Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cherry Scones

The Austin Bakes group has a couple of big bake sale fundraisers under our belt, but because these bake sales were organized to help recovery efforts after terrible events, we all agreed we never wanted to host another one ever again. Sadly, following the tragic events of the explosion in West, Texas on April 17, we started planning the next event to bake for our fellow Texans. The bake sale is happening this Saturday, May 4 at eight different locations in Austin, and there is an online giving page for donations as well. There will be a huge variety of baked goods both sweet and savory from volunteer home bakers and professional bakeries in addition to jams, preserves, sauces, and pickles. We’re hoping for the biggest turnout yet. I’ve been looking through baking books and trying to make decisions about what to bring to the sale. I knew Kurt would be happy to taste test a scone trial run before this weekend, so from several options I wanted to try, I picked the Chocolate Chip Cherry Scones from the Bouchon Bakery book. They’re as easy to make as any other scone, but being from this book, the recipe of course included some attention to detail. Dried, tart cherries were soaked overnight in a sugar and vanilla syrup, and all that time in the syrup plumped the cherries and made them delightfully juicy once they were baked into the scones. Then, the drained syrup was used in making the luscious glaze to top the scones. This was definitely a successful test, and I’ll be baking another batch for Saturday. 

You do need to plan ahead to follow the instructions exactly. First, a simple syrup with scraped vanilla seeds is made, and dried tart cherries are added to it. The syrup is simmered for a moment and then allowed to cool. Once cool, the syrup with the cherries needs to be refrigerated overnight. Then, the dough for the scones can be made, but that needs some resting time in the refrigerator and the freezer before baking. The cherries should be removed from the syrup and drained, and the syrup is saved for use in the glaze. Meanwhile, flour, baking soda, and salt are combined in a stand mixer, and then cold, cubed butter is mixed into the flour. Once incorporated, cream is added and just mixed into the dough. The drained cherries and chocolate chips are then folded in, and the dough is covered and refrigerated for two hours. The recipe suggests making the scones by scooping the dough into mounds with an ice cream scoop. Instead, I patted the dough into a circle before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating. Then, I cut the circle into wedges. Either way, once the dough is portioned and placed on a baking sheet, the sheet is then placed in the freezer for a couple of hours or overnight or up to a month. The scones were baked directly from freezer to oven for about 30 minutes. The glaze was made with confectioners’ sugar, some of the cherry vanilla syrup, and cream and was spooned onto the scones after they cooled a bit. 

I don’t always chill dough for scones so thoroughly before baking, and I wouldn’t have thought to soak the dried cherries for as long as suggested here, but the results clearly proved those steps were worth taking. If you’re in Austin, come on out on Saturday to taste these scones (and lots of other things) while supporting our neighbors in West. 

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Black Olive Gourgeres

I always get excited about cookbooks that include great tip and techniques. When things are explained in ways that give you choices for customizing recipes and make you understand what affect those customizations will have, it’s eye-opening. Dan Lepard’s latest book, Short and Sweet: The Best of Home Baking, is full of tips just like that. It was published in the UK in 2011, but the US version was just recently released. When I received a review copy, I couldn’t put it down. The Tips and Techniques at the beginning of each chapter not only give you details about ingredients, baking times, etc. they also lead you along the way to making your baked goods your own. For example, when you know how salt, sugar, and different liquids affect bread dough, you can start tweaking recipes for the results you want. In the cake chapter, there are so many recipes I want to try, I might just have to start at the beginning and bake my way through it. The Carrot, Orange and Pistachio Cake is a nice twist on classic Carrot Cake; the Coffee and Ricotta Marbled Cake includes a great tip to prevent it from sinking as it bakes; and I have to try the Marrakesh Express Loaf Cake made with coffee, cardamom, cinnamon, pomegranate syrup, and dates. There are cookies and crackers, doughnuts and crepes, frostings and variations on buttercreams, pies and tarts and steamed puddings, and candies like lovely caramels. And, somehow, after reading about all those delicious sweets and looking at all the tempting photos, I ended up making a savory recipe first. When I saw the page for these Black Olive Gourgeres, I realized it had been far too long since I last made gourgeres, and this version was very different from any I’d ever made. 

