With our wacky summer-like temperatures this past week breaking records more than once, it may seem out of sync to post a pot pie recipe. And even though I first made this a few weeks ago, we’ve been enjoying it regularly since then. I like to think of it as my final nod to the winter weather that never really materialized here in Toronto. Yep, 2012 will go down in the annals of DDD as The Best Toronto Winter Ricki Has Ever Experienced. Barely any snow. An abundance of brilliant sunshine. Thermometer reading above above freezing almost every day.
And this pot pie.
When I was a kid, pot pie was most decidedly not on the menu. An avid TV watcher back then, I used to fantasize that my mom would one day cook it for us, perhaps rolling pastry while decked out in pearls and a pinstriped apron à la June Cleaver. With her tailored blouse and perfectly shellacked, upswept bouffant hair, my mother would proffer a huge Corningware casserole that she gripped on each side with blue quilted oven mitts. She’d set the dish just so on a silver trivet on the dining room table, lift the cover with a flourish as a burst of steam escaped. My father, still in his shirt and tie (never mind that in reality he was a butcher whose attire consisted of blood-stained apron and grease) would reach eagerly to dole out portions to my sisters and me as we sat waiting calmly for our mom to join us. Then we’d all nibble demurely for the next hour or so, the clink of silver on bone china the only background to our lively dinner conversation.
In the real world, pot pie proved far too daunting for my mother. While an avid baker, she never mastered pastry (the only pies my mother ever baked had crumb crusts, or crusts that my Aunty M made and delivered to us). As a result, pot pie was never something she attempted (and besides, her hair was too fine and thin to support that updo, anyway). Instead, the closest we ever got to pot pie was patty shells–or, as we knew them growing up in Montreal, vol-au-vent.
Whenever Mom returned from the supermarket with a box of patty shells, we girls knew we were in for a special treat. She’d transfer the shells to a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven, then set about heating a can of undiluted (a crucial detail) Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup on the stovetop. Ten minutes later, the shells were ready and my sisters and I would each grab one on our way to the kitchen table, where we squirmed impatiently until my mother grabbed the soup pot by the handle (she used a kitchen towel instead of a pot holder) and, her housedress spattered with soup, shuffled over to the table and ladled some of the sauce over each pastry. Before she made it back to the stove, my sisters and I had already demolished the shells and were stuffing the creamy goo-coated peas and carrots into our mouths.
Ah, nothing like a classic dinner.
Well, maybe it’s my anticipation of Mad Men’sreturn to the airwaves this Sunday, but I had a hankering for a pot pie. Though perhaps not quite as quick and easy as the patty shells, this variation is also nowhere nearly as complicated as my imaginary 1960s version, either. Taking a cue from my friend Kelly, I created a crumble topping that requires absolutely no rolling or fluting of pie crust. The filling is a simple combination of sautéed vegetables and chickpeas (browning the garbanzos deepens the savory characteristic of the beans while softening the texture for a perfect addition to this filling). Add a quick and simple creamy sauce, bake in a casserole dish and–voilà!–a latter day pot pie that won’t stress you out.
Feel free to wear your hair any way you like when you serve it.
Chickpea Pot Pie (Suitable for ACD Stage 2 and beyond)
Forget about pie crust–this pot pie with a super-simple crumble crust is the ultimate comfort food. And so easy! The chickpeas add protein and bulk so you’ll feel pleasantly full and satisfied.
For the Filling:
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups (240 ml) cooked chickpeas (about one large can–19 oz or 540 ml)
1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut oil, preferably organic, chilled
1/4 cup (60 ml) plain unsweetened soy or almond milk
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Grease a casserole dish with coconut oil or spray with nonstick spray and set aside.
In a large nonstick frypan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the carrots, onion, celery and chickpeas. Sauté until the onions are translucent and the chickpeas just begin to brown, 10-12 minutes. Stir in the parsley and dill and turn off heat.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a medium pot, melt the coconut oil withthe rice flour over medium-low heat. Cook and stir for a minute or two, then slowly whisk in about 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the milk until well blended. Add the other 1/2 cup (120 ml) and whisk to blend. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth; turn off heat. Add the vegetables to the sauce in the pot and stir gently just to coat them; pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
Make the crumble topping: In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt. Break the coconut oil into small pieces and scatter it over the flour, then pinch the mixture between your thumb and fingers until crumbly and all the oil is incorporated. Drizzle with the milk and toss with a fork until it comes together in a moist, crumbly mixture.
