Warming up for the B.C. Winter Games

Food writer Cathi Litzenberger shares a few recipes that can be served up to guests arriving in Vernon for the B.C. Winter Games.

And what was that big dump of snow about last week? I was already looking at seed catalogues, anticipating spring; it seemed like it was on its way and then, kaboom! Reality set in. I suspect my spring wishes were overrun by those of Akbal Mund and his hard-working B.C. Winter Games Committee, and I guess I’m OK with that.

We needed a good dump of winter for the games, lest we’ve forgotten what happened at the Vancouver Olympics with its lack of snow.

Let’s all make it a point to get out and support our athletes and the games by attending some of the competitions. We can show the rest of B.C. that Vernon is the place to host these kinds of events. If you’re wondering about a schedule, there was a good pull-out section in last Friday’s Morning Star listing all the events and times.

Today’s recipes fit in with both wishes: mine for a spring-like salad and the second for our winter games, a hearty chickpea stew which would work well with warm fresh bread. A big thank you to all the organizers of these games, and to the athletes, I wish them all the best in their competitions.

Cranberry Pecan Salad

1 cup pecan halves

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)

6 tablespoons olive oil

6 cups mixed salad greens, rinsed and dried

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

Crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spread pecans evenly on a baking sheet. Toast for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper; mix until sugar and salt dissolve. Whisk in olive oil. In a salad bowl, toss together the greens, cranberries, pecans, onions, and cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette, and toss gently to coat.

Chickpea Stew

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

Kosher salt

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained

1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from a jar

2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice

2 cups 1” cubes country-style bread

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt; add to pot and cook, turning once, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Reduce heat to low and let oil cool for 1 minute; add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 30–60 seconds.

Add cumin, tomato paste and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute. Add reserved chicken with any accumulated juices, along with bay leaves and 4 cups water. Scrape up any browned bits. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, occasionally stirring, until chicken is tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Add chickpeas to pot; bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Shred chicken; add to stew. Add red peppers. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; simmer for 1 minute. Season with salt and more lemon juice, if desired. Divide bread cubes among bowls. Ladle soup over. Garnish with parsley.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist.