Sunday, December 21, 2014

Chickpea & Sumac Onion Salad with Roasted Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

I've had a bag of dried garbanzo beans in the cabinet for a while, sitting next to the flax seed and coconut oil and other Things That Are Good for Me. I try not to let that shelf get too dusty.

On Saturday morning I bypassed my usual weekend ritual—gulping down coffee in bed and staring at my phone—and instead meandered into the kitchen with dinner plans forming.

Soaking beans, slicing onions, and sprinkling said onions with salt and sumac. Sumac is wonderfully tart, and after several hours in the refrigerator, the onions were mellowed, chilly, and full of flavor.

I had a few Meyer lemons in the fridge from the Baton Rouge gourmet delivery service Indie Plate. I wish I were one of those people with the overabundant Meyer lemon trees, because I could use them in the kitchen every single day. I used the bundle I got from Indie Plate to make salmon en papillote, a Sensation-style salad dressing, and now a roasted Meyer lemon vinaigrette complete with honey and balsamic. (Next time 'round: preserving and limoncello, for sure.)

Finally I added fresh mint and parsley and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, which I first made as part of a homemade cocktail kit for Country Roads Magazine.

Then I served!

Chickpea & Sumac Onion Salad with Roasted Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette 
Yield: 6 servings

3 cups chickpeas, cooked*
1 white onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sumac
1 tablespoon salt
10 leaves fresh mint, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
Pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the roasted Meyer lemon vinaigrette (sourced from Sandwich Sunday):
2 Meyer lemons, halved
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon balsamic
3 tablespoons olive oil

*I used dried chickpeas and soaked them for a few hours before soaking another hours in a pot of boiled water removed from heat. I then used fresh water to cook them, simmering, for another two hours.

1. Make ahead: In a medium-size bowl, combine onion slices, sumac, and salt. Cover and chill for several hours.
2. For the vinaigrette: Preheat oven to 400. Place lemon halves (cut side down) in a baking dish, alongside unpeeled garlic cloves. Roast for 25—30 minutes, until lemon tops have begun to brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Then squeeze out roasted garlic into a small prep bowl. Mash, then squeeze in lemon juice. Add honey and balsamic, then whisk in olive oil.
3. To make the salad, combine chickpeas, onions, mint, and parsley in a large bowl. Pour in vinaigrette, olive oil, and pomegranate molasses. Toss and serve.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Salad in a Jar: Lunch Ideas

I'm told I'm way late to the game on "salad in a jar." But forget that! I am behind on a lot of trends, and that doesn't lessen my enjoyment any.

"Salad in a jar" is just a good idea. And perfecting the technique—while it might not help you contribute to water cooler conversation, if that's still a thing—is simple and immediately yields dividends. It's all about layers, and building your salad carefully so as to keep the ingredients fresh, crisp, and just as delicious as you need them to be when lunch hour looms. Ingredient amounts and jar size will vary depending on what sort of salad you'll make. Side salad? Go for a half-quart jar and balance your ingredients accordingly. Entrée? I used a quart jar and loaded it up with chickpeas and quinoa ... greens were sort of an afterthought, but definitely made it in!

Your layering strategy should be as follows (find my route in italics):

• dressing on bottom: I doubled's recipe and reserved the extra.
substantial vegetables next: Chickpeas, grape tomatoes, then zucchini.
grains: I cooked a cup of red quinoa and added 1/4 cup to the two jar salads I made, reserving the rest—quinoa gets used quickly around here.
• cheese: Feta crumbles.
greens: Spring mix and kale.

To serve:
Shake the jar and then empty contents into a shallow bowl. Toss, then enjoy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How To: Reseason Cast Iron

If you're a cast-iron disciple, you know to hold it dear. To gather the rest of your household and solemly tell them, "You see this skillet? Don't worry about this skillet. I will care for my precio—I mean, my skillet. Thanks for listening, you are dismissed."

The basic tenets in cast-iron care are these:
  • Do not put it in the dishwasher.
  • Do not even let it near soap.
  • Do wipe it down gently with a towel using vegetable oil or shortening and hot, hot water.
  • Do throw in a lilting Irish lullaby if you happen to have one handy.
But, as Bender tells us in The Breakfast Club, the world is an imperfect place.

Should tragedy (or stubborn food or old-age or *gasp* soap) befall your cast-iron, there is a road back. Here's a short tutorial for stripping and reseasoning your pans. I made good use of these instructions this weekend while setting up a new kitchen. A little online authority and a well-ventilated kitchen (It might get a little smoky, so open up those windows) will result in some gorgeous pans. Have a celebratory dinner recipe at the ready!

How To: Reseason Cast Iron

1. Preheat oven to 200. Line bottom rack with foil to catch any drips from the pan (this comes later down the line).
2. To strip your pan of rust and stubborn food, sprinkle the inside with lemon juice and kosher or sea salt. Scrub out with a towel or steel wool.
3. Dry your pan in the oven. Then remove and adjust heat to 350.
4. Pour just a little bit of vegetable oil into your cast iron, then use a clean towel to spread a thin layer of the oil all over the pan, inside and out. Apply more as needed, but err on the side of caution.
5. Place pan upside down on the top rack of the oven. If your oil layer is thin enough, you should see no drips onto the foil below.
6. Bake for one hour. Turn off oven and let pan cool inside for another hour.
7. Whoop in triumph! You've got a rejuvenated cast iron to enjoy.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Grilled Tuna Steaks with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce

A delicious, brightly tangy sauce will carry you far. "I could eat this for breakfast," said my fiancé. We mopped up every last dribble of this lemon caper topping last night. I'd be cruel not to pass the recipe along.

I just moved into a new house (read: new kitchen) this week, and I spent my first weekend morning arranging the spice cabinet, stacking my oh-so-useful kitchen cart, and reseasoning cast iron.

We ended the day with plump tuna steaks, rubbed with olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground rainbow peppercorns, then grilled in my shiny, renewed cast iron grill pan. Asparagus, chopped and grilled with herbes de Provence.

And that lemon caper sauce. The capers were sautéed in a little butter and lemon juice until aromatic. Then as the tuna steaks came to bold-lined fruition, I added bits of cold, cold butter to the skillet until the capers were frothing and warm.

Spooned it over the tuna steaks and dinner was served. (We paired with a tall glass of Lucky Bastard ale.)

Now to envision dozens and dozens of future uses...

Grilled Tuna Steaks with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce
Yield: 2 servings

2, 6-oz. tuna steaks (about 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
For the sauce:1 oz. capers, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon butter for sautéeing, plus 2 tablespoons chilled and separated into small pieces
Freshly squeezed juice from one lemon
Salt and pepper (to taste)
For the asparagus:
1 bunch, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
Herbes de Provence

1. In a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon butter over medium heat until frothing. Add capers and sautée for 20 seconds, until aromatic. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper and continue to cook—stirring frequently—until liquid has evaporated (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and reserve.
2. Using a medium skillet or grill pan (I used the same pan for the asparagus and tuna to conserve—carried-over seasoning was a bonus), heat up one tablespoon olive oil or medium-high heat. Add asparagus and herbes de Provence. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 to 6 minutes, until asparagus is bright green. Reserve in a small, covered bowl to keep warm.
3. Rub tuna steaks with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Heat up lightly oiled grill pan to medium-high heat. Grill tuna steaks for 5 minutes on each side, until sides are white and opaque.
4. While tuna grills, return the capers to medium heat in pan. Add chilled butter, bit by bit, until melted, browned, and bubbling.
5. Spoon sauce over tuna steaks, surround with a ring of asparagus, and serve.