Chickpea Obsession…

We have recently become obsessed with chickpeas.  I'm not sure exactly when or why it happened, but somehow I keep finding recipes with chickpeas on my weekly menus.  Not only are these chickpea dishes making their way on my menus like some sneaky guest you don't remember inviting, but they're becoming the star of the party!  Week after week these seemingly simple dishes have blown both Christian and I away, becoming our favorite dinner of the week.  You know, the kind where you're excitedly awaiting the leftovers.  Don't get me wrong...we've always liked chickpeas, but all of a sudden we love chickpeas!

Since they've been such a welcome part of our dinners lately I thought I'd share a few of our favorite dishes that feature chickpeas. The name of each dish is linked to the recipe so you can make them yourself.  Besides all having chickpeas, the other commonality that these dishes have is that they are all super simple as well.  What could be better than simple and delicious?!  Oh....healthy.  Yup, these dinners fit that bill as well!
Coriander Chicken Tostadas

This is one of those recipes that has been hiding in my binder for a while....over a year to be exact.  So when I stumbled upon it recently we added it to a menu and boy are we glad that we did!  Christian actually made it since I was running late but he says it was pretty darn easy for how gourmet and delicious it turned out.  We did decide to cheat slightly though...we used canned low-fat refried beans instead of making them ourselves, but it worked out just fine for us!

The recipe can be found here, on the Epicurious/Bon Appétit website from January, 2011.  Perfect for this time of year since fennel is in season!

Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

This is a delicious and fabulous winter salad...even for those who have never eaten kale or think they don't like kale.  How do I know that?  It was my one risky dish for Thanksgiving this year and it got rave reviews!  And this was from a group of 12, men an women, who aren't really into the whole healthy, superfood movement.  So this was a bit of an experiment and I was prepared for it to be snubbed next to all of those buttery and rich Thanksgiving stand-bys.  Imagine my surprise when I started hearing murmurings around the table about the salad....of all things!  I think almost everyone loved it (yes there were one or two holdouts...but I'm convinced they didn't even try it) and had seconds.  It was even one of the first leftovers to be finished off.  So, I stand by my assessment that this is a phenomenal salad!

Recipe: Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

It's actually quite simple when you look at the recipe...kale, brussels sprouts, almonds & pecorino dressed with a simple mixture of lemon juice, dijon mustard, shallot & garlic.  Voilà!  Delicious salad!  That being said, there are two steps that can take a bit of time if you don't have the right technique:

Butternut Squash & Chickpea Farroto

Holy good heavens, this is a winner!  I stumbled upon this recipe in a Bon Appétit a couple of years ago and it's been on my "to be cooked" list ever since and I'm kicking myself for not making it sooner.  Now that we've had it once, it will definitely become a winter staple in our household.

If you're not familiar with Farro, it's an Italian grain that has a mild nutty taste with a nice toothsome texture...similar in texture to risotto which is why it works so well as a substitute here.  If the labor-intensive stirring of risotto scares you off then this is the perfect alternative since you get a similar textured dish without standing by the stove stirring non-stop for 30 minutes.  Farro can be a bit harder to find than other grains, but specialty food and natural food stores tend to carry it.  Italian and Middle East grocers are another good place to look.  Of course, you could also order some online and save yourself some driving around.  Trust me, this dish is worth the hunt!  
How to Cook the Perfect Steak

