Thursday, February 7, 2013

Oven Lovin'

It's oven season.

Cold days and warm ovens go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows; and any excuse to use your oven is usually a good one.

Stews and baked goods are at a peak right now, and with a big snowfall coming to the east coast, it's going to get pretty cozy. (It's probably pretty cozy right now!) Refueling is a must after a solid romp in the snow and you could use some projects to stay busy. Especially projects that produce awesome food.

The aromas wafting towards your nose are reason enough to utilize the powerful workhorse that is an oven. Some of the best smells come from a full oven: cookies baking, chicken roasting, banana bread - the list goes on.

Anyway, lots of snacking is in order. You're already using your oven for a hearty chicken tagine or ratatouille, you may as well keep going while it's hot!

Yes, this post is about snacking; and ovens. Great, right?

Cans of chickpeas hiding in your pantry behind half a bag of pancake mix have more potential than just hummus. I suggest this zippy appetizer.

Zesty Spiced Oven-Roasted Chickpeas
2 cans chickpeas (about 15 ounces each, but feel free to make from scratch)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (less if you're heat sensitive, wimp)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
zest from one lemon (organic)

Heat the oven 400°F.
Pour the chickpeas into a colander, drain and rinse very well under running water.
Pat dry. Don't put them in the oven until they are dry - trust me.
Toss the chickpeas with the olive oil and spread out on a large cookie sheet (you may need to do two batches; perfect excuse to make two flavors)
Roast for 30-40 minutes or until brown and crispy. If you place them on the middle rack in the middle of your oven, they shouldn't burn, but you'll want to check them every 15 minutes or so. (Give them a good shake)
Take out and toss with salt, zest and spices to taste while they are still hot! (It's easy to add more spices, but it's hard to take them out)

Excellent crunchy spicy snacks to get your palate ready and your mouth watering for the main event, which should be:
Moroccan Chicken Tajine.

I suggest using a little bit of red pepper flakes with this recipe, although your tongue may still be tingling from the chickpeas!

And that, my friends, is how you get the most of your oven. Now check out the next recipe, which I imagine will become a new addiction.

Two words: Garlic Confit

Pretty much just poaching garlic in oil, and basically making garlic butter. AKA the food of the gods.
I love that this recipe calls for 65 cloves of garlic. Incredible.
This is when you shamelessly buy peeled garlic by the half-gallon.

Saveur suggests using the cloves in mashed potatoes, which I am inclined to think is a fantastic idea. Because you're going to need a side dish for the roast chicken you just made.

Don't even roast a whole chicken, just get a big pack of thighs or leg quarters and make some garlic mashed potatoes with it. Spread the garlic on toast. Mash the garlic with a fork and then just straight eat it. You know you want to.

And while we're at it, you should make some kale chips. Yeah I said kale chips.

Look, I'm not going to post a recipe for kale chips. They are ridiculously easy to make, and any basic search is going to give you 100+ recipes. But seriously, they're super easy, you don't even have to cut the stems out. You can just rip them up with your hands. And to be honest, they don't last long enough to ponder anything about them except why you didn't buy more kale.

So without a recipe, I can only give you a suggestion. Instead of olive oil, use spicy sesame oil (thanks Sheri!) or try Old Bay or curry powder, which are probably all of the easiest flavors to use except sea salt.

All in all, just don't forget to give your oven some lovin'.

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