by Chef Jenn Farmer
This week I have spent a lot of time with old friends, and making some new ones. The sunshine and beach have been glorious, and even work has been great. The only complaint is that I have too little time to myself, and less to do much cooking (and to be completely honest, I have not wanted to!) Earlier this week, I went fishing with a vegetarian friend of mine. Our outings are always nice since he is a good cook also, and, like myself, usually on a budget. So we have a great system, he brings a couple things he likes to eat and I bring a couple of things to eat I like to eat, and we end up with a nice feast. Not only is the food good, but we both get to try something new. We both get great recipe and menu ideas from our little meet ups, which is really fun. This time I wanted a food that would help boost my energy, since my day had been hectic. My dilemma was that I could not just throw together anything, since my friend is a vegetarian. I was a vegetarian for about ten years, back in my youth and college days, so I always try to be considerate and bring foods he can eat. I thought of beans, and that brought chickpeas to mind. So I made chickpea pitas (they took about fifteen minutes to make). He made honeydew soup in a chilled thermos (took less than fifteen to make). It was a satisfying meal. It was so nice that we enjoyed the trip, even though we caught nothing. This suited me fine, since I would have felt a little odd gutting the fish etc. in front of a vegetarian who does not eat it. In fact it was a little odd fishing with a vegetarian at all. Luckily the water was warm, perfect for a nice long, swim.
Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are one of my favorite ingredients to cook with. They are very versatile and taste great. It is believed they were one of the first cultivated vegetables, the evidence of which dates back 7,500 years. They can be purchased canned, dried, in flour form, or prepared (like hummus), and though I have never purchased them fresh, I am certain in some locations it is possible. In fact my mother recently sent me a recipe for crispy baked chickpeas, but since I am not turning on the oven for anything, I will test that recipe on a chilly day, maybe in the autumn.
High Energy Chickpea Salad Pitas
- 1 and one half cups cooked chickpeas (about 15 ounce can)
- One half cup celery, small diced
- 2 tablespoons green onion, sliced (red onion is nice too)
- 4 tablespoons cornichons, chopped (dill pickle is ok to substitute)
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons tahini (sesame butter)
- Salt and pepper
- Sprinkle of sprouts
- Lettuce leaves
- Tomato slices
- Cucumber slices (optional)
- 4 pita pockets (wraps are a nice substitute)
Mix together the chickpeas, celery, onion, pickle, fresh herbs, and garlic and toss together well. Next make a dressing by mixing the Dijon, olive oil, and tahini, then mix into the chickpeas smashing some of the peas up along with it. Taste the mixture and salt and pepper if necessary. Open the pitas, and fill with chick peas, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and sprouts. Makes about 4 pita pockets.
Chilled Honeydew Soup with Basil
- 3 cups cubed Honeydew melon (cantaloupe or a combination is good too)
- One quarter cup plain greek style yogurt
- one teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- one lime’s zest
- one half lime, juiced
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
- 3 mint leaves
- 3 basil leaves
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons juice or water to thin soup
Combine all ingredients except juice in the blender. Puree until very smooth, adding juice or water if necessary to thin out. Serve well chilled. 4 small servings.
Even though I have been pretty lazy in the kitchen, I felt like making an elegant meal this week. I had little time, but wanted to impress. I thought of an old classic: duck liver and greens. The first course was my friend’s honeydew soup, so fortunate to get that recipe. Second course was the following duck liver and cherry salad paired with a crusty baguette from the bakery, and a glass of crisp white wine. To round out our meal we had a nice cucumber and lemon ice. What a great combination of flavors, not to mention the company.
I really love the flavor of bitter greens in the next dish, some curly endive, spinach, mizuna, arugula, and watercress are probably my favorite combination, but any nice fresh local greens work well. This comes from my time cooking in West Coast restaurants, so it originally was made with freshly cooked and cleaned artichoke hearts. I now use cherries, since they are easier to get here, and they are a much more summery ingredient. I think peaches or even grilled asparagus would be nice substitutes, so I recommend experimenting with this delicious dish. Don’t get concerned if you cannot find duck liver, chicken liver is nearly as rich, and delicious, and very inexpensive.
Duck Liver and Cherry Salad
- 4 cups mixed greens (anything with local arugula is my favorite)
- One cup sweet cherries pitted and halved (surprisingly artichoke hearts are an excellent substitute for the cherries in this recipe!)
- About 1 pound duck or chicken livers
- One quarter cup butter
- 1 pinch fresh thyme
- One quarter cup nice quality olive oil
- 4 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon coarse grain mustard
- Salt and pepper
Wash and dry the greens in a salad spinner to ensure they are dry and set aside. Mix together the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard to make vinaigrette. Toss the greens with some of the vinaigrette, but don’t drown it. Set aside any remaining vinaigrette. Arrange the greens on 4 plates and set aside. Slice the duck livers and then heat up the butter in the sauté pan with the fresh thyme. When the butter is hot, carefully add part of the livers to the pan, being careful not to crowd it. Sauté the livers for about 1-2 minutes, they will be firm but not hard. Carefully lay the livers on the salads, and cook the remaining liver in the same fashion. Sprinkle with the cherries, and drizzle with the cooking butter and vinaigrette. Serve and eat promptly. Serves 4.