a nifty little chickpea salad

impromptu salad

This was a spur of the moment side dish that I threw together last week. I had originally intended to make a Turkish salad of chickpeas, cumin and lemon, but then I got sidetracked by pomegranate molasses and fresh garden tomatoes – one of those cooking moments that seem to happen to me so often, where I have two or three cookbooks open and end up ignoring all of them. Fortunately, this turned out delicious.

Impromptu Chickpea Salad

olive oil
1 red onion, minced
a spoonful of pomegranate molasses
1 can chickpeas, drained
handful fresh spinach leaves
fresh mint, chopped
fresh parsley, chopped
several little red tomatoes, halved

Combine the chickpeas, spinach and herbs in a bowl large enough to hold the salad. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and saute the red onion until just softened. Stir in the pomegranate molasses, then add the hot onion mixture to the salad bowl. Toss to wilt the spinach. Add the fresh herbs and tomatoes, and extra olive oil if desired. Let sit at room temperature for half an hour or so before serving.

an easy lunch

lunch

Just a short post today, so I can gloat for a minute over this lunch I threw together the other day. Jon and I were both home, we hadn’t done our grocery shopping yet for the week, and there was a bunch of rapidly wilting beet greens in the fridge that I was assuming I’d have to throw out. But wait! There was sausage in the fridge as well! The week before we’d had a simple supper of Uli’s linguica sausages with tabouli, and there were two left – hurrah! I can always work with sausages and greens.

All I did was chop up the beet greens (we ate the beets last week), saute them in olive oil with some sliced garlic, toss in a can of Progresso cannellini beans and stir it all up, then I cooked the sausages in a separate pan, sliced them and added them in. I found a few ripe Stupice tomatoes on the vine on the deck, and sliced those in as well – wow, they were good. Tiny, but powerful.

We ate it all up in the kitchen with a glass of wine, with rain pouring down outside (ah, that balmy August weather). Gave us the strength to go grocery shopping.

the best greens ever

Tuscan kale
beans

We got a lovely bunch of Tuscan kale at the market last weekend – the first we’ve seen in some time. We love kale and eat it all sorts of ways, but my very favorite thing to do with it is to braise it in the cooking liquid from a pot of white beans. The recipe is from a Paula Wolfert cookbook called Mediterranean Grains and Greens, and it is pure genius – the bean liquid, flavored with garlic and bay, gets absorbed by the greens and also reduces to a thick sweet glaze that enhances the sweetness of the kale. The beans and greens are served together, and are particularly good alongside lamb chops or steaks, with a nice earthy red Italian or French country wine.

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fava beans

fava beans
fava beans

We finally got to the farmer’s market early enough last week to get hold of some fava beans. They tend to sell out fast, given that you really need to buy at least a pound or two to have enough worth eating. I don’t often feel like spending the time to shell and peel fava beans, but I like to make sure we have them at least once a year.

When we first started getting favas (always from the same person, Debbie of Colony Creek Farm), I knew one way to fix them: blanched, peeled and sauteed with green onion, prosciutto and some cream, then tossed with pasta. Delicious, indeed, but we actually managed to burn out on the flavor. I wanted to try something different, and we just happened to pick up a fresh bunch of garlic scapes at the same market, which made me think Pesto. Continue reading

chickpeas with pomegranate molasses

asparagus, chicken and chickpeas

Nothing really groundbreaking here, just a really nice thing to do with chickpeas for a little side dish, bringing in a bit of North African flavor to an otherwise ordinary dinner. I was wanting to make something else out of Casa Moro, but wasn’t feeling very ambitious, so this is what I landed on. It’s really easy, assuming you have a can of chickpeas hanging around in your pantry and you happen to have some leftover pomegranate molasses lurking in the fridge, like we did.

chickpeas

Chickpeas with Pomegranate Molasses

adapted from Casa Moro by Sam & Sam Clark

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • about 1/3 cup water
  • 30 threads of saffron, steeped in 2 Tbsp boiling water for a few minutes
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper

Fry the garlic in the olive oil until it just turns golden. Dump in the pomegranate molasses, water, saffron infusion and chickpeas, stir it up well and let it simmer for ten minutes. Add the cilantro, then salt and pepper to taste. You can add pomegranate seeds, too, which looks pretty, but I’m not fond of the texture.

