CHICKPEAS AND ZUCCHINI WITH TAHINI SAUCE

This side dish was the marriage of two regular appearances in our kitchen: quickly sauteed zucchini and air-fried chickpeas. The union was celebrated with a nice amount of tahini sauce.  I tell you, this worked very very well. If you don’t have an air-fryer, roast the chickpeas in a 400-420F oven. It takes longer and the texture won’t be quite as crunchy, but it will work just fine.  I intended to sprinkle pomegranate seeds right before serving for a little extra bling, but of course that day the grocery store had ran out of them. Best laid plans.

LEMONY ZUCCHINI AND CHICKPEAS WITH TAHINI-SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the tahini-sauce:
1/3 cup plain full-fat yogurt
1/8 cup tahini paste
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp honey
salt to taste
water if needed
for the veggies:

3 small zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1 can chickpeas, well drained and dried
olive oil to coat chickpeas
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
salt to taste
fresh parsley
(pomegranate seeds if you have them)

Make the tahini sauce: whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve.

Make the air-fried chickpeas.  Coat them lightly with olive oil, add the spices and place them in the air-frier set at the highest temperature (usually 390F) for about 12 minutes. They should be crunchy and golden brown.  Reserve.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet, add the zucchini covering the whole surface, season with salt and pepper. Let the slices cook undisturbed until the side in contact with the pan is well seared. Move the slices around and cook until done. Sprinkle lemon juice all over, cover the pan for a minute, remove the lid, add the chickpeas and parsley.  Serve immediately with the tahini sauce on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When I was a child, teenager or even young adult, you could not bribe me to eat chickpeas, which in Portuguese have the non-appealing name of “grão-de-bico”. It translates – loosely – as “the grain of the beak”. They can also be called “ervilha-de-galinha”, which ends up as “chicken’s green peas”. Yeah, very sexy. How could anyone consider that a delicacy? Anyway, now I crave it. Go figure.

Leftovers were delicious a couple of days later. In fact, I found out that air-fried chickpeas, when microwaved just enough to make them warm, get a nice texture, a bit more creamy inside. My lunch coupled this tasty concoction with a fried egg on top.  I was smiling the whole afternoon.

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ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SALAD OVER HUMMUS

We are back from a month-long trip to England, where I had the pleasure of eating twice at Ottolenghi and once at Dishoom.  Both restaurants focus on Middle Eastern food, and both serve dishes absolutely packed with flavor. No matter what you order, it will feel like an explosion of flavors: hot, bright, lemony, spicy, with contrasting textures to make it all even more appealing. I came back home with the goals of being a bit less timid with how I season our food, and also of expanding my horizons as far as veggie side dishes are concerned. It’s not a secret that I have a weak spot for hummus and all things chickpeas. Hummus is great as a dip, but it is quite amazing when coupled with roasted veggies such as cauliflower. This recipe will prove it to you…

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SALAD OVER HUMMUS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Simple)

for the salad component:
florets from 1 large cauliflower
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
olive oil to coat cauliflower
salt and pepper
⅓ cup walnuts, toasted
½ cup chopped green olives
parsley leaves to taste, chopped
juice and zest of on large lemon

for the hummus:
14oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil  to taste (less than 1/2 cup)
lemon juice to taste
water if needed to adjust consistency

Heat oven to 400°F.  Coat the cauliflower florets with olive oil, add all spices and mix well. Place in a single layer in a roasting pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Toast the walnuts on a dry, non-stick frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Reserve.

Make the hummus by processing the chickpeas with the tahini, cumin and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper, and with the processor running add the olive oil until it gets a creamy consistency. Add lemon juice, taste and adjust seasoning. If needed, add cold water to thin the hummus. Reserve.

Assemble the dish: in a large bowl, mix the roasted cauliflower florets with the walnuts, green olives, parsley and lemon juice.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil right before serving over hummus.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was absolutely scrumptious! You could conceivably omit the hummus, but it adds a lot to the dish. It would stand as a full vegetarian meal if coupled with items such as farro, couscous, or bulgur wheat. We enjoyed it with boneless chicken thighs marinated in yogurt & smoked paprika, with a bit of plain rice. It was our first dinner after coming back home, jet-lagged, tired, but looking forward to sleeping in our own bed, with three very happy pups nearby. I missed them so much…


Dinner is served!

