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Flavor EXPLOSION Chickpea Salad!!

5 Oct

Laughter is brightest where food is best.
~Irish Proverb

Recipe Source: The Kitchn

Some people might worry that cooking vegan means sacrificing flavor, and to them I say, this salad will blow that theory right out of the water! It’s bursting with rich, exotic flavor from cumin seeds, red pepper flakes, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes, then cooled with parsley and mint, and given a tangy boost from lemon juice and zest. It’s an amazing marriage of flavors that satisfies even picky, ADD palates like mine. That’s why I’ve decided to rename the recipe from the original Warm Chickpea Salad with Cumin & Garlic – boring! I’m sorry Kitchn, but that title did not give it justice.

chickpea salad

This salad keeps fine for a few days, over the course of which the flavors will continue to mingle. This is one of my all-time favorite lunches. Another nice thing about it is it’s low in sodium. The original recipe calls for flaky sea salt to taste, but I don’t find it necessary. For ovo-lacto vegetarians and omnivores, a handful of feta cheese is a nice complement and adds a bit of salty flavor, but it’s beautiful even without.

One word on ingredients – you really want to use cumin seeds here, rather than cumin powder. They are distinctly different in flavor as well as texture, and toasting them gives a richness that manages to not be overwhelming like cumin powder can sometimes be.

cumin seed & red pepper

Finally, a note on safety – be careful when pouring the chickpeas into the pan, as any residual liquid from draining them will sizzle in the pan and can burn you. I’m speaking from experience here!

I hope you love this salad as much as I do. 🙂


  Warm Chickpea Salad with Cumin & Garlic
Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley, leaves only
4-6 fresh mint leaves
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 English cucumber
1/4 cup feta cheese, optional

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet (cast iron is nice) over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and crushed red pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about one minute or until the seeds are toasted. The cumin will turn slightly darker in color, and smell toasty.

Turn the heat to medium low and add the garlic. Cook, stirringly frequently, for about three minutes or until the garlic is turning golden. Do not let it scorch or turn brown.

Add the drained chickpeas and the chopped tomatoes and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chickpeas are warmed through and are shiny with oil. Turn off the heat.

Strip any remaining stems away from the Italian parsley. Finely mince the parsley and the mint and toss this with the chickpeas. Stir the lemon juice and zest into the chickpeas.

Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthwise. Scrape out (and discard) the seeds with the tip of a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon. Dice the cucumber into small, 1/2-inch square cubes. Toss the cucumber with the chickpeas. Stir in feta cheese, if using, and taste.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before eating. This salad is best after it has had a chance to sit overnight in the fridge, letting its spices and juices soak together into more than the sum of its parts. Serve slightly warm or room temperature. Really good at any temperature, actually.


VegWeek Day 2, Vegetarian Chicken Salad

26 Sep

VegWeek_2011 Welcome to Day 2 of VegWeek!

Before you consider embarking on a vegetarian diet, you might be tempted to ask the basic question, what is a vegetarian? There are several different variations on the vegetarian diet, ranging from modest omissions of animal products to strictly plant-based diets.

Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian. A person who eats dairy products, eggs, fruits, vegetables, greens, legumes, grains, soy products, nuts, and honey. This is the most common type and what is commonly meant by “vegetarian.”

Lacto Vegetarian. A person who eats dairy products, but not eggs.

Ovo Vegetarian. A person who eats eggs, but not dairy products.

Pesco-Vegetarian (pescatarian). A person who eats fish.

Vegan. A person who does not eat anything from animals, including honey. Vegans also minimize the use of any product made with animal byproducts. Their main goal is to lessen animal cruelty and exploitation.

Low Fat Vegetarian. This diet is primarily used to treat diseases and lower the fat content of your diet. The diet consists of less than 10% of its calories from fat.

Raw Vegetarian / Vegan. A person who does not eat anything that has been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fruitarian. A raw vegetarian who only eats fruit, greens, and some nuts and seeds.

Flexitarian. A person who consciously reduces his / her intake of animal products. Movements such as “Meatless Mondays” promote this type of diet.

Lisa Simpson, vegetarian

Why be a vegetarian?

I can think of four major reasons people choose to limit their intake of animal products, and for most people, it’s usually a combination of these. The reasons most important to you will likely change throughout your life.

Concern for animals. Farming as it is practiced today is extremely cruel to animals. They are crowded and caged to the extent that it’s impossible to move, beaten and tortured, housed in unsanitary conditions where disease is rampant, and force-fed bizarre items that would never exist in their natural diet, such as plastic pellets, the remains of other animals, and a bevy of vitamins and antibiotics.

