Creamy Spicy Chickpeas

This is a fast, tasty, inexpensive, vegan, gluten-free, nutritious, make-ahead main dish that’s straight from the pantry for the most part.  It’s one of those dishes that I almost always have ingredients for.  But I make it mostly because it tastes so good.

I happen to have some lovely cilantro that’s gone to seed in my garden, and the plump green seeds added a beautiful aromatic quality to this dish.  Substitute fresh cilantro or coriander seed instead.  These two aromatic spices are one and the same plant.  The leaves is the herb cilantro, the seed is the spice coriander.  Here’s what the coriander seeds look like, on the plant:

Creamy Spicy Chickpeas

3 TB vegetable oil

3 TB good quality curry powder – I use Penzey’s Hot Curry powder.  Use whatever type you prefer

5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

4 cans (15 1/2 oz) chickpeas, drained (garbanzo beans are chickpeas)

1 can (14 1/2 oz) canned diced tomatoes (you can use fresh, if you’d prefer)

1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

1 can (13 1/2 oz) coconut milk (I prefer Chaokoh brand)

1/2 cup water

2 TB crushed green coriander seeds, or 1 TB ground dry coriander seeds

salt

optional: fresh chopped cilantro

In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat.  When oil is shimmering, add the curry powder and crushed garlic.  Fry for just a few seconds, as you want to develop the flavors of the spices but not burn them.  Immediately add 1/2 cup water, then the chickpeas, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, coriander seeds, and coconut milk.  Stir to combine, then bring mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching.  Add more water if it becomes too thick, or allow to simmer a bit if it’s too thin.  You are aiming for a creamy consistency.  Add salt to taste.

Top with fresh chopped cilantro if desired.

Serve with hot cooked basmati rice or naan.  Makes fabulous leftovers.

Summer Squash with Goat Cheese

I got the most beautiful little yellow crookneck summer squash in my CSA box last week.  I also got some basil, and happened to have goat cheese in my fridge and fabulous olive oil in my pantry.  This salad was the result.

I’ve made this fast, tasty, mellow salad for several years.  Feel free to swap out fresh mint or oregano for the basil.  The squash is eaten raw in this salad, which may be unfamiliar to some of you.  And note that I don’t include quantities with this salad.  It’s because it really depends on how much you need to make.  But don’t worry.  It’s a very flexible, forgiving recipe.

Summer Squash with Goat Cheese

several small summer squash

goat chevre

olive oil

fresh basil, chopped

sea salt

Get out a serving platter or shallow, wide salad bowl.  I used an oval Fiestaware platter in the photo above.  Rinse the squash and remove the stem if needed.  Next, very thinly slice the summer squash.  I use the 2 mm slicing blade on my food processor to get thin, uniform slices.  Crumble some goat chevre over the sliced squash.

Give it a sprinkle of sea salt, then toss the basil evenly over all.  Drizzle the squash and cheese with your best olive oil.  How much?  It’s up to you.  Let’s just say that I’m not shy with the olive oil, though.

If you have a deeper bowl or are making more than 6 servings, layer some cheese and basil between the squash slices.  You want to have all the fabulous flavors of the salad in each bite.

Enjoy at room temp, or straight from the fridge if you need to make it in advance.

 

Chicken Cabbage Salad

Here’s a simple dinner salad that’s perfect for hot days.  It’s simple, light, tasty, and good for the body.

Chicken Cabbage Salad

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

2 TB vegetable oil

1 small head green cabbage, shredded

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 carrots, shredded

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar

I small bunch chives, snipped (I used Chinese chives, as I have these growing in my garden)

2 TB toasted sesame oil

Sauté the chicken breast pieces in 2 TB oil until cooked through.  Set aside in a salad bowl until cooled.  Then mix the remaining ingredients with the chicken and enjoy.  Adjust seasoning by adding more seasoned rice vinegar and salt if desired.

Snickerdoodles

The Snickerdoodle is a humble cookie, possessing a homey magic all its own.  These cookies are soft, crinkly, sweet, and fragrant with cinnamon. Snickerdoodles are leavened with a combination of baking soda and cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate).  This combo provides fast rising at the beginning of baking, resulting in Snickerdoodle’s characteristic crinkles.

Snickerdoodles

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp

10 1/2 oz (1 1/2 cups) white sugar

2 large eggs

13 oz (2 2/3) cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

For rolling: combine 3 1/2 oz (1/2 cup) * sugar with 4 tsp ground cinnamon in a small bowl.  Set aside.

For the dough: Mix or sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in a bowl.  Set aside. (hint:  sifting here just makes sure that the leavening agents and salt are thoroughly combined with the flour.  If you don’t have a sifter, use a whisk to gently combine the dry ingredients)

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add eggs one at a time.  Beat until thoroughly incorporated after each addition.  Scrape down the bowl again.

Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low until just combined.

Make balls of dough with a portion scooper or a spoon.  Roll balls of dough in the sugar/cinnamon mixture and place on baking sheet, allowing at least 2 inches between cookies.

Bake at 375 until done (see note.)  Check after 13 minutes or so.  The cookies should be golden on the edges, but still soft and tiny bit doughy in the center.  They will set up more when they cool, so don’t over bake them.   Let cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Wait until they’re just warm, then grab a tall glass of milk and enjoy.

Note — what does done mean and why can’t I tell you exactly how much time?  Because there are many variables to consider including:  how big the cookies are, what kind of baking sheet you’re using, and how hot your oven runs.

* I use C & H organic granulated sugar for rolling, because I like its slightly coarse texture and the nice crunch it gives to the finished cookie.

 

What is it? Olive Oil

Oh. Yes.  I love olive oil.  And I’m all fired up about it after reading “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.”  Again, this is a super basic food to spotlight, but a very important one in my kitchen.  Knowing a bit about cooking oils is a good idea.  We use different cooking oils for different things — for frying, on salads, in sauces, and as flavorings.  I probably have half a dozen or more types of oil in my pantry at any given time.  One that’s always in my kitchen is good quality olive oil.   A few facts:

1. Olive oil is one of two commonly available oils made from fruit.  (the other is avocado oil)  Nearly all other oils are made from seeds.

2. Extra-virgin olive oil should be used on the cool side.  Though it’s not going to hurt you or your food to cook with extra virgin olive oil, the real stuff can be costly, and is best savored unheated or added at the last minute to warm dishes to retain the delicious peppery, grassy flavors it provides.

3. Olive oil is an ancient product.  For centuries it has been used as lamp oil, in religious rites, to clean and moisturize skin, and – of course – as a delicious food.  Very old olive trees can still bear quality fruit – even past the venerable age of 1500 years.

4. Olive oils tasting bars abound here in Northern California, often in the same areas where good wine is produced.  If you’re not sure what great oil tastes like, go try some.

Good olive oil will be green and smell and taste fresh, peppery, and subtly fruity.  Some great oils are unfiltered and cloudy, but most are clear.  Here’s an extra virgin olive oil from California Olive Ranch I recently purchased and am enjoying:

Simple olive oil recipe:

Olive Oil Sundae:  Top a scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream with some extra virgin olive oil and perhaps a small sprinkle of salt (fleur de sel is a nice crunchy fancy salt to try).  This is a divine dessert, and will help you appreciate the greatness of extra virgin olive oil.