Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Grilled Vegetable and Barley Salad with Arugula

Hey, I've missed you! While you were going about your life--working, dining out, coping with weird weather and fires--I was home sick. Nothing dramatic. Just a nasty cold or flu I couldn't shake--what I'm fondly calling "the crud"--but for 10 days it left me with no appetite for anything but the local Chinese joint's hot and sour soup that I doctored with sriracha sauce. It was a lost week, unless you count binging on movies and the second season of House of Cards. I had no energy for anything else.

But I'm re-emerging into the land of living and craving food that will give me a spark of life. I was poking around my pantry and came up with a small sample bag of Indian Harvest's Tuxedo Barley, a combination of waxy hulless barley and black barley. Aha! I could do something with this.

We typically relegate barley to winter--something you add to a big pot of hearty soup--but I started thinking about combining it with vegetables in a salad. What a great alternative to now overused quinoa. It's got a great chew factor and tremendous earthy flavor. With that I started marketing in my mind. Mushrooms and barley are a perfect marriage, so in would go cremini mushrooms. I wanted greens so peppery arugula seemed a good bet. And color--what else but red, orange, and yellow bell peppers? I had a beautiful spring onion I wanted to use, so that went on my list. And I wanted some crunch and to add depth to the flavor. Toasted pine nuts were my obvious answer. Hmmm, it also needed something salty to complement the mellow barley. This was developing a Mediterranean feel so capers would do the trick.

I was going to just chop it all up and add it to the barley, but it was Memorial Day and grilling is de rigeur. Plus, I love the sweetness that you get when vegetables hit heat. I didn't feel like firing up my gas grill so I pulled out my stovetop grill pan, brushed the vegetables with a little olive oil and let them blacken while the barley was simmering in its pot. In the 50 minutes it took to cook up the barley al dente, I had grilled the vegetables, made a garlic sherry vinaigrette, and toasted the pine nuts.

It's a simple dish, of course. And I like that instead of sautéing the arugula, you simply add it to the just-cooked and quite warm barley. As you fold it in, the heat from the barley wilts the arugula just enough. One step saved; one less pan to clean. Add the rest of the vegetables and the capers. Toss with the dressing, top with the pine nuts, and you're good to go. You can also make it ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator to chill if you want a cold salad. And, of course, you could add other vegetables, feta or smoked gouda, and other protein. Whole Foods in La Jolla sells smoked turkey and chicken. If I have the energy, I may go up there and buy a turkey leg, then cut up the meat and add it to the salad. In other words, the ingredients are pretty flexible and what you get is a salad that, yes, is hugely nutritious, but also packed with a mix of flavors and textures--a meal in itself.

Glad to be back with you! Here's to a happy, healthy summer!

Grilled Vegetable and Barley Salad with Arugula
(printable recipe)
Serves 6

8 ounces barley (look for hulled, not pearled, to get the whole grain benefits)
2 cups arugula
12 medium-size cremini mushrooms, stems removed
2 red bell peppers, quartered and cleaned
1 large spring onion, greens trimmed and the rest sliced in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Garlic Sherry Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

1/3 cup Sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine the first five ingredients. Whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

For the salad:

1. Add six cups of water to a large pot and bring to the boil. Add barley, cover, reduce heat to simmer, and let cook for 50 minutes until the grains are al dente.
2. While the barley cooks, make the vinaigrette and set aside. Then heat the grill. Brush the vegetables with olive oil and place on the grill. Once you see grill marks, flip to the other side and continue grilling. When the vegetables are grilled to your taste, remove them to a plate. Be sure to separate the mushrooms from the other vegetables since they'll release liquid. Slice the grilled vegetables into bite-size pieces and set aside.
3. When the barley is cooked, drain it in a colander, shake off excess water, and add to a large bowl. Then add the arugula and toss to wilt the leaves. Add the vegetables and the capers. Then add enough of the vinaigrette to coat the salad--you won't use it all. Top with the pine nuts and serve.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Snacking on Roasted Garbanzo Beans

I am ever on the hunt for really crunchy, low carb snacks. As it happens, one of my gigs is to manage social media for the American Personal & Private Chef Association so I'm also always on the hunt for great content to share. My twin searches collided about a week ago when I came across a recipe from An Edible Mosaic for Falafel-Spiced Roasted Chickpeas, which I happily shared on the APPCA's Facebook and Twitter feeds. Perfect! They're low in carbs and fat, high in fiber, and taste delicious. Snack on them with a cocktail or cup of tea, add them to salads or top a creamy soup. 

