The good: Roasted beet salad from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. I used baby red and Chiogga beets and parsley from the market, oil-cured olives, a not-great ricotta salata (feta would've been better), and canned chickpeas. Looking at the recipe now, and not while I was actually making the salad, I realize that I changed it a bit, so that's how I'll type it out below. The instructions in the recipe were kind of fussy; I just tossed everything together with the cumin vinaigrette, then dropped chickpeas over the salad, which was quite pretty enough:
Roasted Beet Salad with Fried Chickpeas, Nyons Olives, and Ricotta Salata
Adapted and simplified from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin with Teri Gelber
3 bunches beets, mixed colors, tops cut off, scrubbed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (this is less than the 3/4 cup called for; I prefer a more vinegary, less oily vinaigrette)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I used sherry vinegar, and more than the 2-plus tablespoons called for)
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 cup crisp roasted chickpeas (see Note)
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup Nyons olives or other strong-tasting oil-cured black olives
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 ounces ricotta salata cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rub the beets all over with some of the oil, season with salt and pepper, and put in a roasting pan with a little water. Cover with foil and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool completely, then peel and quarter the beets. Set aside.
Toast the cumin seeds in a heavy skillet over medium heat until fragrant and a shade darker. Coarsely grind them with a mortar and pestle. Put them in a large bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste and whisk. Whisk in the remaining oil in a thin stream. Add the beets, shallots, olives, parsley, and cheese and toss gently to coat with the dressing. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Scatter the chickpeas over the top and serve.
Note: Goin wants you to fry the chickpeas, but I roasted them for more crispness, using a great technique I learned from Kalyn's Kitchen: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drain a can of chickpeas in a colander and rinse well under cold running water. Drain well, then dump the chickpeas onto a clean kitchen towel. Gather up the corners of the towel to enclose the chickpeas in a little "bag" and swing it around a bit (outside, perhaps, or maybe in the shower stall) to drain and dry the chickpeas really well. Toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, and here I also added some of the toasted ground cumin. Spread in a single layer on the foil-lined pan and roast until well browned and crisp-crunchy, about 45 minutes.
And now the expensive: Expensive in this case meaning "not good."
After having read here and there about the wonder that is the hundred-day-old pastured Poulet Rouge chicken, I went ahead and ordered one from Nature's Harmony Farm in Elberton, via Athens Locally Grown, a kind of brilliant Internet farmers' market in which members place orders on Monday and Tuesday, and pay for and pick up their stuff on Thursday evening at a central location.
Anyway, this chicken. I wanted to roast it simply, to fully appreciate its specialness, and the best way to roast chicken, I've found, is to just spatchcock it, pat it dry and season with salt and pepper and dried thyme, set it in a roasting pan on top of some sliced citrus, and roast at high heat until just about 160°F at the thigh. Then let it rest on a cutting board for a few minutes, carve, and eat. Simple.
Except this chicken was inedible. It was so tough and chewy and stringy we couldn't even get our teeth through pieces of it. People describe the texture as "firm," but that is unhelpful. No, it was like rubber bands, really, lots of rubber bands in your mouth. And it didn't really have any special chickeny flavor that I, a "normal" taster, or D., who I suspect is a better than normal taster, could discern. At all. D. wondered if it was digestible. I wondered if I could throw the whole thing in a pot and at least get some good broth for my sixteen smackers. D. wondered if this was how people in the past ate.
What should I have done differently? I suppose I could've braised. But I didn't want chicken bog, dammit, I wanted roasted chicken. If anyone can give me some seriously promising advice on this matter I might be willing to give it one more shot.