Fierce Fierce Dressing

My friend Ana is the one who taught me that you really can make dressing.  She had a great knack for it, and it took me some years to get the hang of it myself.  She and her husband Randy, both Culinary Institute of America grads, and I made a lot of dinners together and opened plenty of bottles of wine back when Ana and I were Whole Foodies.  And we went to see emmet swimming a lot, which meant late nights, and going out to eat afterwards, and crashing at someone’s house and going to get bagels in the morning.  There was a lot of eating.  We had tons of fun.

Now they have two boys and we’re out on the Left Coast, so there’s not much getting together.  But whenever I make dressing, I think about watching Ana do it, and how as the time I resented my own reliance on purchased dressing and admired her improvisational ability.

This dressing went on a lentil-and-vegetable salad tonight.

¼ c. red wine vinegar

¾ c. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T. whole-grain mustard

1 large clove garlic, minced

Combine the vinegar and oil and stir briskly until emulsified.  Add salt and pepper to taste and stir (it’ll need more than you think, because remember, this’ll be seasoning the whole dish).  Add mustard and garlic and stir again.  Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and stir once more.

If dressing a green salad, I would use less acid and a little more oil.  This sort of dressing is also improved by the addition of just about any fresh herb – dill would be great in this permutation, but I’m saving my dill for a potato salad later in the week.  If I was using lemon juice as the acid I’d use less of it, omit the mustard, and load up the dressing with finely chopped mint leaves.

Chickpea Patties with Arugula Salad

These are sort of like falafel, I suppose, and I already have two falafel recipes up on the site.  Why am I putting this up, then?  They sounded good, and they were unlike both my falafel recipes – one of which has eggs and one of which uses raw chickpeas and this does neither – so we made them. 

The patties are from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, but I did something different with the dressing.  The cookbook called for a olive oil-lemon juice dressing (4 T. olive oil, 1 T fresh lemon juice), but we made that up and I found it overly acidic.  Instead, I mixed a half-cup of plain yogurt with a couple tablespoons of oil and added a little salt and pepper.  Yes, we’re getting closer and closer to falafel, aren’t we?

Additionally, the cookbook called for the patties to be served on the dressed arugula.  I had the patties over raw arugula for dinner, but for lunch today I nuked some for a minute with a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper, and I thought the cooked arugula was a much better companion to the patties than the raw had been..

This originally called for all-purpose flour, and you could certainly do that if you are not me and currently on the boring ol’ wheat avoidance kick.  It also originally called for 2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas…instead of doing that, we used about 3 c. cooked chickpeas. 

My poor husband tried to cook these according to the specified directions, and his first batch went to pieces in the oil.  He thought maybe the problem was the oil, so he switched from olive to canola.  I came in at that point and deduced that the problem must be something other than the type of oil.  I tried using more oil (they still disintegrated), then using less oil, (they disintegrated less).  I added a little more liquid to the patties.  That helped some.  Then I dredged them lightly with chickpea flour and fried them in a very little oil in a non-stick skillet.  That worked.

So my advice to you is if you try these and they disintegrate, try  that – adding a small amount of moisture, dredging (for which you’ll need additional flour), and frying in a very small amount of oil.  I think part of the problem also may have been the lack of binding provided by the flour – the chickpea flour would bind some, but maybe not quite like the wheat flour does.

We made smaller patties, too, so as to make them more manageable in the pan.

Basically we futzed around with this thing a lot, so any resemblance of our dish to the original recipe is purely coincidental at this point. 

2 15 oz. cans chickpeas or 3 c. cooked chickpeas, drained
1/2 c. packed fresh parsley leaves
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. hot red pepper flakes
1/4 c. chickpea flour (check the bulk section at your health food store or use wheat flour)

1. Place the chickpeas, parsley, garlic, cumin, and pepper flakes in a food processor.  Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until smooth.  Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the flour and salt to taste.  Shape the mixture into 8 3-in. patties. 

