Sunday, September 22, 2019

Chickpea Salad with Roasted Red Peppers

An unfortunate fact of a long career in foods is that you forget a lot. Not just things you thought you would never forget…like the exact method you used to use every single day to execute a certain preparation.  Sometimes you forget about the existence of entire recipes.  The recipe I’m sharing today is one of those recipes. 

I’m not quite sure now how it came up in conversation, but a friend was telling me how much she loved my Chickpea salad…that it was so versatile…that she makes it frequently.  I was gratified that she was enjoying a recipe I had shared so much.  But I finally told her that I was drawing a complete blank regarding the salad. 

She was surprised I had forgotten it…but she obliged me by describing it in more detail:  roasted bell peppers…  green olives…  celery…  a spicy vinaigrette….  Slowly I began to remember the salad.  To make it even more embarrassing, it wasn’t just a recipe I had only made a time or two.  I had actually taught it in a class on salads. After her reminder, I decided I needed to make it again soon.

I admit I didn’t follow through.  I actually have no idea how long ago it was that this conversation took place.  But sometime this summer I remembered the recipe and the conversation (all on my own).  It is likely that the recipe popped into my head due to the fact that my eating habits have changed slightly as I have morphed from a household of two into a household of one.  Things that keep well and are versatile regarding the manner in which they can be served hold great appeal.  This salad is a winner in both categories.  It keeps for several days (the flavor, in fact, improves).  It functions well as a side dish—to lamb…or chicken…or fish (it was accompanied by olive oil poached tuna in that long ago class).  And it is excellent as a part of a salad platter or meze spread (recently it made a particularly fine workday lunch with a grated carrot salad, soft cooked egg, and flatbread).  It would be great on a picnic or as part of a boxed lunch.

Since I rediscovered this recipe I have made it several times.  It was originally part of a summer salad class because of the roasted red peppers—but it doesn’t have to be a summer salad.  Beautiful ripe peppers are available well into fall.  And good quality hot house peppers (while not as delicious as the local specimens) are available year round.  I can definitely see this salad becoming part of my regular rotation of “go-to” recipes.  I’m so glad I shared it with a friend…or it might have been lost forever. 

Chickpea Salad with Roasted Red Peppers
& Moroccan Vinaigrette

For the vinaigrette:
2 T. freshly squeezed & strained lemon juice
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/8 t. cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1/4 c. olive oil

For the salad:
1 can (14-oz) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed (1 1/2 c.)
2 large red bell peppers (about 14 oz.), roasted, peeled, seeded & cut in a 1/2-inch dice
1/4 to 1/3 c. finely diced red onion, rinsed under cold running water and blotted dry
A generous 1/3 c. very thinly sliced heart of celery, including some of the leaves
1/4 cup finely sliced cilantro (or flat leaf parsley, if you prefer)
10 pitted large green olives
Salt & Pepper, to taste

To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, and spices.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Gradually whisk in the olive oil in a thin stream to form an emulsion. Set aside.   

To make the salad, drain and rinse the chickpeas and place in a large bowl.  Add the peppers, onions, celery, cilantro and enough vinaigrette to generously coat the ingredients.  Toss to coat.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  At this point, the salad can be left at room temperature to marinate for up to 30 minutes, or it may be covered and refrigerated (it keeps well for several days—check the seasoning before serving).  If refrigerated, bring to room temperature to serve. 

Serves 3 to 4

  • The recipe multiplies well for larger appetites, or a crowd
  • If you have harissa on hand, it is delicious served on the side
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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Bing Cherry Ice Cream

The end of sweet cherry season always creeps up on me.  Sweet cherries have a long summer run.  They begin to show up in my grocery store sometime in June.  During most years I can expect to be able to find them through the end of August (and if we’re lucky, into early September).  But it is never wise to count on being able to get any kind of fresh produce at the very beginning or tail end of their normal season.  (Produce like this should be treated as an enjoyable surprise!)  Several years ago I told a mildly harrowing story about promising rhubarb on the early end of its season.  I almost got into some difficulty this year because I promised Bing cherry ice cream to a client at the tail end of the cherry season.

