A Simple Summer Chickpea Salad

It’s getting hot in Pune. Unbearably hot. The kind of hot that makes heavy eating, and standing over the stove for too long, a real chore.

I tend to feel sluggish in the warmer months if I eat heavy foods and spicy curries- so chicken curry and sambhar are replaced with pachadi and curd rice. And on many days, we eat salad.

What I love about salads are that they’re pretty forgiving creatures, as long as you have an open mind. There are no must-have or can’t-use ingredients. You can use all kinds of vegetables & herbs, proteins & carbohydrates, nuts & grains to create a really filling, tasty meal-in-a-bowl. Fattoush and panzanella make use of bread, som tam and the Waldorf make use of fruits and nuts, while a classic caeser and nicoise put eggs and fish to good (and delicious!) use.

When I make my salads as a meal, I need to have some form of protein in it. Unfortunately, I am neither Rachel Allen nor Nigella Lawson, so I rarely never have leftover meat from a Sunday roast in the form or chicken strips and beef shreds. So my protein of choice is either canned tuna or kabuli chana, which is a staple in most Indian pantries.

The only cooking this salad requires is boiling the chickpeas- but you are more than welcome to use canned chickpeas. I often pressure-cook a batch of chickpeas (two cups) on Sunday and store them in the fridge for salad or hummus during the week.

So this salad came together on a weekday when it was too hot to cook. It’s simple, and light on the stomach but still keeps you sated. I like adding some kind of nut or seed to my salads this days- they add a lovely bite and crunch, plus they are really good for you. If I’m using almonds, I just soak them and use them raw. With peanuts, I like to toast them lightly in their skin and crush them before adding in. And watermelon and sesame seeds I just sprinkle over the top as they are; though toasting them would be a nice touch.

SUMMER CHICKPEA SALAD

INGREDIENTS

For The Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Garlic salt, celery salt or store-bought Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

For The Salad

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained
  • 2 medium cucumbers, chopped
  •  8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large red onion, sliced into half moons
  • A fistful each of chopped mint and coriander (optional)
  • A fistful of pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, sunflower seeds or any seeds of your choice. You could also use some soaked raw almonds. (This is also optional.)

METHOD

  • To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl until evenly combined. Adjust for salt-sweetness-acidity as per your liking, and set aside.
  • For the salad, add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix well. (Use your hands, use tongs, use your kids toy spade, it doesn’t matter!)
  • Pour the dressing over the salad, toss well again and serve.
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Garlicky Kale & Bulgur Skillet

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So for the longest time I scoffed at kale. I thought it was a pretentious hippie+hipster superfood that people only ate because it was trendy. (I still feel that way about quinoa and chia seeds-but that’s also because they are both so so expensive at health food and gourmet shops here.)

So anyway. I’ve saw it everywhere, from Martha Stewart to Goop to Food Pleasure Health and of course, Yum Universe and One Part Plant. One of my reasons for being so wary of kale was the fact that I just couldn’t find it easily in Mumbai. But in Pune, you do find it at the market. I finally ordered it after signing up with Green Tokri, they grow the pebbly lacinato variety.

Since that first order of kale, it’s been a staple every week. I’ve played around with it quite a bit. So far, I’ve managed to:

  • Juice it;
  • Add it to scrambled eggs;
  • Wilt it into soup;
  • Bake it;
  • Fry it;
  • Eat it raw.

I love the deep green hue and how it turns almost jewel-toned sauteed in olive oil. I love separating the leaves from the stalks, like this, in one fluid motion. I love massaging kale with olive oil for a salad.

So yes. I’m late to the party, but now, I realllyreally love kale, to the point where it is probably getting nauseating for my friends who hear me go on and on about it on social media.

image courtesy | funnytimes.com

image courtesy | funnytimes.com

I am turning into that annoying person, who waxes eloquent about kale. Who has suddenly discovered #cleaneating and hashtags it all the time. Who puts her green juice in a green cup with a green straw. (True story.) I have turned into the woman who is so smitten with kale, you want to throw a bag of Doritos at her and say STFU, we get it. Now go chew on something else. I have fallen into the kale abyss, and it’s leafy cushiony goodness means I’m not going to stop publicizing my love any time soon.

