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Crispy Roasted Masala Chickpeas

26 Nov

We’re entering into that glorious time of the year when the celebrations are plentiful, the lights forever twinkly, and the snacks are everywhere, all of the time, no matter where you look. For a dedicated snacker (as I happen to be), this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. In her cookbook Super Natural Everyday Heidi Swanson notes that her day’s consumption of food goes something like “meal-snack-meal-snack-snack-meal,” a series of events that I can only describe as being somewhat blissful in its rhythm. Swanson, of course, makes the most of those meals and snacks, indulging in supremely healthful foods that provide the most punch as possible, both in terms of flavor and nutrition.

I wish I could say that I am always that dedicated to eating healthfully. Certainly a lot of people would look at my meals and snacks throughout the day and declare me to nothing short of a Pollyanna when it comes to food (I don’t drink sweet beverages at all, I eat very little meat, I don’t buy junk food), but one can certainly find a lot of room for improvement when it comes to my snack choices during the holidays. Whereas I ordinarily find much satisfaction in eating a few nuts or an apple for a standard snack, the holidays inevitably turn me in an entirely different direction, snack-wise. Things just seem to appear in our house, and then those things inevitably end up in my mouth. The chocolate covered nuts, the containers of homemade cookies—bless them all, but, my lord, I lose my mind when those things are sitting around and looking at me with their luscious, chocolaty, buttery eyes.

Perhaps this year I will be able to keep a stash of more sensible snacks around, so that I can maintain my normally reasonable and pleasurable way of eating. These crispy, spicy chickpeas will be a good start. They take absolutely no time to throw together, and they make a wonderful snack, garnish, or added protein, whether I am looking for something snacky or something to plump up a meal. My current favorite way to eat them (aside from just eating them as they are, which is simply wonderful) is to throw them on a pile of quinoa, chopped raw spinach, and avocado, then drizzle everything with a touch of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The spices are just perfect and the tiny kick of heat makes for a nice surprise. All in all, these little chickpeas are a welcome addition to the day, no matter the season.

Last Year: Slow-Cooked Beans and Huevos Rancheros

Crispy Roasted Masala Chickpeas Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ cups cooked, drained chickpeas

2 teaspoons garam masala (a commonly found Indian spice blend)

¼ teaspoon chili powder (or cayenne pepper, if you want things a little spicier)

salt and pepper to taste, if needed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over high heat. Add olive oil, then add drained chickpeas. Sprinkle over garam masala and cayenne pepper, and stir to combine. Sauté the chickpeas and spices, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes, then place the skillet in the heated oven. Roast the chickpeas in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are crisp and golden. Taste for seasoning, and add a bit of salt and pepper if you think it is necessary (garam masala spice blends contain different levels of salt, so it is important to hold off on adding more salt until after the chickpeas have been roasted).

Eat the chickpeas as is, or add to salads or soups.

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3 Doors Down Cafe’s White Bean and Fresh Herb Spread

22 Oct

This recipe is one of those food discoveries that, when revealed, makes you want to weep with joy. A few blocks from our house is a great little neighborhood restaurant by the name of 3 Doors Down. It’s a lovely place, featuring fantastic seasonal fare (a concept they’ve long embraced, far before it became a national trend), great wines, and an atmosphere that caters to both a nice family meal or a special evening out with friends.

That last point is a fairly spectacular achievement, and I give nothing but glowing reviews to 3 Doors Down for being so capable of meeting such disparate needs. On more than one occasion I have spotted a variety of simultaneous diners at 3 Doors Down that included a couple with a new baby snoozing away in an infant carseat, a table of six adults ordering wine two bottles at a time, several tables of dressed-up, cozy couples, and a party of three that included two adults and one bowtie-wearing six year-old (full disclosure: one of those tables was my household).

