So glad it is almost Friday. Actually, so glad it’s almost Thursday. That means farmer’s market day around here, which is what keeps us out of vegetable and fruit doldrums throughout the week. I get so excited just thinking about it.
Actually, that’s kind of a lie. The truth is, well, I have been meaning to ask you…do you ever feel kind of overwhelmed at these places? Like, you see all this great stuff (who doesn’t love the sound of a lemon cucumber?) and you buy it with these lofty goals of going home and doing something fabulous and new only to realize a week later that those damn squash blossoms are rotting in the cheese drawer?
Well, if no, then I am totally impressed. I’ll admit, I have been really trying to work on that this summer and, well, actually eat more obscure produce than we end up throwing out. And in doing so, I have come up with a couple of recipes that are perfect for “swaps:” e.g. they allow you to swap out a meat, veggie and/or fruit but keep the main parts of the dish otherwise intact, thus allowing you to use up what is lying around.
One of my current fave go-to swaps is Warm Chickpea Salad with Fill-In-The-Blank. Which, for this week, was cauliflower. Purple cauliflower. Beautiful purple cauliflower that was priced so well we bought enough for a large dinner party, despite the fact there are only 2.5 of us eating cauliflower at any one time.
So, I gently roasted it in the oven, then added it to sauteed shallots and chickpeas spiced with za'atar. I finished it off with lots of fresh lemon zest, golden raisins and mint and served along side fresh hominy bread and (local jalapeño!!!!) cheese.
I have made this before with white cauliflower, radicchio, carrots, sweet potatoes, even roasted beets. Sooooo good. I know – it doesn’t help me with the heirloom radishes molding in my fridge. But that was an honest mistake. We bought those thinking they were carrots. Whoops.
Warm Chickpea and Fill-in-the-Blank Salad.
Oven at 400. Grease a baking sheet.
2 large heads purple cauliflower, cut into florets, rinsed and dried (any roastable veggie will do here – sweet potato, broccoli, etc.)
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 medium shallot, diced
2-4 Tlsp Za’atar (recipe to follow)
¼ C olive oil, divided
¼ C golden raisons
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup chopped mint
Salt and pepper
First, roast the cauliflower. Make sure florets are dry. Spread onto cookie sheet and toss with 2 tablspoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven about 20 – 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until edges are crispy and brown and cauliflower is crisp-tender. Remove from oven. Can be done up to 30 minutes in advance. Let cauliflower sit at room temp until ready to use.
Next, sauté shallots in remaining two tablepsoons of olive oil until translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add Za’atar and sauté for 30 seconds. Add chickpeas, tossing to coat in oil and spices, until all heated through, another 5 minutes or so. Add raisins and cauliflower, cooking until just heated through. Stir in grated lemon zest and mint. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve, topped with crumbled feta.
Za’atar is a middle eastern spice mixture which, at its simplest, is a combination of sumac, thyme, marjoram and sesame seeds. There are many variations on this theme, with additions of things like fennel and anise. I like a few extra things, but nothing too complicated. The point is, as long as you have the first five ingredients listed below, you’ll get the correct flavor profile.
¼ C dried thyme
¼ C ground sumac
¼ C toasted sesame seeds (I don’t grind mine, but many recipes call for that)
2 Tlbsp dried marjoram
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp ground coriander