Monday, May 27, 2013

Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad with Curried Vinaigrette

Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad with Curried Vinaigrette

Serves: 6

Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad with Curried Vinaigrette
Yes, this one is time consuming. You might – as I did – assume that any recipe written by the likes of Thomas Keller is completely out of reach of us mere mortals. I’ve been eyeing this salad of chickpeas and curried cauliflower for as long as I’ve had the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. It looks so fresh and colorful, like something I would totally make. Cauliflower and hearty chickpeas, tossed with an abundance of plumped raisins, black olives, pickled red onions, julienned endive and toasted pine nuts are then seasoned with a curried vinaigrette. Spanish olives are oil-cured black olives, slightly bitter and salty, with a puckered appearance from the cure. All of the component parts can be used in so many additional dishes and meals.  So it is like preparing for one awesome salad while creating flavors for a dozen or more other dishes. The flavors independently and together are memorable. There is nothing difficult about preparing this salad; it just takes a little planning and time.  The chickpeas can be made three days in advance and wine steeped raisins and pickled onions keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

My planning suggestions: On day one, I started soaking the chickpeas. On day two, I cooked the chickpeas and prepared the wine steeped raisins and picked red onions. On day three, I finished preparing the other ingredients and served the salad. BE SURE TO READ THROUGH ENTIRE RECIPE(S) A COUPLE OF TIMES and plan your preparation accordingly (print it using the “Printer Friendly button at the end of the recipe). Pull this one out of your hat for a dinner party, lavish buffet, or gourmet picnic and you will be a star.  I served this at Rachel’s bridal shower – along with Amazingly Simple Spicy Chilled Cucumber Soup – which is, as the name implies, super simple and  posted last week.

For the chickpeas:
  • 1 C (about 6 oz) dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1 sachet (3 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf, 10 black peppercorns, 1 smashed garlic, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied, OR, as I did – put all in a large tea infuser)
  • ½ medium carrot, split lengthwise
  • 1 medium leek, (white and light green parts only), split lengthwise and washed
  • A 1-inch wedge of yellow onion, with root end intact
  • 1 Tb red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the cauliflower:
  • 1 medium head (about 2 pounds) cauliflower
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tb distilled white vinegar 

For rest of the salad:
  • ¼ C pine nuts, lightly toasted and sprinkled with kosher salt
  • 5 ounces (1-2 heads) green Belgium endive
  • 5 ounces (1-2 heads) red Belgium endive
  • 4 ounces (about ¾ C) pitted oil-cured Spanish black olives
  • ½ C pickled red onions (see ingredients and recipe below)
  • ¼ - ½ C wine-steeped golden raisins (see ingredients and recipe below)
  • 1 Tb minced chives (divided)
  • Curry Vinaigrette (see ingredients and recipe below)
  • Freshly ground black pepper 

Put dried chickpeas in a large bowl, cover with 4 C water and let soak for 12 hours or overnight. Drain the soaked chickpeas and put into a medium saucepan. Cover the chickpeas with cold water so that the water is about 2 inches above the chickpeas.  Add the carrot, leek, onion and sachet. Bring water to a gentle simmer and cook chickpeas for about 30-40 minutes until the chickpeas are tender. Transfer the chickpeas and their liquid to a bowl, remove the sachet and vegetables, stir in the vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste.  The chickpeas can be refrigerated in their liquid for up to three days.
Dried chickpeas
Soak those chickpeas!