You start by quartering pitted Kalamatas and combining them with a minced garlic clove, some chopped, fresh rosemary, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a saucepan. Yes, these gourgeres are made with olive oil rather than butter. When the olive mixture comes to a boil, flour is added and stirred until it forms a ball. It’s at this point in the process of making choux paste that I usually take a tip from Ina Garten and transfer the dough to a food processor for mixing in the eggs. It’s much easier than beating them in by hand. However, with the nice chunks of black olives in this dough, I didn’t want the blade of the food processor to reduce them to tiny bits. I still took a lazy approach by mixing in the eggs one at a time with a hand mixer. Grated parmesan was mixed in as well. The size of the gourgeres is up to you, and the recipe includes baking times for smaller, olive-size ones and for larger tablespoon-size ones. I went with the larger size. I brushed the gourgeres with egg wash and sprinkled the tops with more grated parmesan before they went into the oven for about 25 minutes. 

They were puffy and light just as gourgeres should be, and the black olives and parmesan made them delightfully savory. These were perfect little treats to accompany a cocktail. In the section of the book on choux paste, there’s also an interesting suggestion for making the dough into tiny pea-size pieces for sprinkling over soup or salad like croutons. I wasn’t kidding about all the smart tips in this book. 

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas with Swiss Chard

I realize it’s customary for food cravings to strike when you miss a particular dish, when you haven’t had the chance to taste a favorite thing for a long time, and when you can’t wait for the next opportunity to have whatever that is once again. However, even though I live smack in the middle of Austin where you can’t take too many steps in a row without tripping over another Tex-Mex restaurant, I constantly crave Tex-Mex food. I can order tacos for breakfast, burritos for lunch, and enchiladas for dinner by traveling a few blocks from home in any direction whenever I want, but sometimes, home-cooked Tex-Mex is the way to go. Our favorite spots do get crowded causing long waits for a table at peak times, and besides, by making my own enchiladas, I can do things like add some sauteed CSA Swiss chard and top them with sliced, fresh jalapenos for even more heat. These Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas are found in The Homesick Texan Cookbook as well as on the website, and this tangy sauce is one I’ll now be making often. The sauce is quick to make, and it starts like a veloute with a serrano chile-spiced roux to which chicken broth is added. Sour cream and roasted tomatillos are blended in to finish. It thickens as it bakes with the chicken- and cheese-filled enchiladas and makes you happy you’ll have some leftovers, which is another advantage of cooking at home. 

The recipe includes instructions for cooking chicken breasts for the enchiladas, but any cooked and shredded chicken will work here. With your chicken ready and some Monterey Jack cheese shredded, it’s time to make sauce. To start, I broiled a pound of cleaned tomatillos until well-browned on all sides, and transferred them to the blender. Then, butter was melted in a saucepan, and diced serrano chiles were added followed by minced garlic. Flour was whisked in to make a roux, and then chicken broth was slowly added while whisking. It was cooked until thickened, and I added sour cream, cumin, cayenne, and chopped, fresh cilantro off the heat. The sour cream mixture was poured into the blender with the tomatillos, but it was a little too much for my blender pitcher. I ended up pureeing in two batches. With the sauce completed, you can begin assembly of the enchiladas. I set up a row of warmed corn tortillas and started topping them with the fillings. A little shredded chicken was placed on each, followed by shredded cheese, and in my case sauteed Swiss chard. I skipped the suggested chopped onion because I tend to skip onions most of the time. With all the fillings in place, you just roll each tortilla into a cylinder. A cup of the sour cream sauce is poured into an oiled baking dish, and the filled tortillas are placed seam side down in the sauce. When all the enchiladas are in the pan, the remaining sauce is poured over top, the remaining cheese is sprinkled over it, and the dish is baked for 25 minutes. I gave it a few minutes under the broiler to brown the cheese at the end of the baking time. 

Not all of my food cravings are this crazy. Of course, I crave fresh, ripe tomatoes when there are none to be had in the winter, and I even start to long for dark, leafy greens when they just don’t grow here in the heat of summer. But, I don’t think a day will ever come when I won't crave a Tex-Mex meal either from a restaurant or home-cooked. 

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Roman-style Artichokes

I imagine when the day comes that I’m living on that quaint, scenic, stretch of land in rural Italy, this is the kind of thing I’ll have for lunch every day during artichoke season. And, there will be wine from nearby and olive oil from my neighbor of course. I do live a rich fantasy life. Until then, I can now get locally grown artichokes right here at home, and I’m very excited about that. The other day, I went on a bit about our local Austin food scene and incredibly fresh asparagus, and then we received artichokes for the first time ever from our CSA. I was beyond thrilled to find them in the box, and I just happened to have a good idea for how to use them sitting in my stack of recipes to try. In the March issue of Living, Roman-style braised artichokes were shown served with hard-boiled eggs with pine-nut sauce. I followed the recipe almost exactly for the artichokes and delighted in the aroma of garlic and wine from the oven as they cooked. For the eggs, I took a turn from the exact suggestion in the magazine since I had some arugula in my herb garden that I was planning to turn into pesto. I topped my eggs with the arugula pesto and a few extra toasted pine nuts for garnish. 