2. Heat 1 1/2 T. of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the chickpea patties and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Carefully turn the patties and drizzle 1 1/2 T. of the remaining oil around the edges of the pan.  Continue cooking until the patties are golden brown on the second side, about 3 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, place the arugula in a medium bowl, drizzle with the remaining 1 T. oil and the lemon juice, sprinkle with salt to taste, and toss gently.  Divide the arugula among four individual plates.

4. Once the patties are cooked, transfer 2 to each plate with the salad and serve immediately.

Black Bean & Citrus Salad

I didn’t try very hard on the food styling on this one – not feeling so good this weekend, so I just made my plate and took a snapshot of it.  This is a favorite entrée salad.  Tortilla chips are nice underneath it or crumbled on top, but not necessary.

For the beans:

2 1/2 c. dry black beans, sorted, washed, and soaked for at least eight hours/overnight, or quick soaked
canola oil to sauté in
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle chili en adobo, minced
1 t. cumin

1/2 c. minced cilantro
juice of 1 lime
hot sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat canola oil in large pot or pressure cooker; sauté onion until well-wilted and slightly translucent.  Add garlic, chipole chili, and cumin, and sauté briefly.  Drain soaked beans and rinse, then add to the pot.  Add water to cover plus 1 inch; if pressure-cooking, fit lid, bring to pressure, and cook for 20 minutes, releasing pressure by running cooker under cold water.  If using a regular pot, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 1 hour or until tender.

In either method, drain beans, reserving cooking liquid, and add cilantro, lime juice, hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add back about 1 c. of liquid – enough to prevent the beans from drying out excessively, but not so much as to make them excessively sloppy.

For the dressing:

1/4 c. canola oil
1/3 c. orange juice
1 T. WFM private label hot sauce
1 T. minced cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together vigorously until emulsified.

Remaining ingredients

3 oranges, cut into sections
2 grapefruits, cut into sections
5 oz. package fresh spinach
1 c. grated cheese (I use a sharp cheddar because that’s what I always have around, but jack or feta would work well too)
2 avocados, cut into wedges and peeled

Combine citrus sections in a bowl.

Plate salad by placing greens, then beans, cheese, avocado, and citrus sections on plate.  Drizzle with dressing.  Toss at table rather than beforehand – it gets ugly once tossed, but it’s still delicious.  Makes 4 entrée-sized servings.

Warm Greek Lentil Salad with Feta and Dill

This came from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, which I’ve been using a lot lately.  I like that it’s seasonally arranged – keeps you from looking wistfully at that corn-and-basil salad (summer) when you should really be reading about asparagus (spring), or pomegranates (fall), or citrus (winter).

The proportions in this are nice, and the pre-cooking of the carrots gets them to just the right texture – not jarringly crunchy, as they would be if added to this batch of ingredients raw.

1 1/4 c. dried green lentils, picked over to remove and stones and then rinsed (these are the "French green lentils" or "Lentilles de Puy" that I’m so fond of.  They’re smaller and more toothsome than the garden-variety brown lentils, though those can be nice too.)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
3 bay leaves (this sounded way overboard based on my super-potent Morton & Bassett bay leaves – I used half of one)
3 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 medium celery stalk, finely diced (about 1/3 c.)
3 medium radishes, finely diced (about 1/3 c.)
2 T. minced fresh dill
freshly ground black pepper
8 c. packed mesclun or other tender salad greens
5 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 c.)

1. Bring the lentils, garlic, bay leaves, and 2 quarts water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer briskly for 15 minutes.  Stir in 1 tsp. salt and the carrots and continue cooking until the lentils and carrots are tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes.  Drain and discard the garlic and bay leaves.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, lemon juice, and salt to taste together in a large bowl.

3. Add the drained lentils and carrots, celery, radishes, and dill to the bowl with the dressing.  Toss to combine and then adjust the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Let the lentil salad cool for about 10 minutes.

4. Divide the mesclun among four large plates.  Spoon the lentil salad over the mesclun, sprinkle with the feta, and serve.