Concern for the environment. Large-scale factory farming uses an enormous amount of resources and is one of the largest contributors to our current environmental crisis. Animal farming has contributed to air, land and water pollution, scarcity of water, deforestation, and the erosion of topsoil.

Concern for health. Meat and dairy consumption has been linked to a number of physical ailments, especially heart disease and cancer. The antibiotics routinely fed to livestock have resulted in antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that threaten public health.

Preference. Some people simply dislike meat, and have an aversion to its taste and texture. It can also be difficult to digest, with dairy allergies being especially prevalent.

Hug a Vegetarian

Want to learn more about adopting a veggie diet? Check out this article: Six Simple Steps to a Healthy Vegetarian Diet.

Vegetarian Chicken Salad

Recipe Source: Wheat Free, Meat Free

I know the title of this recipe is Vegetarian Chicken Salad, but I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for a good tuna sandwich. Tuna salad is one of those easy staple recipes I grew up with, and it holds a certain kind of comfort for me. But the fishing industry is damaging the delicate balance of our oceans. Animals such as whales, dolphins and porpoises are often caught accidentally, and over-fishing has left other species in danger of extinction.

Fish are FriendsFish are friends, not food!

This might not be the most gourmet of recipes, but it makes for a fast lunch to prepare at night during the hectic work week. It’s basically smashed chickpeas mixed with vegan mayo and whatever else is tasty in a tuna or chicken salad.

smashed chickpeas

The most important part of this recipe is smashing up the chickpeas. It’s nice to have some mashed, and some intact. Then, you can add in any number of veggies: pickles, carrots, celery, cucumber, etc. – along with some vegan mayo, lemon juice, and maybe a spice or two… black pepper, smoked paprika? The only limit is your imagination!

veg chicken salad

RECIPE – Vegetarian Chicken Salad

2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas (~3 cups), drained and rinsed
2 stalks of celery, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4-1/3 cup mayo, miracle whip, or veganaise*
1 heaping tablespoon dill relish
1 heaping tablespoon dijon mustard
freshly cracked black pepper

*For vegan mayo, you can also try this homemade marcona almond mayo recipe!

Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and lightly mash. (Some chickpeas whole and some pretty smashed.)

Stir in the celery and onion.

Then add the mayo, relish, mustard and pepper to taste. Mix well. Serve.

(Makes about 4 cups)

veg chicken salad sandwich

Lunchtime Quinoa Salad

22 Jul

Hey! This is an impromptu post because I was excited about my lunch today, and because I’ve been terrible at blogging lately. As such, I don’t have any pictures to share with you. But I hope this might inspire you with a break in the doldrums that can be packing a work lunch.

eat your veggies!
(Ah, what the heck, here’s a picture I stole from the interwebs.)

What I prepped for myself last night might well be called a “fridge-cleaning salad,” because I used almost entirely ingredients I had leftover from other cooking ventures. Here’s how it went:

quinoa – cooked fresh, since I always keep some on-hand from bulk bins
feta cheese – leftover from frittatas and salads
walnut oil, lemon zest, and black pepper – always on-hand
pine nuts – about 1 tablespoon left in the bag
black olives (sliced, from a can) – leftover from a frittata
cherry tomatoes – bought fresh
carrot – bought fresh
cilantro – bought fresh
red bell pepper – leftover from frittata and a tuna salad
onion – leftover from who-knows-what
jalapeno – leftover from a tuna salad

I have a tendency to get bored with cold, lettuce-based salads, so I really enjoyed using quinoa as a base this time. I nuked the quinoa for about 40 seconds and the veggie-feta mixture for about 10, just to remove the refrigerator chill before combining them. Quinoa is a great source of protein and fiber, as well as gluten-free, so it’s primo vegetarian fuel.

quinoaThis site has even more info about quinoa!

My cooking method is to boil 1 1/4 cups of water, then turn the heat to low and add in 3/4 cups of quinoa. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. I used about half the quinoa in this batch, and the other half I’ll probably prep for breakfast (another blog to come in the future!).

veggie loveMuch to my delight, this made a yummy, healthy, and very filling salad! And it was good geeky fun to see how much I could throw into it. I’m sure I will be making more salads like this in the future.

If you decide to try this out, I’d love to hear about your concoction in the comments section! 🙂

Jicama Slaw with Herbacious Spicy Lime Vinaigrette

5 May

Recipe Source: What We’re Eating

scallions, cilantro, mint, jalapeno

I wish I could take credit for the name of this recipe, but alas, I can’t – it comes from a blog I recently stumbled upon via twitter (@whatwereeating), and the tone of the blog is as sassy as this recipe tastes! I love it, and I think you will, too.

