Greek-inspired chickpea salad (4+ servings)

On the past couple Sundays, I've made up a big batch of something that can be stored in the fridge and warmed up for last-minute lunches during the week. One week it was a green bean and pasta salad, another week I made Mexican quinoa salad, and this week, I came up with a lower-carb version of this pasta salad. Filled with lemony brightness and hearty chickpeas, it's satisfying, healthy, and adaptable. It's another great dish to make this time of year, since the weather is warm but not much is growing just yet; in a few months, I'll be able to make it again with local produce! 

You will need:

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 2 cups cut green beans (thawed if frozen)
  • 2-3 cups halved cherry tomatoes or chopped plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • zest of half a lemon (or more, if you like it really lemony!)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • salt and pepper

Steps:

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once warm, add the chickpeas and cook, shaking the pan frequently, until chickpeas start to brown. (Shaking the pan keeps the chickpeas from becoming overly comfortable in their new home and celebrating by jumping up in the air and splattering oil all over the stovetop you just cleaned an hour earlier. ...Cocky little garbanzo bastards.)
  2. Add the garlic to the pan; cook and shake the pan for another minute. Transfer chickpeas and garlic to a large serving bowl.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the pan over medium heat. Add the green beans and cook for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the beans are just tender. Transfer them to the serving bowl.
  4. Add the tomatoes, mint leaves, oregano, lemon zest, and feta to the serving bowl. Toss gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or chilled.

In hotter months (and they'll be here before we know it), this could easily be made with un-toasted chickpeas and raw green beans for a speedy meal that requires no heat from the stove!

Samosa soup (6+ servings)

One of the most enlightening and entertaining aspects of cooking at home is realizing the sweeping variety of recipes that exist across the world. Sometimes I love to sit down with a cookbook and look at recipes I'll probably never make and might not even like just to take in the culinary diversity expressed by creative people all over the globe. 

So what is the most universally-consumed food across all cuisines? My gut says it's probably wheat, since almost all cultures consume some type of bread, pasta, dumpling, or noodle. But that same gut (which is getting hungrier the more I think about delicious, delicious carbs) also thinks the humble potato has to be in the top five somewhere. In fact, the wealth of scholarly publications on the history and cultural impact of the potato suggest I might be onto something! Mmm... potatoes.

According to the World Potato Atlas (yes, for realz), potatoes were first brought to India sometime in the 1600s but were initially received with skepticism. Today, however, they're used in many Indian dishes, from main dishes to dessert. They're often used in samosas, which are deep-fried, vegetable-stuffed pastries that are often spicy. I like samosas, but I'm not into deep-frying food at home, so when I saw this gorgeous vegan soup that turns samosas inside out, I couldn't wait to try it!

You will need:

  • 4-6 medium potatoes, scrubbed well but not peeled, chopped into even chunks
  • 1/2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1-2 green chilis, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, diced OR 1/2 Tbsp onion powder (Boo for IBS.)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (make sure it's gluten-free if you're going for that)
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 cup cooked green peas (I used frozen)
  • 1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • chutney and/or fresh cilantro leaves

Steps:

  1. Place the potato chunks in a large stockpot and cover with cold water by an inch or so. Bring to a boil and cook with the lid off or vented (to prevent it boiling over) until the potatoes are fork-tender. (The length of time will vary, depending on the size of your chunks.) Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot to keep warm. Set aside.
  2. Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a skillet; add the chilis, garlic, and onion/onion powder to the oil and cook 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the spices (cumin seeds through ginger, above) to the skillet, and cook, stirring frequently, for another 2-3 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant and sizzling.
  4. Using a rubber scraper, add the spice mixture to the drained potatoes. Pour in the vegetable broth, coconut milk, and lime juice. Use an immersion blender to blend the potatoes and liquids, making it as smooth or chunky as you prefer. (I used a lot of potatoes, so mine was THICK -- like one-step-below-mashed-potatoes thick!)
  5. When the soup has reached your desired consistency, fold in the peas and chickpeas. Add salt to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each portion with a swirl of chutney (Sharwood's Mango & Ginger Chutney is lovely) and/or a sprinkling of chopped cilantro leaves.

 

This soup is silky and elaborately-spiced. It wasn't hot-spicy (I used only one chili and it was getting old anyway) but deeply flavorful in a multi-layered sort of way. It really did taste like the inside of a samosa!

Admittedly, I changed quite a few things from Shannon's original recipe. I left out a couple spices but increased the amount of the remaining ones, added ginger and curry powder, upped the coconut milk, and skipped grinding the spices in a food processor. I didn't mind the texture of the seeds in the soup, especially because it meant I didn't have to clean my behemoth of a food processor. Sometimes laziness wins out over authenticity, especially in my case!

Happy Vegan MOFO (MOnth of FOod), friends! Once again, I'll try to post a new vegan recipe at least once a week. If there's anything in particular you'd like me to try out, leave a comment below!

Tuna Chickpea salad à la my mom

What the hell is going on with this weather? Last Sunday was 72°, and then we had freezing rain on Tuesday, which led to a day off from school. Today, we have more ice and another day off (bye bye, spring break), and then tomorrow, it's supposed to be sunny and 64°. I don't get it. Being from Pennsylvania, I'm pretty used to the cold and ugly weather, but having the sunny, gorgeous days in between has made the wintry weather so much worse to deal with.

