan. When the oil is hot (test by splashing a teeny drizzle of water in it) add a few of your pita triangles. Cook the triangles, turning frequently, until they are lightly browned and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider to the cooling rack and repeat until you've fried all your pita.
3. Preheat your broiler on high. Divide your chickpeas in half, place half in a small bowl. Place the other half on a baking sheet, add the cumin, paprika, two pinches of salt and a glug of olive oil and roll everything around to coat. Place the chickpeas under the broiler. Broil the chickpeas, stirring occasionally, until they are deep brown and crispy on the outside, about 10-15 minutes. When done, switch the oven to 350F.
4. Meanwhile, add the 2 tablespoons tahini and the juice from the lemon, along with a pinch of salt, to the chickpeas in the bowl. Using a fork or a pestle, smash up the remaining chickpeas into a rough smash.
5. Mix together the sauce ingredients. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is a thick but pourable consistency. If you accidentally make it too watery, add more tahini.
6. Place half the pita triangles on an oven-proof platter. Dab half the chickpea smash over the pita, sprinkle half the roast chickpeas and half the tomato over top. Add a few of the radishes, mint, and chile and cheese if using. Drizzle the whole thing with some of the yogurt sauce. Repeat layering the pita chips, toppings, and yogurt sauce. Set aside some of the mint and radishes for the final serving. Sprinkle sumac over the whole thing. Slide the dish into the oven and let heat just for 5-8 minutes or so, you want to heat the dish not cook it. Remove from the oven, finish with the mint and radishes and serve warm.
Want more irreverent untraditional takes on Middle Eastern food? Try the brussel sprout fattoush.