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FRESH TAKE ON FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES

Grains and roasted veggies are a classic combination, one that I like a lot and shows up at our table on a regular basis. But lately I’ve incorporated a small extra step into it, and it is a game changer.  Interesting expression, by the way. From my “foreign perspective”, it is not necessarily a good thing.  After all, if the game is going well, a game changer would ruin it.  But the term, adopted by the Oxford dictionary very recently (2012), always has a positive connotation. Which makes it perfect to describe the addition of fresh veggies right before serving this dish. Game-changing. I promise.

FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup farro
5 carrots, peeled and cut in sticks
bunch of asparagus
drizzle of olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
yellow grape tomatoes, cut in half
fresh lemon juice to taste

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the farro and cook (as if cooking pasta) until al dente. Cooking time will depend on many factors, start checking at 25 minutes, it might take 40 minutes or a tad longer. When cooked to your liking, drain and reserve.

Coat the carrots with a bit of olive oil, season with paprika, salt and pepper. Roast uncovered in a 420F oven for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Lay they on a microwave-safe dish, season very lightly with salt and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add a paper towel on top to cover them lightly. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve.

When the carrots are almost done roasting, add the asparagus and gently mix them. If necessary, add a touch more of olive oil. Roast the two veggies together for a final 5 minutes. Immediately add the fresh tomatoes, toss all veggies together, and place in a serving dish together with the farro. Adjust seasoning and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: First, let me say that cooking farro as if it’s pasta (freely swimming in a huge pool of water), is another game changer. The problem with farro is that if you go by a specific ratio of water to grain, sometimes you hit the jackpot (that is the grain is perfectly cooked when the water is absorbed), but sometimes it is either too hard or mushy.  This method takes all the guessing out of it, you cook, you test it as the cooking goes along, and when it reaches the level you like, it’s over. Drain it, and incorporate in any recipe you like.

As to the veggies, I realize this is a little more involved than roasting a bunch of them together and calling it a day. The thing is, I am not too fond of the woody texture that the asparagus gets when simply roasted. With braces, the situation gets even worse. So I use my favorite method of preparing them, a very brief encounter with the microwave, and then finalizing in the oven. It gets the best of both worlds.

Finally, the fresh component. The real game-changing bit. Amazing what that does to a roasted veggie concoction. It brightens up the flavors, and makes the whole thing taste quite a bit lighter. You can use tomatoes of any color, diced cucumber, radishes, kalamata olives, and guess what? Grapes! Seedless grapes, cut in half. You will be surprised how well they pair with roasted veggies. I intend to try strawberries next. Why not, right? With a little rose harissa just to take it truly over the top…

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RAINBOW CARROTS WITH ROSE HARISSA

Giving credit where credit is due, I saw this recipe over at Eats Well with Others, and made it that same evening. I did not have pomegranate seeds at the time, so I used diced mango as a sweet component. We loved it so much I made it again a few days later, this time pomegranate seeds were involved, and I can tell they are a must here. Because I used rainbow carrots, there was not that much contrast of color, but their tiny bursts of sharpness and fresh flavor contribute a lot to the sweetness of the carrots. This will certainly be a regular appearance in our meals, at least for as long as I can get my hands on the amazing ingredient that is rose harissa. Thank you, Joanne!

RAINBOW CARROTS WITH ROSE HARISSA
(inspired by Eats Well with Others)

1 pound carrots of several colors
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp rose harissa
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
lemon juice to taste
½ cup pomegranate seeds
fresh cilantro to decorate (optional)

Heat oven to 450F.
.
Peel the carrots and cut into batons. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, harissa, cumin, pomegranate molasses, and salt.  Add the carrots to the bowl and toss well to combine. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, or until starting to caramelize and become tender.

