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.

Mandragora Jam

Mandragora, FFIX“A vexing Representative of the Deadly Nightshade Family has been sighted nearby Rabanastre!”

—bestiary entry, FFXII

I initially wanted to write this as a vegetarian recipe, but the addition of bacon makes it such a good partner for meat-based dishes like burgers that I couldn’t resist. However, it’s just as good if you leave the bacon out. You can substitute a tablespoon of olive oil instead.

If you decide to include the bacon, save the leftover grease and use it to make Oglop-Oiled Popped Corn.

  • 6 oz. smoked bacon, uncooked (about 4 slices)
  • 1 shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, washed well, stems removed, and chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 serrano chile pepper, minced
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablepoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Arrange the bacon on a baking sheet and place in an unheated oven. Turn the heat to 425 and cook until crisp, about 20–25 minutes, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to cool.

Heat a Dutch oven or large deep-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Drain the bacon grease from the baking sheet into a sturdy container. Remove 1 tablespoon and add to the skillet. Save the rest in the fridge for later use (optional).

Add the chopped shallots to the skillet. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown. Add the chopped tomatoes, chile pepper, vinegar, honey, brown sugar, salt, ras el hanout, and few grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and crumble in the bacon.

Simmer for about 1 hour, uncovered, until the consistency is as thick as you like it. (The jam will thicken more in the fridge.) Remove from heat and let the jam cool, then pour into freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to 4 months. It will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Makes about 20 ounces of jam. Per 2-tablespoon serving: 78 calories, 4 g. fat, 7 g. carbohydrates, 1 g. fiber, 3 g. protein, iron 2%

Rabanastre Roast Chicken

Penelo and Vaan“It’s our home. It belongs to us all.”

—Penelo, FFXII

You’ll need about 4 small lemons or 2 large lemons for this recipe. You can buy ras el hanout at many stores, including Trader Joe’s, or make your own blend.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 large or 2 small lemons
  • 1 garlic bulb, top sliced off to expose the cloves

For the spice paste:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large or 2 small lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons ras el hanout
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ tablespoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Remove the giblets from the chicken and discard. Trim excess fat.

Place the chicken, breast-side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Slice 1 large or 2 small lemons in half. Stuff the lemon halves and garlic bulb inside the chicken cavity.

Put the chicken in the oven and begin roasting, uncovered. Meanwhile, mix together the spice paste ingredients.

After the chicken has roasted for about 20 minutes, remove from the oven and spoon some of the spice paste on top. Turn the chicken breast-side up and baste again. Return to oven.

Check on the chicken after 20 minutes have passed, and baste with the remainder of the spice paste. The breast should be beginning to brown; if not, roast for a few more minutes.

Reduce heat to 325 degrees and roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 160 to 165 degrees.

Tilt the pan or the chicken to let the juices from the bird’s cavity flow into the pan (if they are red, cook another 5 minutes). Remove the chicken to a platter or carving board and let it rest for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the garlic bulb from the chicken and place on the roasting rack. Return to the over and continue to bake for another 15 minutes or so, until the garlic is very tender and comes out from the cloves when squeezed.

While the garlic is baking, carve the chicken. Serve with the soft garlic and pan juices.

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%

Sandsea Salmon Chowder

Vaan at the Ogir-Yensa SandseaMigelo: “I’ve arranged for some replacement goods from Tomaj over at the Sandsea.”

Vaan: “So you want me to go to the tavern to pick ’em up.”

Migelo: “Actually, I asked Kytes to do that. Wouldn’t you know he’s gone missing on me, too. Bah. I can’t leave my shop, and I’ve Penelo on another chore at the moment, you see. I want you to run over to the Sandsea and fetch Kytes back! What do you say?”

Vaan: “Sounds wild.”

—FFXII

Potatoes don’t freeze well (they tend to get mealy), so divide this recipe in half if it’s more than you can eat within a week.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced (about 1½ cups)
  • 1½ cup chopped celery stalks (about 6 stalks)
  • About ½ bottle of white wine, such as Pinot Grigio (1½ cups)
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen corn kernels
  • 1 pound smoked peppered salmon, flaked into pieces
  • 4 6-ounce cans of skinless boneless salmon, drained
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce, such as Cholula or Tapatio

Heat butter and oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes, covered. Stir frequently and reduce heat if the onions are browning too quickly. Add celery and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add wine, broth, and thyme and bring to a boil.

Add potatoes, cream, and milk. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 1 hour, being very careful not to let the milk boil. Stir in corn, salmon, and hot sauce and continue to simmer, uncovered, until corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove thyme springs and serve.

Makes about 15 heaping 1-cup servings. Per serving: 366 calories, 20 g. fat, 8.3 g. saturated fat, 0.3 g. poly. fat, 1.9 g. mono. fat, 73.4 mg. cholesterol, 846 mg. sodium (this will be less if you use homemade chicken stock instead of storebought), 480.9 mg. potassium, 27 g. carbohydrates, 3.1 g. fiber, 22 g. protein, vitamin A 10%, vitamin C 10%, calcium 7%, iron 6%

Flask of Oily Liquid

Vaan at Muthru Bazaar“Sages are said to have taken draughts of this liquid to replenish lost arcane energies.”

—from the description of an item in the Bazaar catalog, FFXII

This blend of essential oils is great for moisturizing dry hair. It’s also a remedy for flaky scalp.

  • 4 oz. bottle of jojoba oil
  • ½ teaspoon tea tree oil (about 30 drops)
  • ¼ teaspoon lavender oil (about 15 drops)

Uncap the bottle of jojoba oil and add tea tree oil and lavender oil.  Tightly refasten the cap and tilt the bottle back and forth until the oils are mixed together.

Massage oil into scalp and let rest for about 30 minutes.  (Be careful; the oil can stain your clothes.)  Shampoo until clean, and condition as usual.

For best results, do this several times per week, until dry conditions improve. This recipe makes enough for several applications.