Scatter the crumble mixture evenly over the vegetables in the casserole. Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, until the biscuits are lightly browned on top and the filling is bubbling at the sides. Makes 4-6 servings. May be frozen.
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Okay, Mother Nature, this is really getting old. I mean, we’ve been tortured bysuffering withenduring tolerating winter since October 21, 2010 (should I feel guilty that that’s my birthday?). Time for some warmer temps, dry streets, green buds poking their happy noses out of the ground. Time for some plus-size temperatures (not to be confused with plus-size clothing, about which I wouldn’t be too happy). Time for the sun to persist through post-dinnertime, cajoling us to peel off our scarves, gloves, overcoats.
Time for SPRING, already!
But okay, since we’re expecting upwards of 15 cm (6 inches) of snow today, and since the temperatures are -5C (23 F) instead of the seasonal +6C (43 F) today, I will treat you to this last bowl of winter stew for the season.
You know how, sometimes, you make serendipitous discoveries at the least expected times? I’m not talking about the kind of discovery where you perchance leave a beaker of staphylococci bacteria lying around the lab and then, lo and behold, a day later you have. . . pennicilin! Nor the kind where you decide to cut your business trip short because you miss your hubby, hurry home, then barge in on said hubby and his secretary in flagrante delicto. And certainly not the kind where a bunch of science nerds all decide at the same time, “Hey! I think there’s an extra planet up there! Who knew?”
No, those are all examples of monumental discoveries–and I’m not talking about those.
I’m referring to the little quotidien discoveries that can happen to anyone, the types that add a little burst of excitement to your otherwise mundane day. Like when you pull out your spring blazer for the first time after a long winter (and how I dream of that day) and find an unexpected $20 bill inside the pocket. Or when you’re packing up the house for a move to your new place and (as happened to the HH and me when we moved to our current place) you reach to grab the last mug in the cupboard and come across that hand-knit tea cozy you received as a Christmas present from your first boyfriend’s mother, 25 years ago–the one you had been certain was lost forever. That’s the kind of everyday discovery that makes you smile, that adds a little bit of joy to the day.
I experienced one of those happy discoveries this past week. You see, I had completely forgotten about my recipe for Chickpea and Potato Stew with Tomatoes, a recipe I cooked up almost every week throughout my 20s and 30s. As a newbie cook, I came across the original recipe in an old Canadian Living Magazine, and it couldn’t be simpler. It was the perfect dish for a single vegan just learning to cook: everyday ingredients, simple preparation, no special tools or equipment required. The components came together quickly, then took care of themselves as they simmered quietly in a corner while you went about your business for 30 minutes or so. Afterward, they greeted you with a robust, warming, perfectly seasoned stew containing a wonderful balance of protein, carbs, and sauciness.
How had I forgotten all about this stew? It came back to me after we received a five-pound (2 kg) sack of potatoes in our organic produce box last week. What to do with them all? And that’s when I remembered. I pulled out my “Veg Main Meals” recipe folder from the bookcase and began to leaf through the hundreds of pages in it, each one clipped from a magazine or newspaper, or printed from a website or blog.
Forty minutes later, I still hadn’t found the recipe. I knew it was there, somewhere–but another glance through the clippings still didn’t uncover it. Determined, I decided to look for a similar base online, from which I could build a reasonable replica. A quick Google search–and up came dozens of similar recipes!
Okay, so maybe my old stew wasn’t unique. But with the help of a good memory jog, I put this together. At the last minute, I added some tahini–not in the original–to create a thicker, creamier sauce. It worked beautifully, and produced a rich gravy that is perfect for sopping up with crusty bread (as the HH ate it) or ladling over cooked rice or quinoa.
I’m so happy to have rediscovered my old favorite–especially today, when a warming stew is perfectly in order to bid winter “adieu.” I still have a feeling that the original recipe will show up some day, though–most likely, the next time we move.
“Mum, you know we love those serendipitous discoveries, too. Like, say, when you drop an extra treat under the kitchen table. Score!”
This is a delicious, simple, savory stew, the kind without extra spice or unnecessary bells and whistles. It’s filling, satisfying, warming and flavorful with a hint of sweet basil and oregano in the tomato base. Perfect for a hot meal toward the end of winter.