I used to live in fear of cleaning artichokes. It seemed like the most daunting task in the kitchen. I think I’m finally getting used to it somewhat. I’ve learned to work quickly, have lots of lemons at the ready, and focus on how delicious the finished dish will be. Having a bowl of acidulated water ready for the trimmed artichokes is key, and having a cut lemon to rub on each artichoke while you’re trimming it is helpful too. I pulled off the loose outer leaves, cut off the top, trimmed the stem and peeled it, cut them in half, and spooned out the choke before dunking them in the lemon water. A plate is useful to keep the cleaned artichokes submerged in the water. From that point on, this dish couldn’t be easier. The halved artichokes were placed cut side up in a Dutch oven and topped with white wine, olive oil, red pepper flakes, minced garlic, salt, and herbs. I used parsley, oregano, and basil from my garden and skipped the mint since I didn’t have any. The liquid was brought to a boil on top of the stove and then the dish was transferred, covered, to a 350 degree F oven to continue cooking for about 45 minutes. The eggs were simply hard-boiled, peeled, halved and arugula pesto was spooned on each with a few toasted pine nuts. 

The artichokes were completely tender and flavorful from the wine, olive oil, and garlic. With the eggs with pesto, some crunchy, toasted bread, and a glass of wine, it made an almost perfect, light meal. The only thing missing was a view of the rolling, Italian countryside. Some day. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Burnt Caramel Cake

I was sure it was going to be a cake filled with lemon curd and topped with a toasted meringue frosting. Then, I changed my mind and considered a simple, vanilla angel food cake with strawberries on the side. And, there are two different pistachio cakes that I’ve wanted to try for ages. I have a hard time choosing when it comes to my birthday cake. In the end, my decision was made when I remembered the Burnt Caramel Cake in Basic to Brilliant, Y'all. I mean, caramel covering multiple layers of cake? Of course I had to make this. There are three cake layers rich with butter and eggs, and the icing is a cooked caramel made thick with butter and cream. In this book, every recipe has a tip for making it “brilliant.” For this cake, an embellishment of apple hazelnut compote is suggested as a filling between the layers which sounds lovely but in more of an autumnal way. I decided to dress it up with chopped, toasted pecans between layers instead, and I sprinkled big flakes of sea salt on top. The recipe is available online, but there’s a missing bit of instructions. It skips over adding the eggs which should be mixed in after the butter and sugar have been creamed. The instructions for the caramel icing are great though. This reminded me of the frosting I made for Kurt’s birthday cake which needed to be spread swiftly which I learned as I went. Here, Virginia Willis points out that if you place the bowl of caramel icing in a bigger bowl of warm water, it keeps the icing from setting quite so quickly. It’s a great tip and one I’ll remember next time I work with a similar frosting. Once on the cake, the caramel sets nicely and, the cake stores well at room temperature. 

It’s a simple cake to make which starts with softened butter that’s creamed with sugar. Next, four eggs were added one at a time and mixed into the butter. Flour that had been sifted with baking powder was added in three parts with milk being added alternately. The batter was divided among three pans, and the cakes baked for about 25 minutes. To make the icing, sugar was caramelized in a skillet while more sugar, butter, and cream were brought to a boil in a saucepan. The caramelized, or burnt, sugar was then poured into the cream mixture, stirred to combine, and cooked to reach the soft-ball stage. Off the heat, vanilla and salt were added. It was allowed to cool a bit before being whisked in a stand mixer. Placing the bowl of icing into a big bowl of warm water worked perfectly to prevent it from setting too quickly as the cake was assembled. Still, once the icing was spooned onto the cake, it needed to be spread quickly before setting. I had toasted and chopped some pecans in advance and sprinkled them on the two bottom layers after spreading the caramel icing. 

This is an old-fashioned, caramel-dream of a cake. It was like one giant, Southern praline wrapped around layers of buttery, vanilla cake. I'm not good at deciding on a flavor of ice cream when presented with several options either. This wasn’t a quick decision, but I think I finally chose well. 