The book suggests serving the beans with fish, but I thought it went splendidly with roast chicken. Follow your own taste, as always.

a surprisingly good soup

white (actually green) chili

I think I tend to like the idea of soup a lot more than the soup itself. I especially like making soup – it’s so fun to toss things into the pot and see how the flavors meld – but I’m not always inspired by the result. I wasn’t very excited about this soup – a “white chili” with salsa verde, chicken and white beans – but much to my surprise, it turned out fabulously tasty.

The whole reason I made it in the first place was a container I found in the freezer: chopped grilled poblanos and jalapeños mixed with grilled corn taken off the cob. I had no memory of putting it in the freezer (we did a LOT of grilling last summer), but it seemed perfect for a soup.

I cut up some boneless chicken thigh meat and browned it with cumin seed and slivered garlic. I added chicken stock and simmered it until the meat was cooked through, then dumped in the frozen grilled vegetables, a can of Herdez salsa verde and a can of Progresso white beans (normally I do cook my own beans, but I was feeling seriously lazy). I brought it all up to a simmer, then put it away in the fridge until evening.

What a shock! It was delicious – the corn gave it a rich sweetness that contrasted with the sharp pepper and tomatillos flavors, and the beans were plump and sweet. I finished the leftovers the next day at lunch with cheese and crackers, but a quesadilla would have been nice, too. Another soup that probably can’t be replicated, but it’s always nice when thrown together things work out this well.

saag paneer & dal

saag paneer and dal

This whole soft-food thing has been a great brain exercise for us. I’m feeling like I’ve eaten enough white carbs to do me for a while, so thinking of things that are soft and flavorful but NOT bread/pasta/rice is a real challenge. I managed a small bowl of chili at a restaurant last weekend and realized that beans are my friends – soft, nutritious and full of protein. We decided to make red lentil dal for dinner, one of the softest and most comforting foods out there. To round it out, we made one of our favorite Indian dishes, saag paneer (spinach with panir cheese). Panir is the tofu of India: bland on its own, but a great foil for and absorber of strong flavors.

I love saag paneer not just because it’s softly spicy and full of cheese – it’s also really easy to make, assuming you can buy panir at your local shop like we can. If you have to make it from scratch…well, in that case, you might want to make something else (unless you have better luck making cheese than I do). Same with the greens – you could certainly buy a bunch of fresh spinach, but this is a dish where I think it’s better by far to just pull a bag of chopped spinach out of the freezer.

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cassoulet for New Year's Day

cassoulet and salad

I was only recently introduced to the idea of eating beans on New Year’s Day for good luck and prosperity. I’ve always figured I’ve gotten my good luck from our noodles the night before – but on the other hand, you can’t have too much good luck. So this year I decided to try my hand at a cassoulet.

white beans

I know that there’s a lot of argument over what makes the “true” cassoulet. I read the recipes in Mastering The Art of French Cooking and The Cooking of Southwest France, and I read David Lebovitz’s post on Camp Cassoulet in Gascony.  Doing it the “official” way, with confit and pork fat and God knows what, certainly sounds exciting. But you know, the only people I was trying to impress were J and myself, and I just wanted it to taste good. So I did it all in one day, skipped the confit, and came up with something I was really pleased with. My one concession to working ahead was to have a pork roast for dinner a few days previous, so we could use the leftover meat.

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Beans & greens soup

broccoli rabe

This soup was a concept that kept changing. First I thought I’d make lentil soup with sausage and kale. But we were out of lentils, and I thought white beans would be even better. Then when we went to Dunbar Gardens to buy vegetables, there wasn’t any kale -so we got broccoli rabe instead. As it turns out, there’s a recipe for this exact soup in Barbara Kafka’s Soup cookbook. I glanced at her approach, then built the soup my usual way.

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