Remove from the oven, add some lemon juice and  sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Decorate with cilantro leaves, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am absolutely in love with this dish. I had to wait a long time to get rose harissa, since it was shipped all the way from England, so I get very protective of my bottle and always wonder if I should really use it in this or that preparation. Well, this one is definitely worth getting that couple of tablespoons from My Precioussssss.  My love for this sauce should be quite clear from the composite photo above… It is not really hot, it’s intense and complex, with a very subtle floral component from the rose. The more I use it, the more I love it. Which means soon it might be time to cave and place another order for it. Either that or emigrate to UK.

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BROCCOLI SOUFFLE

Some recipes can be intimidating, and soufflé is definitely part of the group. But honestly, it is very easy and flexible, in the sense that you can add pretty much anything you want to the basic formula. Plus, even if it does not rise as high as you would like, it’s always delicious. I guess the only way to really ruin a souffle is baking it to the point it dries out, but to get there the surface would be so dark, it would act as a warning sign. Of course, I suppose one could forget it in the oven. But, I digress. This version is a variation of my default recipe from Julia Child, a recipe that never let me down. Broccoli makes the egg mixture slightly more dense, so it won’t rise as much as a souffle prepared exclusively with cheese. But I will share a couple of tricks to maximize lift under the circumstances. Read on.

BROCCOLI SOUFFLE
(adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

6-cup mold, buttered and sprinkled with grated Parmigiano cheese

Parmigiano cheese for mold (about 2 T)

3T butter
3T flour
1 cup hot milk
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites + pinch salt
3/4 cup broccoli florets
1/4 to 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Before you start, cook the broccoli florets. Place in a microwave-safe dish, season lightly with salt, and sprinkle some water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes. Immediately remove from the dish and lay on a plate to cool. Cut in pieces that are no more than 3/4 inch big. Reserve.

Melt the butter, stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, don’t allow it to brown.  Remove from the heat, and when the butter stops furiously boiling, add the milk all at once. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes more. The sauce will thicken considerably. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Remove from heat, allow it to cool for 5 minutes or so,  and add the egg yolks, one by one, mixing very well after each addition. This sauce can be prepared to this point and refrigerated; bring it to lukewarm before continuing. If you decide not to refrigerate it, then dot it with butter, cover it with a plastic wrap and go work on the egg whites.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form – depending on your mixer or the strength of your biceps it will take 2 to 5 minutes. Add 1/3 of this mixture to the sauce, to thin it slightly – add the cheese and mix well.

Now, add the remaining egg whites and fold into the sauce. You don’t need to mix it until it is all incorporated and totally homogeneous, because the “lift” of your souffle’ depends on the air present in the beaten egg whites. When it’s almost fully folded, add the broccoli florets and fold a few times, very gently.

Fill the souffle’ mold to 3/4 of its volume, place it in a 400F oven, reducing the temperature immediately to 375F. Cook the souffle’ for 30 minutes – do not open the oven door during the first 20 minutes. If you like it moist inside, serve after 30 minutes. I prefer to cook for 5 additional minutes, then the texture inside is perfect, not too dry, not too creamy.

Serve right away, souffle waits for no one!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The best way to maximize lift when using a heavy vegetable such as broccoli, is to cut it in smallish pieces and add them to the base when you are almost ready to pour it into the baking dish. Some recipes will ask you to process the veggies, but I much prefer slightly larger pieces. For that very reason, blanching, steaming (or cheating and using the microwave) is also recommended. I’ve made the exact same recipe using raw broccoli and prefer it this way.

Here’s free advice for my readers: if you are the partner or family member of a food blogger, get out-of-the-way once the souffle is served. Yes, you will be eating it soon, but picture obviously trumps appetite. Obviously.