Wine-steeped golden raisins:
  • 1 C golden raisins
  • ¼ star anise
  • 1 whole clove
  • ½ C dry white wine – I used Sauvignon Blanc
Combine the raisins, star anise and clove in a jar. Bring the wine to a boil in a small saucepan; pour over the raisins, and let cool to room temperature. Let stand for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month. Remove the star anise and clove before serving. Extra raisins are great on other salads or sprinkled on and around grilled fish.
Soaking the raisons
Pickled red onions:
  • 2 large red onions (about 1¼ lbs each)
  • 1 ½ C red wine vinegar
  • ¾ C granulated sugar
Cut off the top and bottom of each onion and cut lengthwise in half.  Remove and discard the outer layer. Cut a V-shaped wedge from the bottom of each half to remove the roots and the very centerpieces of onion. Place the onion cut side down and slice lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick slices following the natural lines of the onion. Pack the onion slices into a 1-quart canning jar or other suitable container that can be covered. Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the hot vinegar over the onion slices and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or for up to one month. These sweet and crunchy onions are amazing on sandwiches, on top of omelets and in other salads.
Cut onions

Onions in the vinegar
Cut out the core of the cauliflower and remove the leaves. Cut the cauliflower into florets and trim the stems.  The florets should not be larger than a 50-cent piece or smaller than a quarter. In a large saucepan, bring 8 C of salted water to a rapid boil.  Add the vinegar and cauliflower, and cook for 4-5 minutes, until tender but not at all mushy. Lift out florets with a slotted spoon and spread on a tray to cool, then refrigerate until ready to use.

Curry Vinaigrette:
  • 2 tsp Madras curry powder
  • ½ C champagne vinegar
  • 1½ C canola oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Spread the curry powder in a small pan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant (about 5-10 min). Whisk together the vinegar and curry powder in a bowl, whisk in oil and stir in garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to two weeks.  This vinaigrette works well on many salads as well as a quick marinade for fish or chicken.
Curry vinaigrette

Preparing and assembling the Final Salad:
Cut off about ¼ inch of the bottom of each endive and remove the leaves that start to fall away from the core. Cut away a bit more of the base and continue to remove leaves until you reach the core. Stack the leaves a few at a time on a cutting board, with the outside facing up, and cut on a 45-degree angle into thin slices. Put the sliced endive in a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes to help prevent it from turning brown and to crisp it. Drain and dry in a salad spinner.

Beautiful crunch and color from endive

Put the cauliflower and endive in a large bowl and add the olives, pickled onions, pine nuts, raisins and 2 tsp of chives. Toss with ¼ C of the curried dressing, and then season with a sprinkling of salt and few grinds of fresh black pepper.
Amazing mix of colors, textures and tastes

Drain the chickpeas, add to the salad, and toss with another ¼ C curried dressing. Taste the salad and add additional dressing if needed.

Arrange the salad on a serving platter. Scatter the remaining 1 tsp of chives and serve to accolades.  Enjoy the leftover components – the raisins, the pickled red onions and the dressing in many more meals. The reward is an incredibly stunning and flavorful salad filled with healthy ingredients, all of which have been individually pampered and lovingly seasoned. Take your time, and give it a try – you will not be disappointed.


Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home Cookbook

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Amazingly Simple Spicy Chilled Cucumber Soup

Amazingly Simple Spicy Chilled Cucumber Soup
Amazingly Simple Spicy Chilled Cucumber Soup 
I was not planning to post this soup. It is simply way to easy to make. And then I made it for Rachel’s bridal shower. It was a hit, so I decided to go for it! The soup is best if prepared the day before, and then you can serve chilled. There were so many requests for the recipe that I found myself apologizing for its simplicity. So now I will share and ask you to forgive me as well!

If you are looking for a quick, easy and super refreshing meal idea for a crazy hot and humid summer day, look no further. It does not get any better than this, I tell you! There is one small detail though. It really is better if made ahead of time, for it needs to chill and macerate in the fridge for at least 4 hours. I guess the best way to go is to make the night before, or in the morning. That extra time really adds some depth to it.
  • 4 medium regular cucumbers
  • 2 C chicken or veggie stock
  • 4 C sour cream
  • 2 C non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 C low-fat buttermilk
  • 6 Tb snipped fresh dill
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • White pepper
  • Salt 

