We recently went to Ubuntu in downtown Napa, which is one of the hot new dining spots in wine country. Ubuntu is a vegetable restaurant and yoga studio. What can I say, we're in California. The yoga classes are held upstairs, but you have to walk through the restaurant to get to the studio. Imagine clearing your mind and body with some yoga, and then walking downstairs to dine on daily-harvested organic food, with a focus on farm-fresh produce. Brilliant!
We really like the fact Ubuntu labels itself as a vegetable restaurant and not a vegetarian place. Unlike many vegetarian places that try to make vegetables into meat substitutes, Ubuntu simple celebrates the beauty of the vegetable itself. We've dined at Greens and Millennium, two vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco, and walked away unimpressed. Ubuntu on other hand left us wanting to come back for more. Two of the highlights of our meal were...
- Cauliflower in a cast iron pot
roast-puree-“couscous”, vadouvan spice, toast
- Chickpeas with burrata
olive vinaigrette, pepper quenelles with mint and bread crumbs
Both dishes were delicious and I was taking notes with each bite, knowing that I wanted to try to recreate them at home. We were impressed by the presentation of the chickpea salad, especially the beautiful red quenelles of pepper puree. The crunchiness of the breadcrumbs in the puree was a surprise. We were expecting them to be a little soggy since they were mixed in with the puree, but somehow they remained crispy.
So earlier this week, we recreated the chickpeas with burrata at home. There were two main components to the chickpea salad — a lemon-mint vinaigrette and a roasted red bell pepper puree. Both the vinaigrette and puree were easy to make. Roasting the bell peppers was a little time consuming, but the process was still simple. The hard part was figuring out how to make the crunchy breadcrumbs. To keep the prep time down in the recipe, we substituted crushed baked pita chips for the homemade breadcrumbs, a quick and easy solution that provided the desired texture.
Hungry Bear and I were extremely happy with our chickpea salad recreation. The quenelles of roasted red pepper puree were fantastic on their own. Add them to a minty chickpea salad with mozzarella cheese and you have a great starter course or even a complete meal. We were hesitant to splurge on burrata cheese the first time we attempted to make this dish, but next time we will definitely use it for the extra creaminess and flavor.
We don't know if we were able to exactly duplicate Ubuntu's chickpeas with burrata dish. But we do know that our version of the chickpea salad was pretty damn good!
Chickpea Salad with Roasted Pepper Puree Recipe
SND Note: We used a Meyer lemon in the vinaigrette and used a 2:1 ratio of olive oil to lemon juice. With a regular lemon, we might use a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio.
Zest from 1 lemon
4 tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemon)
8-12 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons shallots, minced
4 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
45 ounces garbanzo beans (three 15 ounce cans), drained and rinsed
6-8 ounces burrata or fresh mozzarella cheese
Kosher salt and pepper
1) Make a lemon-mint vinaigrette by whisking together lemon juice and olive oil. Whisk in lemon zest, shallots, mint and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2) In a large bowl, add garbanzo beans and dress with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Place the cheese in the center of shallow bowl or plate with a lip. Spoon the garbanzo beans around cheese. With the roasted bell pepper puree, shape quenelles using two spoons. Place quenelles on top of the garbanzo beans. Garnish with mint and serve.
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Puree Recipe
SND Note: Crushed pita chips or course homemade breadcrumbs are added to the roasted bell pepper puree for texture. Do not use fine breadcrumbs. The pita chips are crushed into course crumbs.
4 red bell peppers
2 teaspoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 ounces pita chips or homemade breadcrumbs, crushed into course crumbs
1) Slice 1/4 inch from the top and bottom of the pepper. Gently remove the stem from the top lobe. Pull core out of the pepper. Cut down one side of the pepper, then lay it flat, skin side down, in one long strip. Use a sharp knife to slide along the inside of the pepper removing all ribs and seeds. Arrange the strips of peppers and the top and bottom lobes on a baking sheet, skin-side up. Flatten the strips with the palm of your hand.
2) Adjust oven rack to top position. Turn broiler on. With oven door closed, let oven heat for 5 minutes. Oven rack should be 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches from heating element. If not, set a jelly-roll pan, turned upside down, on oven rack to elevate pan. Broil peppers, with oven door closed, until spotty brown, about 5 minutes. Reverse pan in oven; roast until skin is charred and puffed but the flesh is still firm, 3-5 minutes longer.
3) Remove pan from oven and transfer to a large heat-resistant bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and steam for 15 minutes. Peel and discard skin.
4) Using a mortar and pestle, crush the pita chips or breadcrumbs into coarse crumbs. Alternatively, place them in a zip lock bag and crush them using a rolling pin.
5) In a small saucepan, sauté garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, set aside along with oil. Puree the roasted bell peppers, garlic and oil in a food processor or blender, and transfer puree into medium bowl. Stir in crushed pita chips or breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Makes 6 servings
[Roasted red bell pepper directions (steps 1-2) via Cook's Illustrated]
[tags]chickpeas, roasted, bell peppers, mint, vinaigrette, quenelles, cheese, mozzarella, burrata, ubuntu, napa, vegetarian[/tags]