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
28-ounce (796 ml) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1-1 1/4 cups (240-300 ml) vegetable broth or stock (see instructions)
3 medium potatoes, diced small (about 1/2 inch or 1 cm cubes)–peel if desired*
1 tsp (5 ml) dried oregano
1 tsp (5 ml) dried basil (or use 2 Tbsp/30 ml fresh, chopped)
1 tsp (5 ml) dried parsley
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt, or to taste
2 cups (480 ml) cooked chickpeas, drained
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sesame tahini, at room temperature
In a large nonstick pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes, stirring often.
Drain the tomatoes and reserve the drained liquid. Add broth to the drained liquid to make a total of 1-1/2 cups (360 ml). Add the tomatoes, the liquid with broth, potatoes, oregano, basil, parsley and salt to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, 20-25 minutes.
Add the chickpeas to the pot as well. Spoon off about 1/4 cup of the liquid from the pot and mix it with the tahini in a small bowl. Pour the mixture back into the pot and stir to mix well, ensuring that the tahini is incorporated throughout. This will create a thick, creamy sauce.
Adjust seasonings and serve over rice or other grains, or alongside a crusty bread. Makes 4-6 servings. May be frozen.
*Note: for ACD Stage 1, you can substitute sweet potato or cauliflower for the potato.
[Have you entered the Cookbook giveaway yet? Choose any cookbook you like and you could win it as my Christmas present to you this year! Click here to enter--only one day left!]
I meant to post about this recipe yesterday, but somehow, I’m, er, running a tad behind schedule. How did I get so woefully tardy on my holiday preparations this year? Usually, I’m that student you always hated, the one who handed her essay in two days early. Or that friend who’s already seated, calmly sipping tea and reading The History of Love, when you arrive at the restaurant for lunch at the designated time. (Sorry, really. Seems I couldn’t help it. . .just anal that way).
But not this year; no sirree. I suppose I can attribute the shift in efficiency to a strange confluence of medical and dental appointments, late-in-the-term exams and massive marking duties, some broken plumbing and emergency repairs plus various and sundry other distractions scattered throughout the month. I could blame the influence of the HH (always a great fallback position) and his über laid-back approach to Christmas shoppingthe holidaysshovelling snow everything, leaving chores or errands until the last minute, which seems to work just fine for him but is in fact disastrous for me. Or I could blame this infernal candida (even better fallback position), which has been acting up as if sparked by the holiday spirit itself.
Years ago, I vowed I would never leave holiday shopping to the last minute. This pledge came after one particular Christmas in Montreal during my graduate school years. I’d flown “home” from Toronto to be with my family, but as a don in residence, I wasn’t allowed to leave the campus until December 23rd. The CFO suggested we wait until I arrived so we could shop together–on December 24th. “We’ll just start really early, before the crowds develop,” was her reasoning. It must have been the jet-lag, but it seemed logical to me, and I agreed.*
Entering the first shopping mall, I was overcome with a mounting sense of dread as we shuffled along amid the throngs, shoulder to shoulder with a mass of strangers moving in unison from displays of scarves and mitts to shelves of sweaters and lingerie to stacks of boots and books to walls lined with dresses and coats to counters replete with mixers, radios, food processors, mixing bowls, wine glasses, can openers, oven mitts. . . . within minutes, I was a little light-headed and approaching dizzy.
After about half an hour of such torture, the CFO and I looked around at the mob of seemingly lifeless bodies perambulating like automatons, no expression (or worse, grim determination) on their faces, moving as if compelled by some unseen, insidious force. . . wait a minute–did that guy have both his arms outstretched before him, palms toward the ground? Was that a little drop of blood I saw in the corner of that grandma’s leering mouth? Was that woman at the Henckels counter lifting that blade a little too high over the saleswoman’s head? Suddenly, we both decided we had to get out of there. Now.
With only a few meagre bags at our feet, sipping cappuccino (as I still did in those days) at a nearby café, we felt enormous relief at having escaped relatively unscathed from what seemed like the scene of the latest horror movie: Christmas Night of the Living Dead, perhaps, or Invasion of the Booty Snatchers, or The Lost Buys. Or, even more to the point, simply The Shopping Mall (Mmwhahahahaaaaaa!).
Nope, never again.
Okay, so maybe December 22nd is, in reality, not much better than December 24th, but at least I got the job done yesterday (with minimal dizziness or bloodshed). The HH, on the other hand, still hasn’t even started his Christmas shopping. Mwhahhaahahaaaa!