The funny thing about the bad weather is that it makes me miss home. It's not that I want to be where there's MORE of this (and from what my family and friends have told me, this has been an especially brutal winter in Berks/Lancaster County), but I miss being stuck inside with my family when it's cold outside. After a long afternoon of shoveling (which, when I was younger, consisted more of me and my sister romping across the yard and sidewalks while our dad hollered, "I just shoveled there!" in the background), we'd all retire to the warmth of the house, blinking to adjust our eyes to the relative darkness of the indoors, and throw our sopping wet clothes into a pile. While my mother got started on several dozen pounds of laundry (the poor woman), the three of us would collapse in the living room to watch Murder, She Wrote or something else similarly inane.

By dinnertime, we were all starving. I knew my mom would be too tired to make anything elaborate, but that was fine, because one of my favorite of my mom's recipes was also one of her go-to quick staples: tuna salad. The funny thing about my mom's tuna salad was that I don't ever remember seeing her make it; it would just appear at dinnertime in that same faded green, round tupperware bowl with the frosted, flexible lid. My mom is a smart woman; she doesn't ruin her tuna salad with unnecessary things like chopped egg or olives. Oh no. Her tuna salad is simple, enhanced only by a little bit of lemon and some tangy pickle relish.

These days, I make the same recipe using mashed-up chickpeas. True, it doesn't have the same chewy texture or seaworthy saltiness as tuna has, but the chickpeas still make a lovely sandwich filling when you need something light and quick.

You will need:

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2-4 Tbsp mayo, depending on preference (or vegan mayo, if you prefer)
  • 2 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
  • 1/4 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/3 tsp onion powder (or less, if your lemon pepper mix contains onion powder)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (or less, if your lemon pepper mix contains salt)
  • dash of soy sauce
  • dash of lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1-2 stalks celery, diced (you can throw the leaves in too)

Steps:

  1. Place the drained chickpeas in a small bowl. Using a potato masher, roughly mash the chickpeas, leaving a few whole.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients to the chickpeas and stir to combine.

 

You can serve the chickpea salad on top of salad greens, in a pita (as shown), by itself, or -- my favorite -- between toasted slices of rye bread, topped with American cheese. 

Now I kind of want to go build a snowman...

Chickpeas, tomatoes, feta, and wine (3-4 servings)

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This chickpeas recipe comes from an Allrecipes contribution, and I really didn't change much from the original recipe.  It's a flavorful, high-protein way to use up ingredients in your pantry!

You will need:

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (NOT cooking wine)
  • 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Steps:

  1. Heat the oil in a large rimmed skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion; cook and stir for about 10 minutes, letting the onion brown slightly and soften.  Add in the garlic and oregano during the last two minutes or so.
  2. Mix the tomatoes into the skillet, stir in wine, and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, until thickened.
  3. Stir in the chickpeas and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove skillet from the heat and crumble the feta over the top.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

I'm telling you, friends -- there's nothing sweeter than a one-skillet meal on a Friday night.  After a long week at school (and this was one of those), the last thing I want to do is dirty a ton of dishes.  This recipe is easy to throw together and clean up.  It's versatile because it can be served over rice or couscous, but it's fine by itself, too.  Tonight, I served it with glazed carrots and homemade applesauce.  I was lucky enough to find real Greek sheep's milk feta at Central market last weekend, and I'm so glad I did.  It was deliriously fluffy and pleasingly sharp without being overly salty.  Of course, you could make this vegan by skipping the cheese, but I'd miss it, personally.

Mushroom & broccoli pilaf (4 servings)

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I'm judging by the patterns of the last few weeks here: advent of warmer weather + influx of essays to grade + start of new grad class = lack of blog posts.  Sorry about that, folks.

That being said, I am excited to post this newest recipe, although I made it two weeks ago and the photos had been sitting on my camera since then.  This recipe comes from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook whose praises I sang weeks ago.  It sounded more like a side dish than an entree when I first read the recipe, but the combination of rice, chickpeas, and cashews is so filling that it easily works as a main dish.  I think I served this with a green salad.

You will need:

  • 2 1/2 cups mushroom stock (I'm sure vegetable stock would work just fine)
  • A splash of dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup dry brown rice (NOT instant)
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 small head broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup salted, roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Combine the stock and white wine in a small saucepan or microwaveable measuring cup, and warm either on the stovetop or in the microwave, heating until steaming but not boiling.  Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a heavy oven-proof stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until translucent (6-8 minutes).  Add the rice and stir until coated with the butter (about a minute).
  4. Pour in the hot broth/wine.  Add the thyme, about 1/2 tsp salt, and a few grinds of black pepper.  Raise heat to bring to a boil; then cover and set in oven to bake for 40 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the broccoli and chickpeas.  Cover again and bake until the broccoli is tender (10- 15 minutes).  Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes, still covered, to steam.
  6. Uncover the pot and fluff the rice with a big spoon.  Fold in the cashews and red pepper flakes; serve immediately.

I think it's a bit brazen to call this "mushroom and broccoli pilaf" when the only mushrooms are in the stock used to cook the rice.  I used Better Than Bouillon mushroom base, but I can't say the dish had a distinctly mushroomy taste.  I was trying to think of a way to add sliced mushrooms to this recipe, but I don't know when I'd add them in.  Maybe I'll experiment with that in the future.

Being a sucker for textural combinations, I loved this dish.  The fluffy rice was complemented by the firm chickpeas and crunchy cashews and broccoli stalks.  It was a little on the salty side, but I didn't even mind.  I might use unsalted cashews next time though.  This dish could be made vegan by substituting oil for the butter and by using a vegan vegetable stock.  I like recipes like this where the work is front-loaded; I can chop my veggies and saute the ingredients and then get schoolwork done while everything finishes in the oven!  Love it!