Then I got to thinking. How else could one flavor roasted garbanzo beans?

So, instead of focusing the flavor on cumin and coriander, I opted for smoked paprika and sumac. Like An Edible Mosaic, I chose the "quick" route of roasting at a high temperature. But when the current heat wave in Southern California is over, I'm also going to give low and slow a try, hoping that I'll end up with more flavor and--with a gradual drying out of the beans--greater and more long lasting crunch, a result similar to roasted chickpeas I used to buy in Italian grocery stores in Boston's North End.

But this technique works very well and delivers a splendid healthy snack. If you want to go all out, buy dried beans, soak them overnight, and cook them up before roasting. If you haven't the time or inclination, canned beans are just fine and prep will take no time at all. Just be sure to rinse them thoroughly to remove as much salt as possible so you can add your own much better tasting sea salt.

Smoked Paprika and Sumac Roasted Garbanzo Beans
Adapted from An Edible Mosaic
(printable recipe)

1 15-ounce can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (sweet or spicy, depending on your preference)
1/2 teaspoon ground sumac
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Thoroughly dry the garbanzo beans using a paper towel.

In a medium-size bowl, thoroughly mix all of the ingredients, being sure that all the beans are covered in the spices and oil.

Spread the beans in a single level on a quarter sheet pan and roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Halfway through, shake up the beans so that they are fully exposed to the heat.

Remove when they're nicely browned and crisp. Let cool enough so they don't burn your tongue, but they're best and most crispy right out of the oven. Note that they will soften overnight.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hanis Cavin's Crab Meatball and New England Chowder

Last Sunday night, the pork dude did seafood. Chef Hanis Cavin, owner with wife Sara Stroud of Carnitas Snack Shack and the new Smokehouse Kings, is known and revered for all things porcine in San Diego. But long before he make pigs his purview, he had a long and distinguished career as a fine dining chef at places like Mixx, Pacifica Del Mar, the Kensington Grill, Dakota Grill, and Chive. Trained at the New England Culinary Institute, he earned the Chef of the Year award in 2009 from the California Restaurant Association and was recently inducted into the San Diego Home/Garden Chef's Hall of Fame.

All this is to say that the guy behind the Shack is no culinary one-note. And this was oh so clear Sunday night at Collaboration Kitchen, where he showed the audience how to make dishes such as SoNo Habanero Mustard-Crusted White Sea Bass in Cheerios Dust with Tomato Gastrique and Red Pepper Confit, Chicharon-Crusted Wahoo Milanese with Stone Fruit Compote on Arugula in Lemon Oil, and what I'm going to share with you here, Crab Meatball with Yukon Gold Potatoes and Lardons in New England Chowder.

The dish is fairly simple to make but packed with surf-and-turf flavor. All of six ingredients make up the crab balls, which are sauteed before being added to the chowder, which also has minimal ingredients--just very good ones. It would be a Cavin dish without some sort of porcine ingredient and here it takes the form of bacon lardons, which Hanis assured everyone was nothing fancy, just thick cut slices of bacon. The Yukon potatoes, once diced and added to the soup, become tender and add heartiness.

So, here it is, courtesy of Hanis:

Crab Meatball/Yukon/Lardoons/"New England" Chowder
(printable recipe)
from Hanis Cavin
Makes 4 dinner-size portions or 8 appetizer-size portions

1/2 pound crab, finely chopped
1/2 pound ground white fish
1 whole egg
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, chopped fine
1 teaspoon fresh shallot, chopped fine
1/4 cup diced onion
2 strips extra thick bacon cut in 1/8-inch pieces
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cups clam juice
2 cups cream
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon canola

For the crab meatball:
Mix together the first six ingredients in a large bowl. Form into one-ounce balls and place on a cold sheet pan into the refrigerator for one hour or overnight.

For the chowder:
Saute the bacon and onion in the canola oil until cooked thoroughly. Add flour to create a roux over low to medium heat. It should reach a wet sand-like consistency in about five minutes. Add all the liquid and vegetables and cook on low to medium heat until the potatoes are almost tender. Saute the crab meatballs until browned. Add the balls to the chowder and cook for five to eight minutes.

Pour chowder into bowls.


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