This salad will provide a refuge from the holiday insanity (or, perhaps, some rejuvenation after the Big Day). I came across the recipe on Shannon’s blog while catching up on blog reading (another area I’m woefully behind). The original hails from Molly, and, like all of her recipes, it’s a winner. It’s quick (start to finish in less than 30 minutes), satisfying and nutritious all at once. The combination of butternut squash (for just a hint of sweetness) and chickpeas (for protein) with a smattering of red onion (for bite) and aromatic cilantro (for–well, for deliciousness) is addicting.
I had it for lunch yesterday, then again today. The creamy cloak of tahini drizzled over the warmed squash base makes for a delightful contrast in flavors and temperatures, reminiscent of the all-in-one dinner bowls I wrote about a while back. In fact, I think this would be more than sufficient for dinner if served with a healthy grain or hunk of hearty bread.
*Of course it wasn’t jet-lag; there’s no time difference between Toronto and Montreal. It was just wishful thinking.
Warm Butternut Salad with Chickpeas and Tahini Dressing
Oddly, even though the original recipe is called “Warm Butternut Salad,” Molly’s instructions tell us to cool the squash and not re-heat it. I simply used the squash almost straight from the oven to keep the base warm, and to save time.
For the Salad:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ (2.5 cm) pieces
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) allspice (I’d go with 3/4 tsp or 3.5 ml next time)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
fine sea salt, to taste
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked chickpeas, or one 15 oz (425 g) can, drained and rinsed very well
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh cilantro, finely chopped
For the Tahini Dressing:
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
3 Tbsp (45 ml) well-stirred tahini
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced
3-1/2 Tbsp (52.5 ml) fresh lemon juice (not bottled)
2-4 Tbsp (30-60 ml) water, as needed
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, 1 clove garlic, allspice, 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil, and salt to taste. Use a large spoon or your hands to toss the squash until everything is evenly coated. Turn the mixture onto the baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, until the squash is just tender (take care not to overbake at this stage). Remove from oven and cool about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil and tahini until smooth. Add remaining ingredients (start with just 2 Tbsp/30 ml water) and whisk until smooth; the sauce should be the texture of thick cream. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (I had to add a bit more lemon juice).
To assemble: combine the baked squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl and toss gently (so as not to break up the squash). For individual servings, spoon onto plates and drizzle each individually with dressing. Or toss the entire salad and serve in a large bowl, family-style. Makes 4-6 servings. Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
As we often do, the HH and I made the trek to Montreal over the long weekend to spend the holidays with my family. While I long ago became accustomed to toting along some sort of sustenance for these trips (my diet, even when I’m not on a candida cleanse, is considered fairly “out there” by the rest of my kinsfolk), this last visit presented a particular challenge, as I couldn’t even partake in those few foods I normally eat when staying with the CFO.
As a result, our cooler was packed a little more than usual as we departed for La Belle Ville. At our pit stop near Kingston, the HH bought himself a regular coffee and chicken club at Tim Horton’s, while I munched on grape tomatoes, baby carrots, and my new favorite hummus–a Curried Pumpkin variety.
The hummus came about the week before we left, as I was standing in the kitchen ruminating (figuratively, of course) about how much I miss my beloved pumpkin oats (à la Shelby) since I began this infernal ACD. While I ruminated (literally) on some hummus, it occurred to me: why not combine the pumpkin with my hummus instead? Eureka! I threw together some standard hummus, tinkered with the spices and fats, and ended up feeling rather smug for having created a unique, ingenious and flavorsome dish. Immediately, I determined to blog about it.
Well, a few days later, I encountered Vegan Yum Yum’s post about Apple Pie Coffee Cake. The post opened with the following line: ”I have a knack for inventing things that have already been invented.” Ooops.
Rather quickly, I was accosted by insistent, niggling doubts (sort of like Chaser when she wants to go for a walk) about my hummus. Could it be that my original invention already existed? Eventually, I succumbed and, after a quick Google search, discovered that pumpkin hummus abounds on the Internet. In fact, it’s almost as ubiquitous as those little popups (you know the ones–those rows of laughing emoticons) that invade your screens when you’re looking for something else. Curses!
I did take some comfort, however, in the knowledge that all of us, at some time or another, have probably considered an idea or concept of ours to be entirely unprecedented, only to discover fairly quickly that scores of others had already considered the very same thing.
* * *
The scene: Ricki, aged 17, returns home from CEGEP. The Nurse hunches over the kitchen table, enjoying a Fresca and reading Family Circle.
