I have a routine that I like to follow when it comes to the few recipes I post on this blog and the many recipes that are only enjoyed by a party of two in the comfort of our apartment. On any random day something works like flint and creates a spark in my thoughts: a protein or technique from one of my two kitchen jobs catches my eye, down time on the couch with a book about food in my lap and a pen and paper by my side, or a culture is briefly showcased in any one of my many beloved cooking shows.
From there, I take joy in the research, browsing through Vegetable Literacy or Good Meat for a fairly comprehensive, albeit dry, guide to an ingredient. I look through the index of my prized cookbooks and behold how some of the best chefs in the world treasure a certain cut or a seasonal vegetable at its peak, and, of course, I spend more time than I would like to admit Googling recipes and articles.
The process continues as time is spent writing my recipe, often inspired by several sources and conformed to fit my taste and vision. At my level of cooking, there is virtually nothing that hasn’t been done before, and I’m not highlighting much, if any, in terms of molecular gastronomy, so while it is unlikely that I am creating an original dish, I do what I can to make it my own. I always, always, always write a grocery list with a couple places with multiple vegetables or fruits listed to give myself leeway depending on what catches my eye in the aisles. When in the kitchen, I keep my notebook on hand to track the quantities used throughout prep and the cooking process, though I am not always diligent in my tracking. Pictures are taken, food is eaten, and, eventually, a blog post is written.
Unfortunately, I have many posts that have fallen through the cracks, most often thanks to a recipe I was more excited to feature. Today, I took a look at pictures from the far past and decided to bring one back to the present. All the way back in September, in the first week in a new apartment, we had constructed our Ikea furniture, hung picture/poster frames, organized the kitchen, and the feeling that this was a home grew. We were still picking up our CSA share from Kings Hill Farm and we had a bounty to make several meals, which included red and banana peppers, sweet potatoes, shallots, squash, and more that has since slipped my mind. So on our Ikea table, a candle was lit, wine uncorked, and a “salad” was constructed. I say “salad” because I don’t really know what else to call it. There is a lot of work that goes into this one salad, with a long list of ingredients to go along with several items that have to be cooked, but the payoff is fair at the end. Sweet, spicy, fresh, protein, it’s a full meal all by itself.
Grilled Peach & Sweet Potato “Salad:” 2-4 servings
- 1/2 cup dried chickpeas
- 1/2 tbsp black peppercorn
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 onion
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 celery stalk
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 red pepper
- 1 banana pepper
- 1 or 2 sweet potatoes, depending on size
- 1 or 2 peaches, depending on size
- 1/4 red onion, julienned
- 1/4 English cucumber, julienned
- 1/4 cup almonds
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 to 1 cup canola oil/olive oil blend
- 1 large garlic clove
- 2 tbsp shallot
- 1 tsp Dijon
- salt and pepper
In a small or medium saucepan, cover the chickpeas with water, bring to a boil, then immediately take off heat and cover, let sit for 1 hour. Drain chickpeas and cover with water again and add everything from black peppercorns to fresh thyme in the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer until cooked through, about 2 hours or so. Let steep in the cooking water for an extra 30 minutes, drain and set aside.
While the beans are cooking, complete all the prep other than grilling the peaches and sweet potatoes. Roast the peppers until charred all over. Place in bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and steam for 30 minutes. Peel the skin and remove the seeds/pith inside. Julienne the peppers, season lightly with salt and olive oil, set aside. Using an immersion, or hand, blender, combine vinegar, garlic, shallot, and Dijon. Slowly drizzle in oil until emulsified, season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss chickpeas with the vinaigrette and season to taste. Toast almonds in a small saute pan over medium low heat, season with salt, set aside. In a small saucepan, cover sweet potatoes with water, simmer until sem-tender, but able to hold shape. Cut sweet potatoes in long wedges. Slice peach in about 8 wedges per peach.
Heat grill pan on medium heat. Toss peaches and sweet potatoes in vinaigrette, then place on grill, turning once for grill marks on both sides. Assemble the salad by spooning chickpeas on the bottom of a plate. Layer with roasted peppers, onion, cucumber, and almonds. Finish with grilled sweet potatoes and peaches, and drizzle vinaigrette across the plate. Serve additional vinaigrette on side.