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Red and Golden Beet and Cheese Tart

I’ve always liked beets, but there was a time when I got to the point of dreading one more beet at the end of the season. My thinking seems to have changed since these days I look forward to having some roasted beets in the refrigerator. I like cutting roasted beets into wedges and adding them to salads with crumbled goat cheese, and I really like adding roasted and pickled, sliced beets to sandwiches. But, with our latest CSA beets, I wanted to try something different. I remembered a recipe from the files that had been waiting its turn for almost nine years. Every time I flipped by it in the files, I noticed those colorful red and golden beet slices in neat, layered rows. This is from a 2004 issue of Living magazine, and the recipe is available online. The original version was made with red, golden, and Chioggia beets, but I went with just red and golden for mine. Being a beet tart, it sounds virtuous, but the buttery crust, the mix of fresh cheeses under the beets, and the shredded fontina cheese on top make it delightfully rich. It’s the kind of dish that involves a few steps to get things prepped, but then it all comes together simply in the end. To make a meal of it, an arugula salad on the side is a good match. 

I started the prep a day in advance by roasting the beets and making the pate brisee. The next day, the pastry was rolled into a big rectangle and fit into a nine-by-thirteen inch baking sheet. The pastry was chilled before being blind-baked with pie weights. Meanwhile, the roasted beets were sliced on a Benriner. If you slice the golden beets first and stack them away from where the red beets will be, you won’t have to worry about red stains on the golden slices. The bottom layer of the tart was a mix of goat cheese, fresh ricotta, and chopped herbs. Thyme is suggested in the recipe, but I used what my garden had available which was garlic chives, oregano, and parsley. After spreading the fresh cheese mixture, the beet slices were layered on top, alternating colors, in each row. Shredded fontina was sprinkled on top, it was drizzled with olive oil, and salt and pepper were added. The tart then baked for about 25 minutes. 

Now, I have one more reason to look forward to having beets on hand. I might even have to start stocking the freezer with them. How do you feel about beets, and if you have a favorite way of using them, what is it? 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mini Strawberry Tarte Tatins

No sooner had I typed the words “there will be much, much more Simple Puff Pastry in my future” than I was already making it again. Store-bought puff pastry really might be a thing of the past in my kitchen. I had spotted this recipe for Mini Strawberry Tarte Tatins in an issue of Donna Hay Magazine last year, and the recipe is available online. I left it filed away until strawberry season rolled around, and by then I had discovered a way of making a quick puff pastry that works really well. I ignored the suggestion for frozen puff pastry and went with homemade. I also made the tarte tatins in ramekins rather than in a muffin tin as instructed since it seemed like it would be easier to plop them onto plates one at a time rather than turning them out all at once. And, I had so many lovely, red, ripe berries on hand, I overstuffed the ramekins just a bit. The hulled strawberries go into the ramekins first, and then a quickly-made vanilla caramel is poured over them before rounds of pastry are added. The vanilla caramel and juices from the strawberries meld into a fabulous syrup in the oven. Not that these need any gilding, but I topped each serving with a spoonful of creme fraiche anyway. 

Making the Simple Puff Pastry was so delightfully easy the first time, I was happy to do it again. I made the pastry a day in advance and rolled it out and cut circles for the ramekins. I increased the quantities for the caramel sauce and made enough for six desserts baked in six-ounce ramekins. The original recipe makes four desserts in a muffin tin. Still, I had some leftover puff pastry for a few turnovers. The ramekins were buttered, and hulled strawberries were added to each. The caramel was made in a skillet with butter, sugar, water and a scraped vanilla bean and its seeds. It cooked for a few minutes before being spooned over the strawberries in the ramekins. Puff pastry circles were set on top, and the dishes went into the oven for about 25 minutes. 

The strawberries slump into the caramel as they bake, and the pastry attaches itself to the fruit and syrup. A little heat from the oven, and these simple parts turn into an amazingly tasty dessert. This may or may not make a good dinner party dessert since you’ll want to lick every drop of the syrup off the plate, but it just depends on the kind of dinner party you're hosting, I suppose. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Asparagus Pesto with Herb Pasta