RICKI [flushed with pride at her own discovery]: Hey, did you ever consider how every person sees everything through their own mind? I mean, maybe each of us is actually living in our own little world, which is, like, just our own consciousness, and maybe everything else is just an illusion? Like, what if you’re not really here, but you’re only here because I think you’re here–what if everythng in the world is just an offshoot of my own imagination, creating my reality? What if there’s really nothing else except me? Whoah. Weird, huh?
THE NURSE: I hate to tell you this, but that’s a common theory. It’s called solipsism. Just read some philosophy, genius. Geez. [She yawns. Ricki sinks under the table].
Or how about the same scene, six years later:
Ricki and the CFO are hunched at the kitchen table, drinking Diet Pepsi and reading People magazine.
THE CFO: Hey, Ric, did you ever consider how every person sees everything through their own mind? I mean, maybe each of us is actually living in our own little world. . . . . What if there’s really nothing else except me? Whoah. Weird, huh?
RICKI: I hate to tell you this, but that’s actually a common concept. They even made a movie about it–The Matrix. Just rent the film (which is much more fun than reading philosophy; besides, Keanu Reeves is much cuter than Descartes).
* * *
Well, no matter. Original or not, this hummus is delightful. With its subtle, sunny glow from both pumpkin and turmeric, to the slightly sweet spice from a mild curry and creamy chickpea base, the flavors meld beautifully to create an enticing appetizer or sandwich filling.
When I served this at dinner last week, the HH proclaimed, “This is the best hummus I’ve ever had,” and made me promise to prepare it again.
Now, I’d be inclined to agree with him, except of course I can never be 100% certain that his experience of hummus is identical to my experience of hummus. . . I mean, what if he’s referring to something entirely different from me when he says “best”? And what if I am actually living in my own little world, separate and distinct from his, and the HH is just a figment of my imagination? (Well, okay, I guess that wouldn’t be so bad–it would just mean more hummus for me!). Either way, I’ll be making this again.
Curried Pumpkin Hummus
Unlike most hummus recipes, this one includes no added oils–the almond butter and tahini provide enough fat to render this smooth, creamy, and very satisfying. (And quite original, don’t you think?) It’s great as a filling in raw collard wraps–as seen above–too.
3/4 cup (180 ml) packed cooked pumpkin purée, fresh or canned
2 Tbsp (30 ml) smooth natural almond butter
3 Tbsp (45 ml) tahini (sesame paste)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp (7.5 ml) mild curry powder
1 tsp (5 ml) cumin
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt, or to taste
1/4-1/3 cup (60-80 ml) fresh chopped cilantro, to taste
Cover the chickpeas with water and allow to soak overnight or at least 8 hours. Drain and cover with fresh water in a large pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until very soft, about 40 minutes. (Alternately, use canned, well-rinsed chickpeas).
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the drained chickpeas and remaining ingredients and process until smooth (add up to 1/3 cup or 80 ml water to achieve desired thickness). Scrape into serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil, if desired. Serve with pita chips or raw veggies, or use as a filling in sandwiches or wraps. Makes about 3 cups.
It’s a truism when discussing the era of flower children and Woodstock to say, ”If you remember the ’60s, you probably weren’t there.” When it comes to the 1980s, however, those of us who lived through it are more likely to lament, ”I remember it all–if only I could forget!” Still, the Era of All Things Excessive (also known as the “Me” Decade) did have its touchstones.
And yet, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for those times. I mean, how can anyone forget the heady 80s, with their typical Yuppie motto of ”More is More”? As a PhD student on her own in the Big City of Toronto, it was in the 80s that I finally became comfortable perceiving myself as an “adult.” Working as both a don in residence and a teaching assistant at university, I supported myself while studying and carrying on an active social life, as only someone in the early throes of adulthood can do. With a built-in social network (three of my close friends from childhood had already moved here years before) and PhD seminars filled with interesting new classmates (as well as the occasional crush), I was happy to spend my time memorizing Beowulf by day, then taking on the town by night.
80s urban professionals were regularly amused by showy sportscars, massive parties, both private and public (raves made their appearance in the 80s), big hair (remember Boy George?), big fashion (ah, yes, Amazonian shoulder pads) and even bigger earrings. I recall encountering a colleague in the hallway at work one day, feeling pretty snappy, bedecked as I was with a pair of my favorite gold-wire earrings. He took one glance my way and sniped, ”Wow, how’d you get those hamster wheels to stay attached to your earlobes?”.
Ah, yes, pretty much everything from the 1980s was excessive and self-indulgent. And the food? Oh, my, the food. . . .