Self-deprecation aside, kale is packed with nutrients and is really good for you, so if you can get your hands on it, give it a try. It’s versatile and can be added to pretty much anything, from salad to soup to pasta, but I really enjoy it as a one-pot meal, with a grain, a protein and some seasoning. Unlike spinach, which wilts and softens easily, lacinato kale has more body and can hold up better, with a pleasant chew or crunch, depending on how long you sautee it. This one is an easy recipe, and if you’d like to add more bulk to it, you could top it with a fried egg or some chicken or tuna.

image courtesy | cartoonstock.com

image courtesy | cartoonstock.com

GARLICKY KALE & BULGUR SKILLET

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup of bulgur, cooked
  • 1 cup kale, packed
  • ½ cup boiled chickpeas
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red chilli pepper or jalapeno, sliced
  • A handful of black olives, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • A squeeze of lime
  • Soaked raw almonds to garnish

METHOD

  • Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and allow it to soften.
  • Throw in the bulgur and stir till well-coated, then add the kale and sautee for about two minutes.
  • Add the cooked chickpeas, chilli, olives, salt and pepper, and stir-fry for a few minutes until the kale softens and crisps up a little.
  • Garnish with the raw almonds, squeeze some lime over, and you’re done!

Lentil, Kale & Egg Bake

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So this dish is a twist on shakshuka, that beautifully spiced North African dish of eggs baked in a spicy, sticky tomato-pepper sauce.

It came about because I had bits of vegetables and odds & ends lying around in my fridge- and I am unapologetic about combining the most random elements to create a dish, if it suits me.

♥ “But can you put lentils in shakshuka?”

   “It’s shakshuka-inspired. It’s a lentil bake.”

 

♥ “Can you actually bake kale?”

   “Sure…just wilt it in and pop it in the oven.”

 

♥ “But isn’t this supposed to be for breakfast?”

   “Naaah…eggs & kale work anytime, anytime.”

 

So I had one carrot. One small bunch of kale. A wrinkly red red pepper. Some tomatoes. Half a dozen eggs. And an almost-empty jar of green mung dal. I decided to toss everything together, crack some eggs on top and put it all in the oven. Minimal effort, fewer dishes to wash, and an all-in-one meal.

I think hotchpotch-meal creation is genetic. It comes from my maternal grandmother. Just nonchalantly tossing things together (which you normally wouldn’t,) and making a meal of it. My grandmom would put things in front of us, combinations which we weren’t used to, and if we questioned the meal, she’d just say “of course you can add ___ to sambhar!” without batting an eyelid. The ___ in question could be something like cauliflower, which really isn’t added to sambhar, but if there was an odd end of it lying around, it would go in.

And for this bake, whatever little I had in my fridge was thrown in. (Ok, gently sautéed and wilted in.) I cooked the green mung dal beforehand of course, (in a pressure cooker,) because they can take a while to get tender.

LENTIL, KALE AND EGG BAKE (With inspiration from NYT Cooking and Serious Eats.)

INGREDIENTS

  • Cooked lentils, 1 cup (I used green mung, but red lentils, puy lentils or beluga lentils would work just as well. Just remember cooking times for each vary.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 3 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne/chilli flakes
  • ¼ cup grated carrot
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup kale, shredded
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • Feta or goat’s cheese (optional)

METHOD

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  • In a largish skillet or pot, heat the olive oil on medium-to low. Add the garlic, lightly sautee, then add the tomatoes and allow them to soften. Add the spices and sautee till the raw smell of the spices disappears- the oil will start to separate a little at this point. Add the carrots and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper.
  • Cover and cook for 10 minutes until the mixture begins to break down and soften. Add the lentils and wilt in the kale, cover and simmer till the mixture thickens.
  • Next, take the mixture off the heat and transfer to an oven-proof baking dish, or you could use the same skillet if it’s oven proof. Make gentle wells in the mixture with the back of a spoon and crack the eggs in. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Crumble some goat’s cheese or feta over the top, and bake at 180 C for 15 minutes or until eggs are cooked and the yolks are set to your liking. I don’t like runny yolks, so I kept my dish in the oven for a while longer.