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Friday, November 15, 2013

Chickpea Pancake

I made this for a neighbor's home-brew party. It seemed like an excellent beer food. And it was, based on how quickly it disappeared! The recipe is from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, though I tweaked it a little. Garbanzo bean (or chickpea) flour is easier to find in these gluten-free times. I found it in the natural food aisle of my local King Soopers among all the other more esoteric flours brought to you by Bob's Red Mill. It's a brand I love not for the gluten-free stuff, since I eat gluten with great relish, but because they carry lots of interesting things, like buckwheat flour, multigrain cereals, and polenta.

I used a 12" cast-iron griddle - the one in the photo - but Bittman says you can use a 12" skillet or pizza pan with a raised edge because the batter is quite thin. Make sure it's well-seasoned or non-stick to avoid sticking.

Chickpea Pancake
(serves 4-6 as a side dish, 12 as an nibble with beer)

1 cup chickpea flour
1 ½ cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 Tablespoons tasty olive oil
½ a small onion, thinly sliced
½ to 1 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Place water in a medium bowl. Sift in chickpea flour (it tends to be lumpy) and whisk. Add salt, black pepper, and 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Cover with a towel and let sit for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Put 2 Tablespoons olive oil in the skillet and brush or swirl it around to cover entire bottom. Add onions and rosemary to batter and mix. Pour into the skillet. Bake for 20 minutes until set. You can bake it another 5-10 minutes to brown it or you can stick it under the broiler to brown, if you skillet can take broiler temps.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Chard Stem Gratin

We're coming up on the end of chard season here in Colorado, at least in my sun-deprived garden. I picked it all this week because a) it's not going to grow anymore (that lack of direct sun thing), and b) it's getting below 20°F at night, which is cold enough to damage the leaves.

What does one do with all that chard? I picked about 1 pound of leaves and 2 pounds of stems. I usually separate the leaves from the big stems because the stems take much longer to cook. I will blanch and freeze a bunch (my husband and I can only eat so much chard). The rest went into this gratin.

A gratin is a baked dish, usually enriched with milk or cream, though you don't have to make them creamy and cheesy. I posted a non-milk based potato gratin; it contained only a small amount of cheese. The cooking liquid was broth. It was still quite tasty. This gratin is richer - but chard is not filling at all, so you want a richer sauce.

When shopping for chard, assuming you don't have a garden to provide you with a big bunch, buy about 2 ½ pounds. Chard yields 50% stem, and 50% leaves, approximately. Look for bunches with bigger stems. My garden chard (variety Burpee's Fordhook Giant) grows particularly large fleshly stems.

You can use bacon fat or butter for the sauce. If you use the bacon for garnish, dice it raw and cook it in a saucepan. Remove the bacon bits and add more bacon fat or butter to measure about 2 Tablespoons to make the sauce.

Swiss Chard Stem Gratin
(serves 6-8)

1 ¼ pound Swiss Chard stems, cut into 4" long x ½" wide sticks
non-stick cooking spray or butter
2 Tablespoons bacon fat (or use butter)
1 ½ Tablespoons flour
1 ½ cup milk (2% or whole)
1 pinch nutmeg
large pinch of black pepper
salt (not much if using bacon fat)
¾ cup grated Swiss cheese, like Jarlsberg or Gruyere
2-3 sliced cooked bacon, diced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a large gratin pan with cooking spray or butter. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook chard in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and chill with cold tap water. Set aside to drain while you make the Bechamel sauce.

Heat bacon fat in a medium saucepan. Stir in flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Slowly add milk and whisk to prevent lumps. Keep whisking until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Add nutmeg and black pepper. Taste for salt (bacon fat will add a bit of salt); add more if needed. Remove from heat and whisk in ½ cup Swiss cheese until it has melted into the sauce.

To assemble gratin, spread chard stems in pan in an even layer. Sprinkle on diced bacon, if using. Pour sauce evenly over chard. Sprinkle on remaining ¼ cup cheese. Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly around the edges.

Adapted from Vegetables by James Peterson, William Morrow and Company, 1998.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mark Bittman's Memorial to Marcella Hazan

If you haven't yet, check out Mark Bittman's memorial to Marcella Hazan in The New York Times Magazine. I posted Marcella's recipe for pesto soon after her death in late September. I never met the woman, so have no memories to share besides my enjoyment of her cookbooks. But Bittman did get to cook with her and he shares some lovely memories, enough to give you the sense of this methodical and opinionated Italian cook who taught many of us about real Italian cooking. He went to Florida and cooked with her only weeks before her death.  What a lucky guy.