 

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ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH CASHEW NUTS

Recipes for roasted veggies are always so similar, coat veggies with olive oil, season any way you particularly like, roast. Done. But this one has a little unexpected (to me) twist. Instead of olive oil, you’ll use butter. I know, so out of fashion, so frowned upon by the Health Police. This method was featured on a recent America’s Test Kitchen TV show, and I was obviously intrigued. I modified it a bit to our taste. The butter helps that gorgeous browning and adds a nutty flavor that goes well with the cashews.  It all works beautifully.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH CASHEW NUTS
(inspired by America’s Test Kitchen)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in slices (about 2 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground paprika
for cashew topping:
1 tablespoons butter
⅓ cup cashew nuts
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss squash slices with melted butter, season with  salt and paprika until evenly coated. Arrange seasoned slices on a rimmed baking sheet, if possible in a single layer, but some overlapping is ok. Roast for about 25  minutes, flip pieces and roast 15 minutes longer.

While squash roasts, melt butter with cashew nuts in a small skillet.  Cook until cashews start to get golden, keep a close eye on the pan. It will burn if you leave it cooking for longer than a couple of minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir lemon juice. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Transfer roasted squash to a serving dish, mix with the sautéed cashews and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I talked about this recipe on my Facebook page, and a dear friend mentioned that she had a similar dish at a restaurant and loved it, but in that preparation they included crumbled feta on top. I know exactly how I’ll make it next time, and urge you to do so if you make it yourself. Sounds perfect to me.

The butter definitely makes the roast butternut quite special, as it cooks in the oven it gets that “browned butter” quality that is so wonderful both in savory and sweet dishes. I know many people are anti-butter these days, but there’s nothing wrong with using it every once in a while in a dish like this one. Totally worth it.

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ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH WALNUTS AND TAHINI SAUCE

I never imagined I would call a butternut squash dish “festive”, but it’s the word that came to my mind as I savored it. I blame it on the addition of pomegranate seeds. They turn any dish into a celebration, little jewels of the gastronomic world. Plus their slightly sharp taste complements sweets, complements veggies, meats, hard to imagine something that cannot be paired with these red beauties. Remember Fesenjan? Anyway, in this preparation, I roasted butternut squash as I’ve done many times, in coconut oil with paprika. To me, it’s a trio made in heaven. And no, I do not use smoked paprika for this anymore, I now prefer a milder flavor with the squash. Of course, do as your taste buds instruct you to.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH WALNUTS AND TAHINI SAUCE
(inspired by several sources)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in large cubes
1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
walnut halves or large pieces
1/4 cup tahini
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
pepper to taste
water if needed to thin sauce
fresh pomegranate seeds
light drizzle of pomegranate molasses for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 F.

Place the pieces of butternut squash in a large bowl, drizzle with the coconut oil, mixing it very quickly because it solidifies fast. Season with paprika, salt, and a little pepper. Transfer the squash to a baking dish that holds the pieces in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes, then add walnuts, mixing gently with the squash. Roast for about 10 minutes more, until the squash is golden, with edges turning slightly brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the tahini sauce mixing tahini, lemon juice pepper and pepper. If it seems too thick, add water until you reach a nice fluid consistency.

When the squash and walnuts are roasted, transfer to a serving dish, drizzle the tahini sauce all over, and top with fresh pomegranate seeds. If you have pomegranate molasses, consider drizzling a little bit on top, a nice additional contrast of color and flavor.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This could be a great side dish for Thanksgiving, for those trying to move away from the classics, or perhaps in need to increase the variety of vegetarian-friendly sides. Of course, it’s odd to mention Thanksgiving in December, but the color-scheme of this dish makes it hard not to. Come to think of it, roasted sweet potatoes would work wonders too replacing the squash. And dried cranberries could play the role of pomegranate. The tahini dressing is perfect to tie the whole thing together in a very luscious way. We enjoyed this hearty side dish with store-bought roast chicken. Admittedly, this could be considered a sin in the home of a food blogger, but we love the convenience of it, and our store does a pretty decent job preparing it. So, we make our life easy and often bring one home for our dinner.

Plan ahead and reserve some tahini sauce (as well as extra pomegranate seeds) in case you want to call it lunch next day… I did, and it was absolutely delicious, love the contrast of a cool sauce with the warm squash.

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