Chickpea Spring Salad and Ricotta Salata, attempt 1


Or something... I am not sure what to call it, but it was easy, delightful and based only on pantry ingredients, so Hubby insisted I include it. After getting back from visiting friends for the week-end, we had almost nothing in the house and wanted something plant based and not too heavy. Digging through the fridge and cupboards, this is what I came up with. It was warm, which was perfect when the evening cool was just hitting at the end of the day, but not overwhelmingly heavy. It is vegetarian, and can easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese. The cheese I used was my first attempt at Ricotta Salata, salted ricotta. It is the same as regular ricotta, but then you put it on a rack in a sealed container in the fridge, salting it every day for a week, then letting it ripen for 2-4 weeks.


Ingredients:

1 c chickpeas

1/4 c millet

1/4 - 1/2 c barley

1 l chicken stock

1/2 c canned corn

1/3 c artichoke hearts, chopped

6-8 sundried tomatoes, chopped

2 celery sticks, chopped

1/2 - 2/3 c raisins

1 - 1 1/2 tbsp sage

2 tsp nigella seeds

2 tbsp olive oil (I used the oil left from the jar of artichokes

Red pesto spice mix (basil, powdered garlic and onion, pine nuts,)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 nectarines, quartered

1/2 c ricotta salata

3/4 c almonds, roughly chopped and toasted


1) In a saucepan, mix the millet and barley, add the raisins and chicken stock and bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes, until tender. I added a little water before it finished cooking and didn't drain it to that the flavours and a little moisture came along too.


2) In a baking dish mix the other ingredients except the nectarines, ricotta and the almonds and stir. Place in the oven at 190°C for about 40 minutes total, stirring occasionally. Add the millet and barley to this dish once it is tender and stir.


3) In a skillet, grill the nectarine quarters until they are a little browned and the juice starts bubbling in them.


4) Serve by spooning some of the chickpea mix onto a plate, then place a few nectarine quarters over the top, sprinkle with almonds and dot with ricotta.


This came out beautifully and there is actually nothing I would change. It was a satisfying mix of colours, textures and flavours, with some sweet, some salt, some bitter, and a whole load of goodness on one plate. It was moist and rich without being heavy. We had this as our dinner, but in smaller servings, I could see this working really well as a side to roast meat or as a starter. Fully endorsed by both Little Bit and Hubby, I am very pleased with this.


The ricotta salata was my first attempt at it and our first try of it. The rest is back in the fridge ageing a little more. I made it using the whey from my mozzarella a few weeks ago. Based on this ricotta, I may have to revise my opinion of whey ricotta. It may be that the whey from making mozzarella is richer than that from making ricotta, but I found that I got enough curds and that they were big and soft as they should be. The ricotta then went on a rack (of sorts) in a container in the fridge. I salted it every day for a week and then left it for two more weeks. The instructions said 2-4 weeks so we are leaving it a little longer to see how it evolves. This was my first taste of ricotta salata, so I am not sure how right I got it, but we enjoyed it!


Book Pairing: I was listening to Dante's Purgatorio while making this one. As with the Inferno, I greatly enjoyed Dante's descriptions and have found both his cosmology and theology interesting. I wonder whether Dante believed his journey to have been allegorical fiction or whether he believed himself to have made the trip... I hadn't gotten this far when I read Inferno before, so I am enjoying being on new ground here.

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