The 1980s were epitomized by everything rich, from Gordon Gekko to Double-Chocolate-Hazelnut-Caramel-Cream Cheesecake. Foods were elaborate and multi-layered, and nobody ever worried about saturated fat, cream, too much red meat, organic, or whether the tiramisu was made with whole-grain ladyfingers. No one had ever heard of Omega 3s, let alone ingested them, and restaurants were just getting their fingers wet with the new food architecture that mandated aesthetics over taste. In those days, I’d spend hours cooking and baking for dinner parties, multiple courses and desserts that could, on their own, drain the stock of an entire dairy farm for a day.
One of the best-selling cookbooks of the time was The Silver Palate Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. Two regular New York gals who’d made a name for themselves by operating one of the most successful little gourmet shops in the city’s history, these women finally collaborated on a cookbook and were instantly rewarded with an overwhelming, almost cult-like following.
Like most of my friends, I possess a well-worn copy of the maroon and white-covered tome, its edges fraying a little and pages splotched with grease stains. From the side, my book appears to have donned a jagged, fringed winter scarf, as little strips of sticky-notes, marking recipes I wished to try, peek out from almost every page. One in particular, Chicken Marbella, was cooked so many times that I had to replace the sticky note on more than one occasion.
Well, for some reason, while I lay supine in bed for ten days, my mind kept wandering back to that darned Chicken Marbella. Maybe I was a little delirious; maybe the muscle relaxants brought with them delusions of poultry; or maybe I was just ravenous since I couldn’t get up to feed myself, subsisting on the meager, dried-out muffin the HH left on the bed each morning before he trotted off to work. Whatever the catalyst, I craved that dish. So, as soon as I was up and about, I pulled out my trusty copy of The Silver Palate, and set about adapting.
The original recipe turned out to be slightly different from what I remembered (in my idealized version, it was aromatic with a variety of Moroccan spices, rather than the lone oregano it does contain), but it was still alluring. Certain that quinoa would partner perfectly with the other ingredients, and after a little tinkering, I came up with this recipe.
I must tell you, this was astonishingly good. Next time, I’ll begin with a little more quinoa and chickpeas, as the original marinade was aimed at 4 chickens (I’ve adjusted the recipe, below, accordingly). As in the original dish, the unconventional combination of baked prunes and olives is spectacular, and the quinoa provides a perfect base to soak up and then showcase the flavorful marinade. Even if you’re not normally a fan of prunes, I think you will enjoy them here.
I love this dish as a main course casserole, but the HH still yearns for the chicken and prefers this as a side dish. He ate it, sighing, wishing aloud that if only we’d met in the 1980s when I was still throwing elaborate dinner parties with dishes like Chicken Marbella or some excessively rich cheesecake, he could have sampled the “real” recipe.
But of course, that would never have happened. Even if, by some weird karmic commingling of our (then) diametrically opposed lifestyles, we had actually met back then, the HH would have taken one glance at my bouffant hairdo, while I took one glance at his erstwhile “business associates,” and we would both have run screaming in opposite directions. It wasn’t until the end of the 90s, after having both matured considerably, that fate ultimately brought us together with a coup de foudre. . . followed, inevitably, by our current calm, somewhat predictable, and rather domestic existence.
Amazing, isn’t it, what changes just one decade can bring?
Slightly sweet, slightly salty, and warmly spiced, this dish is a delectable treat. Because it is rather rich and filling, if served as a main course, a simple, light salad would be the perfect accompaniment.
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) dried oregano
1 tsp. (5 ml.) coriander
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4-1 cup (250 ml.) prunes, to your taste
1/2-3/4 cup mixed pitted olives, to your taste
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) capers, with juice
3 bay leaves
1/3 cup (80 ml.) Sucanat or brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 ml.) white wine (I used an Australian Chardonnay)
Preheat oven to 325F (175 C). Grease a tagine (clay baking dish), a ceramic casserole, or rectangular cake pan.
Combine all ingredients in the casserole or pan, and cover. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, then stir and check liquid levels. If the quinoa isn’t yet cooked and it looks like the liquid is almost completely absorbed, add another 1/2 cup water (I found that using more vegetable broth made the mixture too salty for my taste). Cover again and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.
Check again. Continue to add water, 1/4 cup at a time, baking for 10-minute intervals, until the quinoa is fully cooked and all liquid is absorbed. Serve hot. Makes 4 main servings or 6 side dish servings.