If you think salads are mamby-pamby, think again, because this one is not for the faint of heart! THIS ONE is a flavor EXPLOSION! Or you might even like to say it’s like a party in your mouth. The serrano and raw onion give it a spicy kick, the lime juice and tamarind give it a refreshing tart zip, and the honey and jicama lend just enough sweetness to soften and round it out a bit, so no one flavor is overwhelming, but all blend together for an ultra-unique, utterly fabulous mix.

tamarind paste

This salad is a good deal of work to put together, so I reserve it for occasions where I’m going to be serving people. And so long as a lot of people will be noshing on it, I recommend doubling the recipe below. The way this is written, you will have leftover dressing. If you pair the salad with fish, as the original authors suggest, you can spoon the dressing onto the fish as well. Or save it to dress another salad, or use it all if you like soppy salads and living dangerously.

veggies - jicama, carrots, red onion, snow peas

The only modification I made from the original was to cut the amount of red onion in half, because I found it a bit too intense after a day or so. If you have a food processor with a grating blade, this is the time to use it – the jicama and carrots are shredded with perfect, fast uniformity. This is a great dish to take along to an outdoor summer picnic, I hope you’ll enjoy it!

jicama slaw

RECIPE – Jicama Slaw with Herbacious Spicy Lime Vinaigrette

for salad:
2 cups jicama, thinly julienned
1 cup snow peas, thinly julienned
1 cup carrots, thinly julienned
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

for herbacious spicy lime vinaigrette:
1 packed cup cilantro, roughly chopped
3/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
2 green onions, roughly chopped
1 serrano peppers, roughly chopped, (seeded or unseeded depending on how spicy you like it)
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and freshly ground (can substitute store bought ground cumin but doesn’t have the same flavor)
1 1/2 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp water
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4-1/2 cup canola oil, depending on how tart you like it
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

make the vinaigrette:
Dissolve the tamarind paste in 2 tbsp of water. Add the tamarind/water mixture, cilantro, mint, green onions, serrano peppers, ground cumin, honey, and lime to a food processor. Process the ingredients until the herbs and peppers have been fully pulverized into tiny little bits. While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in the oil to form an emulsified vinaigrette. Taste the dressing and season with salt and pepper as necessary.

assemble the salad:
In a mixing bowl, add the julienned jicama, snow peas, carrots and red onions. Pour about half of the vinaigrette over the julienned veggies then toss to coat. Taste the salad then season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper as necessary. Chill the salad for at least 20 minutes before serving.

This salad goes great with some simply seasoned and seared fish, such as red snapper. Enjoy!

Wheat Berry Salad

8 Dec

Recipe source: Barefoot Contessa Family Style

Considering my recent obsession with wheat berries, I’m happy for any recipes I can find using them. These little gems are an incredibly healthy source of fiber and a great start to a lot of my weekdays, but they are beautiful in salads as well. Their nutty flavor and chewy texture is about as far from lettuce as you can get, so if you’re jonesing for something new, try this!

Cook the wheat berries, either using Ina’s method for a small batch below, or the method in my Wheat Berry Breakfast Bowl post for a large batch (these keep fine in the fridge for a week or two). Set aside, then saute red onion in olive oil, add wheat berries, balsamic vinegar, and freshly ground black pepper back to bowl, and stir to coat berries.

wheat berries & red onion

To this mixture, off the heat, toss in diced scallions, red bell pepper, and carrot (or any other combination of veggies you like). Leave the salad to marinate for a few hours and serve at room temperature. Although the recipe doesn’t call for it, I also added feta cheese to my salad. Because, as Ina would say, how bad can that be?!

wheat berry salad

RECIPE – Wheat Berry Salad

My friend Brent Newsom devised this hearty salad. Wheatberries are a nutty grain that we use to make breads and salads. There are several different types, but hard winter wheatberries don’t get mushy when they’re cooked. If you can’t find them in the grocery store, try your local health food store. They’re delicious, and so good for you!

1 cup hard winter wheat berries
Kosher salt
1 cup finely diced red onion (1 onion)
6 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 scallions, minced, white and green parts
1/2 red bell pepper, small diced
1 carrot, small diced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the wheat berries and 3 cups of boiling salted water in a saucepan and cook, uncovered, over low heat for approximately 45 minutes, or until they are soft. Drain.

Sauté the red onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar.In a large bowl, combine the warm wheat berries, sautéed onions, scallions, red bell pepper, carrot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes for the wheat berries to absorb the sauce. Season, to taste, and serve at room temperature.

Serves 6

Warm Red Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

12 Oct

Recipe Source: 100 Best Fresh Salads. Love Food, Parragon Boods Ltd. 2007

Sooo I didn’t quite make it to 5 posts during VegWeek, but I’m still committed to getting there! Here is your recipe #4 of 5.

