River Nebra Salad

“One of the large desert regions of Dalmasca, located to the east of Rabanastre. Rife with all manner of monstrous beasts, it regularly plays host to hunts organized within the city.

“What settlements there are line the banks of the River Nebra, a vibrant blue vein running through the heart of the sands, wherein can be found ferries for the conveyance of travelers and goods across her flow. Many merchants make a point of stopping in the villages to trade on their way to and from Rabanastre.”

—FFXII, Sage Knowledge piece 46

You can change the character of this simple winter salad quite dramatically with different kinds of lettuce. I like butter lettuce and radicchio, or a mixture of baby kale, baby chard, and baby spinach.

  • 8 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound green beans
  • 5 ounces lettuce
  • ½ large red onion, quartered lengthwise and sliced thinly against the grain
  • A handful of pitted olives, such as Kalamata
  • A few marinated artichokes
  • 2 skin-on wild Pacific salmon fillets, about 8 oz. each
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Chopped dill or other fresh herb

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper to a large serving bowl. Rinse green beans thoroughly. Trim ends, break in half, and pat dry. Add to bowl and toss. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until tender and slightly golden.

Divide lettuce between two bowls. Add onion, olives, and artichokes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add salmon fillets skin side-down and sprinkle with sea salt. Cook until skin is rendered and crisp, about 5 minutes. If skin shows resistance when attempting to lift with a spatula, allow it to continue to cook a little longer until it lifts easily.

Flip salmon, sprinkle skin with salt, and cook on second side until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 120°F for medium rare or 130°F for medium, about 1 minute longer.

Place a salmon fillet in each bowl on top of the vegetables, skin-side up. Arrange green beans on top.

In a small bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, and several grinds of black pepper. Pour over the salad and garnish with fresh herbs.

Makes 2 servings.

Archades Artichoke Dip

Archades“You’ve come to understand the difficulties of serving royalty.”

—Basch fon Ronsenburg, FFXII

  • 4 14-oz. cans of artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise (6 oz.)
  • ¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (3 oz.)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (Cholula or Tapatio are recommended)
  • ½ cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (2 oz.)
  • Warm baguette or crackers, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the artichokes, jalapeno, garlic, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and hot sauce. Transfer to a casserole dish and bake for about 15 minutes, until hot.

Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese. Broil for about 2 minutes, until browned in spots and bubbly. Serve immediately with sliced baguette.

Highgarden Terrace Salad

Highgarden Terrace in Archades“When I get enough chops, I’ll be ridin’ ‘igh in one o’ them cabs, and that’ll be the end of all this. I’ll be sittin’ pretty up in ‘Ighgarden, innit.”

—FFXII

  • 2 red bell peppers, washed and sliced into strips
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, washed and sliced into thin disks
  • 4 celery stalks, washed and cut into 2″ pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and sliced diagonally, ½” thick (about 1 cup)
  • ½ yellow onion, peeled, quartered lengthwise and sliced crosswise (about 1 cup)
  • 12 oz. cauliflower florets
  • 8-12 garlic cloves (1 bulb), peeled and halved
  • ½ cup coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 14-oz. can of artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
  • 1 12-oz. jar of cornichons, drained and rinsed
  • 6 oz. pitted green olives
  • 16 oz. white balsamic vinegar
  • 8 oz. red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Place the bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, celery, carrots, onion, cauliflower, and garlic in a large soup pot. Stir in salt, and fill with enough cold water to cover. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, drain vegetables into a colander and rinse well. Return vegetables to the pot and add Italian seasoning,  red pepper flakes, peppercorns, artichoke hearts, cornichons, olives, vinegar, and oil. Stir well, and fill with enough cold water to cover. Refrigerate for at least 2 days before using. The vegetables will last up to 1 month.

Rabanastre Chicken Stew

Rabanastre, Southern Plaza“I’d just hate to see the Consul upset because his food wasn’t ready on time.”

—Vaan, FFXII

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup blanched, slivered raw almonds
  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 8-12 garlic cloves (1 bulb), peeled and halved
  • 1 lb. carrots, scrubbed and sliced diagonally
  • 12 oz. frozen artichoke hearts
  • 1 15-oz. can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¾ oz. flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup)

Heat butter and oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions and cook for 10 minutes. Stir frequently and reduce heat if the onions are browning too quickly.

Add the almonds and chicken pieces to the soup pot. Sprinkle with spices and salt. Brown chicken on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Add garlic and stir well to combine. Cook 5 minutes. Add carrots and artichoke hearts.  Stir and continue to cook, about 5 minutes.  Add chickpeas, broth, and cinnamon stick, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Remove from heat and stir in parsley and lemon juice.  Remove cinnamon stick and serve.

Makes about 11 heaping 1-cup servings. Per serving: 332 calories, 14.4 g. fat, 3.1 g. saturated fat, 2.4 g. poly. fat, 7 g. mono. fat, 75.9 mg. cholesterol, 1165.8 mg. sodium (this will be less if you use homemade broth instead of storebought), 459.8 mg. potassium, 18.9 g. carbohydrates, 6.1 g. fiber, 32.1 g. protein, vitamin A 47%, vitamin C 10%, calcium 8%, iron 13%

Tifa’s Premium Heart

Tifa and Cloud at Gold Saucer“Deep in my heart I heard you calling my name.”

—Tifa Lockhart, FFVII

This might sound like a simple recipe, but a lot of people don’t know how to prepare artichokes.  They’re fun to eat, and at the end, you get the best part—the heart.

  • 2 artichokes, washed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

In a large pot, bring lightly salted water to boiling.  While the water is heating, use a sharp knife to cut the stem off each artichoke.  Slice off the top 1″ of each artichoke.  With scissors, snip off the pointed end of each leaf.

Add artichokes to the pot and return to boiling.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.  Remove artichokes and drain upside down on paper towels.

Melt butter.  Stir in lemon juice and serve in two small sauce bowls.  Serve each artichoke in a salad bowl.  Put an empty bowl on the table for the discarded leaves.

To eat an artichoke, pull off one leaf at a time and dip the base of the leaf into the butter sauce.  Use your teeth to scrape off the tender flesh.  Discard the leaf.  Continue removing leaves until the fuzzy choke appears.  Scoop out the choke with a spoon and discard.  Pour the rest of the sauce over the artichoke heart and eat it.