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much the local food scene in Austin has changed over the years. Many years ago, I visited the lone, quiet, little farmers’ market on Wednesdays in the parking lot of the old Whole Foods. That was way before Whole Foods moved into the current flagship location with the corporate headquarters upstairs. It was just a handful of us who showed up for the market which consisted of a few vendors who brought a couple of carrots and maybe a turnip or two. I’m exaggerating, of course, but there wasn’t nearly the array of produce, eggs, meat, seafood, prepared foods, and artisan-made products you can find at our markets today. And, these days, we have farmers’ markets in several parts of town happening almost every day of the week. It wasn’t even that long ago, three years perhaps, when getting locally-grown asparagus was difficult. I remember the first vendor who offered asparagus and how precious and limited the supply was. When I heard it was available, I rushed to the market early one Saturday morning and nabbed one of the few, skinny bunches. This year, I’ve seen multiple vendors with beautiful asparagus. More artichokes are showing up lately as well, and I’m thrilled to hear we’ll be receiving some from our CSA next week. It’s exciting to watch our local food options continue to expand. Last month, I brought home lots of asparagus from Hairston Creek Farm. It was so fresh and tender and completely unlike what’s available at the grocery store. I sauteed chopped pieces of it in butter and poured whisked eggs over the top to scramble with it. I also tossed some chopped asparagus into a Thai curry soup just to warm it through before serving. And, I made my favorite asparagus dish of all time. I’ve been making this asparagus pesto for years during the season, and I never thought to mention it here. It’s incredibly simple, and the texture of the pesto is silky smooth. I usually use dried pasta, but this time I went all out and made fresh pasta with chopped herbs incorporated into the dough. It was a celebration of spring on a plate. 

The pesto is found in On Top of Spaghetti which is one of my most favorite books for pasta. You simply roast one pound of trimmed asparagus spears at high heat, like 500 degree F, for a few minutes until tender. Roasting time will depend on the size of the spears. Just toss the spears with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper before roasting. Once the roasted asparagus has cooled a bit, roughly chop it and use a spatula to transfer the asparagus pieces and any oil from the pan to a blender. Add two-thirds cup of extra virgin olive oil, and I know that sounds like a lot, and puree until completely smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed. That’s the asparagus pesto. It can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Just bring it to room temperature or heat it in a saucepan over low heat before adding to cooked pasta. For the pasta, I followed another favorite recipe which is found in Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition. Two cups of flour are mixed with two whole eggs plus four egg yolks and a teaspoon of salt. I mix the dough in a bowl, and then knead by hand for a few minutes before wrapping the dough in plastic and letting it rest for 30 minutes. This time, I also added chopped herbs from my garden which flecked the dough with green. Speaking of color, my pasta dough was especially yellow this time thanks to gorgeous eggs from Milagro Farm. The yolks were beautifully orange. I divide the pasta dough into four pieces for rolling through the machine, and I cut the rolled sheets into thin spaghetti for this dish. I left the pasta to dry at room temperature for half an hour, and then covered it to store in the refrigerator until I was ready to cook. A big pot of salted water was brought to a boil, the fresh pasta was cooked for two minutes or so, and some pasta water was saved before draining. Since I was enjoying our local asparagus so much this year, I bought extra and quickly cooked some chopped pieces to add to the pasta as it was tossed with pesto. I added a little pasta water to thin the pesto slightly. In On Top of Spaghetti, Pecorino is suggested for serving with this dish, but I always use Parmigiano Reggiano instead. 

I have a lot of favorites when it comes to food, but this is in that special category of favorites. Getting to make this pesto with locally grown asparagus and the fresh pasta with incredible, local eggs and home-grown herbs made it better than ever. It’s a continuing pleasure to watch our local food scene grow and to discover new things each time I visit our markets. 

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hot Cross Buns

This year, for a sweet breakfast bread for Easter, I turned to tradition, sort of. I had made hot cross buns once before, but that first time I didn’t choose well among recipes. That was a few years ago when I set out to make proper hot cross buns as they were originally intended to be made. The dough wasn’t particularly sweet or rich; there weren’t very many currants in the buns; and the flavor and texture were lacking in every way. What I learned was that the cross on each bun was traditionally made by piping a simple flour paste on top which baked into a white cross shape. Eventually, that white cross on each bun came to be embellished with icing after the buns baked and cooled. I learned something, but I didn’t especially enjoy those traditional buns. This time, I followed a new-fangled recipe from the Bouchon Bakery book. This dough was very rich, with plenty of sweetness, and it was filled with both currants and dried cranberries. The buns were brushed with egg wash before the final rising and again before going into the oven, and that produced glossy, browned tops. The white cross on these buns was made with a very thick icing flavored with cinnamon and cardamom. They were as delightful as I expected them to be considering the source. 