About a year ago, I developed an aversion to traditional, lettuce-based salads. The thought of them was completely unappealing to me. And while I’ve somewhat gotten over that, I still appreciate a unique salad. This one is definitely different, and complex, just the way I like my recipes! It has a great Mediterranean influence… the lentils give it a hearty feeling and work well with the spinach base. I feel like spinach alone can be a bit dense at times, but it’s so healthy for you, I try to eat it over romaine or other less nutritive greens.

I only changed this recipe slightly, to keep the red onions raw (I detest carmelized or otherwise slimy onions!) and use less of them. I also used walnut oil instead of hazelnut oil, because I couldn’t find hazelnut.

To start, you’ll saute garlic, fresh ginger root, and cumin seeds in oil over a medium flame. This mixture smells like heaven… or at least, what my foodie heaven might smell like. 🙂 I like to keep my dice somewhat large on the garlic and ginger, so they’ll hold their own during a long cooking time with the lentils.

After a few minutes, add in the red lentils and stir to coat with the oil already in the pan, then add vegetable stock a ladle at a time, letting the mixture dry out slightly between ladles.

Ooooh, shiny.

After all the stock has absorbed into the lentils (about 20 minutes), remove from heat and stir in chopped fresh cilantro and mint.

In a large bowl, toss spinach, finely sliced red onion, and walnut oil to taste. In another bowl, mash goat cheese and Greek yogurt together, and season with fresh cracked black pepper. To assemble the salad, top the spinach and onions with the lentil mixture, then add a dollop of the goat cheese mixture on top of that. This recipe could easily be made vegan by omitting the goat cheese, but I think the creaminess makes a really nice complement to the spices in the lentils.

RECIPE – Warm Red Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons grated fresh gingerroot
1 1/2 cups split red lentils
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 teaspoon hazelnut oil
6 oz. soft goat cheese
4 tablespoons strained plain yogurt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Heat half the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the cumin seeds, garlic, and gingerroot and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in the lentils, then add the stock, a ladlefull at a time, until it is all absorbed, stirring constantly – this will take about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until soft and lightly browned.

Toss the spinach in the hazelnut oil in a bowl, then divide among 4 serving plates.

Mash the goat cheese with the yogurt in a small bowl and season to taste with pepper.

Divide the lentils among the serving plates and top with the onions and goat cheese mixture.

Crunchy Oriental Chicken Salad

28 Sep

Recipe source: my friend Stephanie

Here’s a new favorite salad recipe, thanks to my Gourmet Friend Stephanie. She made this for our summer picnic potluck, and I was so excited she did, because I’d had something similar at our July 4th picnic, but forgot to ask that friend for his recipe.

This isn’t exactly what I’d call a *healthy* salad, due to the sodium content in the ramen spice packet and sugar in the dressing. But, we can’t always be healthy, can we? Time to accept the facts of life.

I love this picnic for a potluck or just on a hot day. Like this past weekend, for example… after a summer of weak low-70s weather, our Fall is kicking off with a heat wave of 100+ temperatures. So, salad time!

To start out, you’ll need to cook a chicken breast. You can do this any way you like, really, but I’m a fan of shredded chicken. To accomplish this, I filet my chicken breast, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cook through in a pan with a little oil over medium heat, then pull with a fork along the natural lines of the breast.

shredded chicken
The next step is to cook the ramen noodles. They should be very finely chopped. The first time I made this salad, I crumbled it all apart with my bare hands, which, wimpy though it is to say, made my hands a bit sore. The next time, I put the block in a large mixing bowl and crushed the life out of it with a dough cutter. It worked great!

Once you have attained fine bits of ramen, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan, dissolve in the ramen seasoning packet, then add the noodles and cook, stirring constantly, for a couple minutes. Then toss in 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds and stir it some more.

Ramen noodles
Remove the ramen mixture from heat and allow it to cool. In the meantime, prepare a dressing of white wine vinegar, vegetable oil, sugar, and pepper. Toss the chicken and ramen mixture with the dressing, along with coleslaw mix, dry-roasted peanuts and green onions.

Light, crunchy, delicious. YUM!

crunchy oriental chicken salad

RECIPE – Crunchy Oriental Chicken Salad

3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 package (3 ounces) Oriental-flavor ramen noodle soup mix
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups cut-up cooked chicken
1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts
4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)
1 bag (16 ounces) coleslaw mix (or chop your own cabbage and carrots)

Melt butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Stir in seasoning packet from noodles.

Break block of noodles into fine pieces over skillet; stir noodles into butter mixture. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly; stir in sesame seed. Cook about 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly, until noodles are golden brown.

Mix sugar, vinegar, oil and pepper in large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss. Toss in noodle mixture just before serving.