Some people like to imagine what dinner would be like with a favorite historical figure. I prefer to imagine what one historical figure might cook for another. Take Vashti and Esther.
While they cook in Vashti’s kitchen, there’s a white wine spritzer for Esther and an extra-dry martini for Vashti. In divvying up responsibilities, Esther offers to toast the pine nuts and caramelize the chickpeas. After all, when Queen Esther lived in Ahasuerus’ palace, she kept kosher dining on legumes, nuts and seeds.
Chickpeas are one of my favorites. When you cara-melize these legumes in olive oil, they develop a pronounced nutty flavor. Toss a few in some pasta with lemon, garlic and toasted pine nuts for crunch, and you’ll have a meal fit for a (Purim) queen.
Lemon Penne with Kale and Chickpeas
6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 2 cups onion, chopped
plenty of fresh black pepper
15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed with side of knife blade
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
salt (detailed in directions)
1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
34/ lb. lacinato (dinosaur) kale
1 lb. penne
3 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat 3 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Sauté onion with 1⁄8 tsp. black pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Add chickpeas and whole garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Onions should be deep brown on edges. Stir in 1⁄2 tsp. salt. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in zest. Cover to keep warm.
De-stem kale and coarsely chop leaves. Return same 12-inch skillet to heat (no need to clean it). Add 2 Tbs. of remaining oil to pan. When hot but not smoking, turn heat to medium and add chopped garlic. Quickly add kale. Using tongs, turn kale frequently until just wilted, 1-2 minutes. Watch garlic so it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and season with 2 pinches salt and black pepper. Transfer kale to chickpea bowl and cover to keep warm.
Cook pasta according to package directions in boiling, salted water. Drain. Remove half of chickpeas and kale from large bowl and set aside. Transfer pasta to the large bowl and dress with remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil, lemon juice, Parmesan and additional black pepper if desired. Stir to mix in chickpeas and kale.
Spoon remaining kale-chickpeas mixture on top of pasta and garnish with pine nuts and Parmesan to taste.
Salmon Grilled with Lemons
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbs. orange juice
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
1⁄3 cup olive oil
plenty of fresh black pepper
2 lemons, sliced in rounds
1 1/2 lb. salmon filet
parsley for garnish
Heat grill to medium-high or heat oven to 425 degrees.
In a jar with tight-fitting lid, combine lemon juice, orange juice, Dijon, garlic, olive oil, two pinches salt, and black pepper to taste. Tighten lid and shake vigorously. Pour about 3 Tbs. of dressing into a small bowl. Reserve remaining dressing.
Arrange lemon slices on grilling tray or edged baking sheet. Place salmon skin-side down on lemons. Using a pastry brush, brush salmon with the dressing from the bowl. Sprinkle with two more pinches of salt and black pepper.
Grill or bake, covered, for 12-15 minutes depending on whether you like salmon medium-rare or medium. Remove from heat. Drizzle some of the remaining dressing over salmon. Garnish with parsley. Toss remaining dressing with mixed greens.