04_05_wholefoods_cover.jpgThe Whole Foods Market Cookbook by Steve Petusevsky (Clarkson Potter, 2002)

When it comes to food, Gothamist doesn't believe in one-stop shopping. We have various places we go to get our favorite (and sometimes hard-to-find) items. Fresh, local produce? Definitely the Greenmarket. Spices, olives, cheeses? Gotta be Sahadi's. Quick, basic supplies? The corner grocery. Bulk grains? The local "health" supermarket. So when Austin-based Whole Foods Market came to Union Square (after earlier NYC locations at Columbus Circle and in Chelsea), we finally got around to making a real shopping excursion there to see what we could find.

After dragging ourselves past all the prepared-food porn calling our name and forcing ourselves down the escalator to the real supermarket portion of the store, we were astounded at the variety of what was on offer. When Whole Foods bills itself as the "world's leading natural and organic foods supermarket," it seems they are not kidding.

Gothamist's personal favorites? Amazonian açaí, which can be blended into your very own tropical smoothie; Greek feta in brine (the way it's supposed to be stored); and every possible permutation of faux-meat product (many soy-based, but some fungi(!)-based, too).

It seems to Gothamist that the most difficult part of shopping at Whole Foods is not succumbing to the prepared foods when you intend on buying food to take home and cook. So to inspire you, we've tried out the Whole Foods Market Cookbook, which offers many, many ways to cook their vast range of natural foods. The recipe Gothamist chose sounded appealing as a kind of twist on our old favorite of falafel: a chickpea patty that gets pan-fried in a non-stick skillet with very little oil.

This dish is lower in fat than your average falafel but also much more intensely flavored. Between the spices and lime-juice infusion, these patties most definitely pack a punch and are not for the faint of tastebud. The cooling raita accompaniment helps to balance things out.

04_05_spicychickpeapatties.jpgSPICY CHICKPEA PATTIES WITH CILANTRO, LIME, AND CHILIES (adapted from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook)

1/8 cup canola or olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 (16 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chickpea flour (or wheat flour)
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
3 scallions, minced
juice of 2 limes
salt to taste

chickpea (or wheat) flour for dusting cakes
vegetable oil for spraying pan

In a large nonstick pan, heat the canola or olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, jalapeño, curry powder, and cumin for 3 minutes, until the onion is softened. Transfer the spice mixture to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a standard S blade, and process for 20 seconds, until coarsely chopped. Add the chickpeas, chickpea (or wheat) flour, bread crumbs, cilantro, scallions, lime juice, and salt.

Continue to process for 20 seconds more, until the mixture is coarsely chopped, well combined, and has formed a thick paste. (At this point, the paste can be refrigerated for up to a day before cooking the patties.) The paste should be firm enough to be scooped and shaped into small patties. After making the patties, lightly dust them with chickpea flour.

Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat and spray it with the vegetable oil. Sauté the patties for 4 minutes on each side, until they are golden brown and heated through. For an even crispier patty, place one on a sheet pan for 10 minutes in the center of a 375˚F oven. Serve with cucumber-mint raita (recipe follows).

CUCUMBER-MINT RAITA (adapted from Epicurious.com)

1 large unpeeled English hothouse cucumber, halved, seeded, coarsely grated
2 cups plain yogurt
1/4 cup (packed) chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon plus pinch of cayenne pepper

Wrap grated cucumber in kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Whisk yogurt, mint, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper in medium bowl to blend. Add cucumbers and toss to coat. Season raita to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Sprinkle raita with pinch of cayenne pepper and serve.