Every meal at 3 Doors Down is started with a dish of this superb white bean spread, accompanied by a plate of crusty bread. To illustrate its allure, picture this: when the aforementioned bowtie-wearing child was presented with a petite dish of the tasty spread, a single taste was all it took to hook him, and before long he began simply spooning the deliciousness into his mouth, forgoing the bread entirely. While all the food at 3 Doors Down is top notch, there cannot be enough fawning words dedicated to the creamy, flavorful white bean starter. So savory and rich, so wonderfully fresh and delicious, it is practically the definition of comfort found in a food. And the tear-inducing part? The recipe is available on their website, because that’s how great 3 Doors Down really is. Whip up a batch of it and you’ll see firsthand why my tears of joy were totally and completely justified.

Last Year: Cider Pressing and Two Kinds of Cupcakes

3 Doors Down Cafe’s White Bean and Fresh Herb Spread Recipe

I made this with freshly cooked beans, as called for in the recipe, but I see no reason why one couldn’t use canned cannellini beans if pressed for time.

2 cups dry cannellini beans

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons fresh garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped

2 pinches red chile flakes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cover beans with water by two inches. Soak for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Drain beans. Put beans into saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook beans until tender, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Drain.

In separate saucepan melt butter over medium low heat and add all remaining ingredients, except for the olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent about 7 to 10 minutes. Add cooked beans. Mash or puree with a food processor or stick blender until chunky-smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a dish or bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with crusty bread.

Makes 4 cups.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

19 Oct

It all may end soon. This run of black and orange foods, strangely enough, does not seem to be propelling the San Francisco Giants into unstoppable greatness. It’s like 1987 all over again. In fact, the run of games so far seem to bear a striking resemblance to the St. Louis/San Francisco pennant race of that year, a development that I cannot claim to find in any way pleasing.

But, at least I got some soup out of it. This is a good thing, because, after a long and lovely bout of unseasonably warm fall weather, we have finally been plunged into the cold, rainy days of Portland autumn. Soup weather is definitely here, and I could not be happier (for the soup, that is—not so much for the rain). What is odd, however, is the fact that no one who happened upon this website would ever guess that I hold such a fondness for soup. In the 18 months or so that I have been pouring myself into this lonely little site, there have, thus far, been only two soup appearances (three, if you count a soup recipe I developed for Portland Farmers Market). Suffice it to say, this oversight is definitely not indicative of my usual tastes (the number of cake recipes featured here, however, is).

This soup, number three in this site’s current arsenal, is a great addition to anyone’s repertoire. It’s hearty, but in a meatless, high fiber sort of way, rather than in a heavy, cream-laden way. The black beans, cooked until soft and tender, are nicely paired with brightly sautéed sweet potatoes, and the small hints of spice provide a gentle background to each bite. This is the type of soup that is perfect to eat on a brisk evening, each steamy bite warming you from the inside out. It may not make your favorite baseball team score any (much, much, much needed) runs, but it will definitely make your lunch or dinner a pleasant meal to remember.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup Recipe

10 ounces dry black beans

3 quarts of water

¼ cup chopped garlic (I got this much garlic from 8 very large cloves)

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into ¼-inch chunks

optional: ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large pot, cover the black beans with water and soak overnight. Alternately, you can quick-soak the beans by covering them with water, bringing them to a rapid boil, allowing the beans to boil for 2 minutes, then covering and allowing to soak for 1 hour.

Drain the beans from their soaking liquid, then place beans in a very large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add 3 quarts of water, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat to a simmer and gently simmer the beans, uncovered, for 1½ hours.

While the beans are simmering, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds. Allow the cumin seeds to sizzle for 15-20 seconds, stirring all the while, then add the diced sweet potatoes. Lower the heat to medium and sauté the sweet potatoes for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. When the sweet potatoes have become fork-tender, borrow about ½ a cup of the liquid from the cooking beans and pour the liquid over the sweet potatoes to deglaze their cooking pan. Stir the steaming, bubbling liquid with the sweet potatoes, scraping any brown bits up from the pan, then pour the sweet potatoes and their deglazing liquid into the simmering beans. Stir to combine every thing, then bring everything back up to a simmer and allow to gently simmer for 30 minutes. Top each serving with a sprinkling of cilantro, if using.

Serves 6-8 people, not all of whom are required to be San Francisco Giants fans.

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