I know Kristina and I share a few readers. Those of you who fall into this category might remember when she mentioned this salad. And wondered why oh why I haven't posted it. There's a funny story to go along with that, as well as with the pictures I'll be showing you which were actually taken by Kristina, but more on that later.
This is, quite simply, one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten. I promise I will post recipes from places other than Sunday Suppers at Lucques but it is currently my favorite cookbook because everything I mean EVERYTHING in it is fantastic. That I've made anyway. The first time I made this, I simply felt like making Sky something special. He freaked, and he's someone who can take or leave beets. Since then converts include die-hard beet fans to those who would on a regular day rather eat dog food.
The most labor-intensive part is the chickpeas, and it's not that it's so labor-intensive, it's just that you have to remember to soak them the night before and cook them for a good while before you fry them and use them for the salad. So plan accordingly. Also, get good salty oil-cured olives. I think that's a key. If you can't find ricotta salata (a dry aged ricotta cheese), feta will do just fine.
So here you have it
Roasted Beet Salad with Fried Chickpeas, Black Olives, and Ricotta Salata
almost exactly from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin
3 bunches beets, tops cut off (and reserved for soup or sauteeing)
3/4 c EVOO
1 1/2 t cumin seeds (do try to use whole seeds--the ground stuff just isn't the same)
2 T plus 2t red wine vinegar
1 T lemon juice, plus extra for seasoning
1 c cooked chickpeas (recipe follows this)
1/4 c thinly sliced shallots
1/2 c strong oil-cured black olives
1/2 c Italian parsley leaves
1/4 lb ricotta salata
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400.
Clean beets, wrap individually in foil, and roast about an hour, or til tender when pierced. When done, carefully remove foil. Let cool and peel by gently rubbing skin which will release it. Slice beets into wedges and place in a large bowl.
While beets roast, toast cumin seeds in a medium pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes until they smell cumin-y and darken a little. Grind half the seeds to a powder in a mortar.
Transfer powder to a bowl with remaining cumin seeds, 1/4 t salt, vinegar, and 1 T lemon juice. Whisk in 1/2 c oil. Taste for balance and seasoning.
Add remaining 2 T olive oil to cumin pan; heat for 2 min or til oil very hot. Add chickpeas and fry them for 4-8 minutes, shaking the pan often, til they're a little browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels and season with a little salt and pepper.
Add shallots to the beets, season with a little salt and pepper, and gently toss with 3/4 of the vinaigrette. Gently toss in parsley and olives. Add more dressing if necessary.
Cut ricotta salata into 1/4-in slabs.
Arrange half the salad on a platter. Tuck cheese in and around beets and scatter chickpeas on top. Place the rest of the salad on top and nestle in rest of cheese and chickpeas.
1/4 c EVOO
1/2 c diced onion
3 cloves garlic
1 fairly hot dried chile, crumbled
1 t thyme
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 c dried chickpeas, soaked overnight or 8 hours
1 t paprika (I use the Spanish stuff and it's awesome)
good pinch cayenne pepper
1 cinnamon stick (genius. taste is amazing in this)
Heat a medium pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in olive oil, wait a minute, then add onion, garlic, chile, thyme and bay leaf. Cook for a minute or 2 til onion wilts then add chickpean, paprika, cayenne and cinnamon stick. Stir for a few minutes, coating chickpeas with oil and spices.
Cover with water by 3 inches, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat to low and, if necessary, put a paper towel on top of chickpeas to keep them under the surface.
Simmer for 30 minutes, then add 2 1/2 t salt. Continue cooking on a low simmer for about an hour, til chickpeas are tender. As they cook, add water as necessary (I never had to). When done, taste for seasoning and cool in their juices.