I was aware I was cutting it close, but I had seen cherries in the stores and the dinner was coming up soon, so I went ahead and suggested Profiteroles with Sweet Cherry Ice Cream as the finish to a French-inspired menu.  As insurance I purchased them the minute I saw some in the store, knowing I could make the compote to flavor the ice cream ahead. 

I was so glad I did!  Overnight the cherries seemed to disappear from the stores.  I have never been so keenly aware of something being available in abundance one day…and gone the next.  Even though I had my cherries—and had made the compote—I kept looking (weirdly fascinated by my close call). 

As it turned out, even if I hadn’t been thinking ahead, I would have been ok (well maybe not ok…I would have shortened my lifespan a little from stress…).  The last store I shopped at for my dinner had a handful of bags (literally four or five) of plump, beautiful cherries.  I purchased some just because I could.

Consequently I got my own enjoyable surprise with those end-of-season cherries because I used those extra cherries to make some ice cream for myself over the Labor Day weekend.  I even had enough cherries to make more of the compote to use as a sauce.  But even without the extra compote, this ice cream is a delicious cherry treat.  Good all by itself…or maybe with a little chocolate sauce…

I do hope there are still a few cherries left out there so that anyone reading this who wants to make cherry ice cream can.  But if not, there’s always next year.  And if you happen to see some cherries, but don’t have time to make ice cream, you can always make the compote ahead and refrigerate it (up to a week) or freeze it (you can have fresh cherry ice cream in January!) until you are ready to use it. 

Bing Cherry Ice Cream

1 lb. Bing Cherries (about 3 cups), halved and pitted
6 T. (75 g.) sugar
1/2 T. lemon juice
2 T. brandy or kirsch

2 c. cold heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
8 egg yolks
1/3 c. sugar
a pinch of salt
1/8 t. almond extract (optional)
1/4 c. honey (3 oz.)—see note

Prepare the cherries:  Place the cherries in a wide sauté pan set over medium high heat.  When the cherries begin to steam and sizzle quietly, add the sugar and lemon juice and shake to distribute.  Cook the cherries at a brisk simmer—stirring occasionally with a heat-proof spatula—until the cherries are tender and beginning to break down a bit and the juices are beginning to thicken—about 5 minutes.  Add the brandy and bring back to a simmer—cooking until the juices have thickened again...perhaps a minute or two.  Remove from the heat, and let cool briefly.  Transfer the compote to a food processor and process to the desired texture (I like mine chopped fairly fine.)  You should have a generous cup of compote.  Chill.

Prepare the custard: Place one cup of cold cream and the cold cherry compote in a medium-sized bowl and place in the refrigerator to keep it cold. 

Place the milk and remaining cup of cream in a medium-sized, non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil.  While the milk mixture is heating, whisk the egg yolks with the 1/3 c. of sugar and the salt until thick.  When the milk boils, temper the egg yolks.  Stir the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan and place the pan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the custard begins to thicken and a path forms when you draw your finger across the custard-coated back side of the spoon—an instant-read thermometer will read about 175°.  Immediately strain the custard into the bowl of cold cream and compote. Stir in the honey…and extract, if using.  Refrigerate (or place in an ice bath) until cold, stirring occasionally.  Cover and chill deeply (this will take several hours).

Finish the ice cream:  Freeze the cold custard in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Transfer to a freezer container and freeze for at least an hour or two (and preferably overnight) before serving.  Makes 5 cups cherry ice cream.

  • If you prefer, you may replace the honey with sugar. I like the texture the honey gives to an ice cream…but if you don’t like the flavor, or don’t have any, you don’t have to use it. Instead, use a total weight of 150 grams (3/4 c.) sugar in the custard. Put half of it in the yolks (as directed in the recipe) and add the remaining half to the 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup milk while they are heating.
  • For an extravagant cherry dessert, make a double batch of compote. Process half of it for the ice cream and use the unprocessed portion that remains as a sauce for your ice cream.
  • If you have never made custard style ice cream, take a minute to read my basics post so you will have good success.
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