Tuesday, 30 July 2013

No-Name Salad!

Insalata di Ceci, Crespini, Cetriolo e Cedro Tostato al Ras el Hanout, con un Condimento al Tahini, Limone & Miele
Chick Pea, Barberry, Toasted Cedra Lemon & Cucumber Salad with Ras el Hanout and Tahini, Honey & Lime Dressing

Please forgive me for the unforgivable title of this post my friends... but as complicated looking and sounding as this wonderful salad may seem at first glimpse, it WAS actually very simple to make. Only, unfortunately it has proved to be impossible to name!!!

No, this wasn't difficult or complicated to make at all- basically I just wanted to make a simple chick-pea salad with a tahini dressing... everybody loves hummus after all. Then I decided to add a little cucumber... just to add a little freshness- but mostly, just because it was there! At that point, I decided that the cucumber would make it so mild that it could do with a little contrast in flavor... and so I added the barberries. Yeah- that sounded good- but a little extra "oomph" seemed like a good ideas and so I added a little sweet chili pepper into the mix. And then I remembered the lovely Cedra lemon I had picked up on Sunday... and on it went... 

Don't let all of that worry you though my friends- because of course this WAS a salad- so there was no cooking involved as such- except for the toasted cedra... but we will get to that shortly...

I made this from half a can of chick peas (yes! they came out of a can!!!), half of a cucumber, seeded, a handful of barberries, a handful of parsley, the juice of 1 lime and 1 handful from the cedra lemon. That doesn't sound much- but it made for a great supper salad! And here's how I made it!

I drained half a can of chick peas and added a teaspoon of Ras el Hanout to them, along with a little salt, pepper, honey and- don't be alarmed, a couple of tablespoons of Asian oyster sauce! That gave a nice smoothness and richness to the chickpeas- but there was more smoothness to come come shortly in the form of that sesame-honey dressing...

Next came the cucumber, which I cut in half, then into quarters lengthways. I then removed the seeds with a simple diagonal cut, then cut the strips of cucumber into relatively-thin slices and added them to the chick peas. Next came a handful of barberries and a handful of finely chopped parsley and last but not least, a small, mild red chili pepper, for a bit of gentle heat ;-) I like my food hot- even a cold meal like this!

I seasoned with a little salt and pepper and then turned my attention to that big, beautiful Cedra lemon. Normally, what you do with these things is to peel away the yellow zest thinly and then scoop out the fruit in the center- I do this with a tablespoon as I find that the easiest way. That leaves you with the white "pith" of the lemon, which is the part that you eat. It is not sour, only has a hint of bitterness to it, but is otherwise very mild in flavor and has a firm, spongy consistency which is refreshing and chewy. Yes, it IS an acquired taste- but we Sicilians love them! These are the lemons of choice when it comes to making candied lemon peel of course- there is just so much of it! But I had another idea for this salad!

What I did, was to cut a wedge of peel and then cut that into thin slices- zest and all. I then poured boiling water over it and let it sit for 2-3 minutes, until most of the bitterness had dissipated into the water, then poured it off and transferred the lemon slices to a dry, non-stick pan. I turned up the heat and began to toss them around- they dried out much more quickly than I though they would- in just 2-3 minutes they were dry as a bone again and within 5-6 minutes, they began to turn crisp and brown. Now- obviously, a better way to do this may be to dehydrate them in the oven at a lower temperature for a couple of hours... but hey! I am an impulsive kinda guy and I was feeling impatient! I wanted to try it and I wanted to know right away... okay? lol!

As soon as the lemon was nicely brown, I removed it from the heat and prepared my simple but delicious dressing, which I made from 2 tablespoons of tahini, the juice of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons of honey, salt, pepper and a pinch of powdered ginger, I whisked this together until it was nice and smooth, dipped in my finger to try it and suddenly felt wide awake- wow! That was a lot of flavor going on!

Back to the salad, which had now given off a little water, due to the cucumber being salted, which I drained away for the most part- a little is fine though as it keeps the chick peas moist and that's a good thing. As the tahini has plenty of fat, I refrained from adding any extra oil- but now would be the time if you so wished! I found that by the time I stirred everything together well and tucked-in to this delicious salad, that it tasted smooth and delicious and in no way felt like any oil was missing- I suggested you try it my way first- it is easier to add oil than it is to take it away after all!

I served up the salad with the lemon slices and a few leaves of parsley on top, then drizzled it lightly with the rich tahini dressing. So as you can see- this WAS simple to make, it IS pretty impossible to describe... but it IS very easy to enjoy! So I suggest you do so- you won't regret it!

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