Peel the cucumbers, slice in half longitudinally, using a spoon, scrape out the seeds. Thickly cut the cucumbers up and place on a stack of paper towels. Liberally salt all of them and let them sit for at least 30-45 minutes to draw out the excess water. Then dry cucumbers by blotting with paper towels.
Scooping out the seeds
Cucumbers after being salted.
In a Cuisinart with a plastic blade, add cucumbers, sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk and stock. Blend mixture but not to finely as you want crude little chunks. Stir in snipped dill and white and cayenne peppers. I like some spice to my soup – and use 1- 2 tsp or more of cayenne. Taste as you go as the strength of cayenne is highly variable. Adjust salt to taste.

Chill the soup at least 4 hours and better overnight. Serve with small amount of floating dill and a sprinkle of cayenne if you wish. Other possible garnishes include julienned radishes or roasted chopped walnuts.

This is one easy recipe and that results in one spectacular cold summer soup. My humble apologies for its simplicity…just kiddin… :-)


Monday, May 13, 2013

Pepita Crusted Pacific Halibut with Cilantro Serrano Cream

Pepita Crusted Pacific Halibut with Cilantro Serrano Cream

Serves: 4
Pepita Crusted Pacific Halibut with Cilantro Serrano Cream  
My husband pointed out that I have published a lot of salmon recipes and that maybe I should branch out.  OK, maybe he is right (just this one time).  I try to make fish at least once or twice a week so I reached into my armamentarium and found this halibut treasure. Of course one could use other similar fish – mahi mahi, opah, cod, turbot and butterfish, which would be amazing if you can get it without flying to Hawaii.
What your halibut should look like...almost translucent
Halibut, the largest of the flatfish family (which includes sole and flounder), has firm, tight-grained white flesh and brownish-gray skin. The most common varieties are California halibut (actually a large flounder), Pacific halibut, and Atlantic halibut, though the latter should be avoided due to a depleted population. Halibut is available year-round but is best between March and September. Fresh halibut will smell like seawater. Fresh halibut fillets should seem translucent to light green in color. The fat can be silver, white, blond, or copper, but should not be green or yellow.
  • 4 (6-ounce) portions halibut fillets, skin removed
  • 1½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper (divided)
  • 2 tsp sea salt (divided)
  • ½ C all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 C pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
  • ¼ C canola oil
  • 2 Tb unsalted butter
  • ¼ C minced shallots
  • 2 tsp minced seeded Serrano pepper
  • 1 C half and half
  • 1 C roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 Tb fresh lime juice 

Some of the key ingredients
Season all sides of the halibut fillets with the 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper. In a shallow dish, combine the flour and ½ tsp of salt and pepper. In a second shallow dish add the eggs. Put the pepitas in a third shallow dish or plate. Roll a halibut fillet in the flour, shaking off excess. Dip just one side of the fillet in the beaten eggs, then into the pepitas, pressing gently for even coverage. Set on a plate, seed side up, and repeat with remaining halibut. Cover loosely and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Pepitas....also called pumpkin seeds!

All the pieces in one shot

While the fish is resting, prepare the cilantro Serrano cream sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add the shallots and Serrano peppers and sauté for 1 minute. Add the half and half and cilantro and bring to a low simmer, stirring frequently, until reduced by half, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lime juice and ½ tsp salt. Blend with stick blender or in a blender to smooth.  Keep warm.
Pepitas coating one surface of the fish
Preheat oven to 300 degree F. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the fish, pepita side down, and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Flip over, then gently transfer the to a baking sheet fitted with a rack. Bake in the oven until the internal temperature of 145 degrees F registers on an instant read thermometer, about 6-8 minutes.
Toasted to a golden brown
Give this a try at your next opportunity. You will love the crunch provided by the pepitas with mellow wonderful fish and creamy slightly spicy sauce. Serve with a white Burgundy, Chablis, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir if a red wine is your preference.

Bon Appetit