Like all the recipes in this book, the one for the brioche dough for these buns is very precise. There’s a page devoted to brioche with four variations one of which is brioche for hot cross buns. In the ingredient list, you’ll find 186 grams or one-half cup plus three and a half tablespoons of eggs and 167 grams or 5.8 ounces of butter. I broke eggs into a measuring pitcher and determined that three of the size of eggs I had that day was close enough, and just under eight tablespoons of butter is pretty much 5.8 ounces. Weighing flour, yeast, sugar, and salt and measuring milk was easy enough. The rich brioche was made in a stand mixer, and the recipe suggests a rather long mixing time for the ingredients before the butter was added. I left the machine turning until it really seemed like it had been quite long enough, and then I started adding pieces of butter. I was sure there was more butter than dough, but eventually, it was all incorporated. Dried currants and cranberries were plumped in boiling water for a few minutes before being drained and dried, and then they were spread into a layer on the dough which had been stretched into a rectangle. The dough was folded up and around the dried fruit, and it was placed in a bowl to rise for 45 minutes. The stretching and folding of the dough was repeated, and it was placed back in the bowl for another 45 minutes. After the second rise, the dough was divided into twelve rolls which were placed on a baking sheet, brushed with egg wash, covered with plastic wrap, and left to rise for an hour. Rich, buttery dough like this does need lots of time to rise. Before baking, the buns were brushed with egg wash again. They baked for about 30 minutes and were left to cool. The icing was made with confectioners’ sugar, a bit of cinnamon and cardamom, and just a dribble or two of milk. Thick stripes were piped across the buns. 

I snickered a little at the precision of the recipe, but I can't argue with the results. Unlike my first foray into hot cross buns, this is a version I’ll make again. And, I’ll happily, meticulously measure my eggs and butter for lots of other things from this book too. 

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Spinach and Red Quinoa Salad with Pecans and Halloumi

I realize this just looks like a spinach salad, but there’s a lot more going on in there. For one, it was intended as a quinoa and spinach salad, and I did use the entire suggested amount of quinoa, but I had a lovely bunch of spinach and wanted to use every bit of it rather than only a couple of handfuls. So, the extra spinach is hiding a lot of the red quinoa. But, that’s not all. There are also chewy pieces of dried apricots, toasted pecans and pumpkin seeds, and a tangy dressing with pomegranate molasses and lemon juice. And, the grilled halloumi is seasoned with ras-el-hanout. All those lovely flavors combined to make much more than some simple, spinach salad. I found this dish in the book New Vegetarian Kitchen which was an impulse buy a few weeks back. I was standing in the coffee bar line at Whole Foods when I saw the bright green cover of this book on a display and naturally grabbed a copy to peruse while my cappuccino was being made. In it, there are things like Watermelon Curry on Black Lentil Cakes, Bhel Puri on Poppadom Crisps, Spring Vegetables with Crunchy Walnut Crumble and Harissa Mayonnaise, Vietnamese Tofu and Mango Salad Cups, and many other things I want to try. The variety of dishes including sweet, savory, starter, and main convinced me I needed to take this book home. 

The first step of making this salad is to cook three-quarters of a cup of red quinoa. Do you rinse your quinoa before cooking it? I never used to rinse quinoa or rice but I’ve started doing so lately. Quinoa has naturally-occurring saponins on the surface that could affect the taste if not rinsed away. Odds are that it was rinsed before being packaged, but I give it another rinse in a sieve just to be sure. So, rinsed quinoa was cooked, drained, and allowed to cool. Next, halloumi was sliced, brushed with olive oil, dusted with ras-el-hanout and grilled on each side on a grill pan. At the same time, pecans were toasted in the oven, and pumpkin seeds were added to the baking sheet for the last few minutes. I made a little extra dressing since I was also using extra spinach, and that included about four tablespoons of pomegranate molasses, two tablespoons of lemon juice, four tablespoons of olive oil, one crushed clove of garlic, a pinch of ground cumin, and some freshly ground black pepper. To build the salad, the cooled quinoa was placed in large bowl and topped with the dressing. Cleaned and chopped fresh spinach was added followed by some chopped dried apricots, minced red onion, and chopped parsley. Each serving of salad was topped with a few pieces of grilled halloumi and some pecans and pumpkin seeds. 

I’m easily drawn to any dish with halloumi. I love the salty flavor it adds and the firm texture that takes so well to grilling or searing. The spices that mixed with the dressing, sweet dried apricots, nuts, and parsley were an added bonus. This tasty meal-of-a-salad indicates that my impulse buy was a good one. 

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