SavoryGirl's Perfectly Cooked T-Bone

Steak...so seemingly simple and delicious.  Yet if you're anything like me, you've had a hard time getting that home-cooked steak to even remotely resemble those over-priced beauties you get out at a restaurant.  So what gives?  Are we doomed to paying $49.99 for a good steak forever?  No!  You just need to understand a few basic steps (adapted from something I originally tried from Bon Appétit about  year ago) and I promise you that your steak will come out  perfectly.  Trust me, mine even passed the discerning Husband test!   So, first things first, unfortunately cooking a great steak takes a bit of planning, meaning it's not as easy to do on a whim.  So if you plan in advance your better off since you'll have time to do the following super important prep steps.  Trust me, time & salt are the two biggest secrets...
A SavoryGirl Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving.  One of my favorite holidays...the arrival of my Thanksgiving Bon Appétit every year is practically a Henricksen holiday in it's own right.  One of the reasons I love it is because we have a 5 year tradition of renting a house with friends in fun places like Paso Robles and Palm Springs.  This year we're headed back to Palm Springs for a 2nd year with a crew of 13.  It's the first year we have to rent two houses and we have a record high of 5 people flying in from the East Coast...so it's going to be a fun long weekend full of good friends, fun in the sun and great food.

I have to admit though, I also love Thanksgiving because I truly enjoy the challenge of planning out the meal and strategizing for how to bring it all to life in a way where I can still relax and enjoy the day with friends by the pool.  The fact that I have to cart half of my kitchen and brining turkey to our destination certainly makes for an added challenge, but that just makes a successful meal all that more satisfying!

My menu for this year with links to recipes is below.  I've also provided my "week-of" schedule since that's the secret to my success.  Lots of cooking and prepping the week leading up to Thanksgiving so the day of it's mostly just cooking and assembling.  The day of, hour-by-hour schedule is also included since timing is everything on Turkey Day!   Wish me luck as I scale up to cook my largest Thanksgiving yet...and of course if you have tips and tricks of your own I would love to hear them...
Pancetta Crisps with Goat Cheese & Figs

I made these delicious & easy little suckers from the November 2010 Bon Appétit for Thanksgiving last year and they've been a go-to appetizer in our house ever since...well at least when we can find fresh figs (although I've also used fresh dates...if you do that you can skip the jam/preserves though). They are so super easy to make...mostly assembly and since you can crisp up the pancetta in advance.
Cinco de Mayo Menu

How could I forget to include a Cinco de Mayo dinner in this week’s menu?!  Christian and I love going to Mexico and in fact spent our honeymoon about 6 years ago there.  We also work Mexican inspired dishes into rotation so regularly that we often joke that we must have been Mexican in a past life...so we simply can’t skip the Cinco de Mayo festivities even if we do stay home.  That means I’ll be swapping out the White Bean & Kale Soup on this week’s menu for the Cinco de Mayo menu below (since I have the ingredients for the soup though I’ll make that next week....thankfully kale lasts forever!).
Root Vegetable Tagine with Spice Roasted Chickpeas

This was a new recipe for us (from Bon Appétit’s Oct, 2010 issue), but it sounded like a delicious and hearty vegetarian Sunday supper so we gave it a try.  I say it’s a Sunday supper, simply because it is labor intensive...about 2 hours from start to finish (including 35-40 minutes simmering time).  It’s the type of recipe that scares off a novice cook just based on the long list of ingredients and multiple steps, but in reality it is all very easy...just takes a bit of time to do all of the chopping and seasoning steps. Stay organized and prep everything (like your own little mise en place) before you start actually cooking and it will go just fine!

One shortcut is to use pre-ground spices...but for the ones it recommends toasting, feel free to still do that with the powder (just really keep an eye on it since it will burn super quickly) to really enhance the flavors.  Also, the spiced chickpeas are a must...do not skip those!  I found that they could use a bit more seasoning though so feel free to go heavy handed.  A dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt on top of this dish would be a nice addition as well. 
Grilled Spiced Eggplant with Minted Yogurt Stacks



So it happens sometimes...you spend the time and energy trying a new recipe and you just don’t love it.  Oh well.  It’s not that this recipe was bad....there just wasn’t anything super compelling about it and to be honest I kind of felt like I was eating a vegetarian Gyro without the onions, tomato & pita (which I kind of missed....so maybe fold these stacks up and throw them in a pita!).

The eggplant cooked up nicely though and made delicious quesadillas for my leftover day (combined with sauteed mushrooms, onions and canned artichoke hearts).  The minted yogurt was a nice twist on Tzatziki but would fare better as a sauce than a substantial filling.