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.

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!

Roasted Tomato & Lentil Soup

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I’ll admit I have a short temper. Sometimes it’s with an applicance that doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s triggered by muddy shoe tracks around the house. Sometimes by my son, who is being his 3-yr-old self but making a mess and racket while doing so. I try to work on it as much as I can- but there are times when I blow my fuse.

Cooking and being in the kitchen, however, makes me forget whatever it was that made me angry. I’m happy to toss a salad. Shake some vinaigrette together. Chop some onions into half-moons, dice tomatoes and slice cucumbers. And if my son has been punished, then a snack is what is produced as a peace offering.

Happy as I am to prep, chop, cook and stir, there are days when I take the lazy route- that is, cooking without having to stand over the stove for too long. For me, lazy cooking is about chopping some vegetables, roasting them in the oven, and tossing them with pasta, creating a salad, or blitzing everything into a soup.

The great thing about roasting veggies in the oven is that the oven does all the work for you…the natural sugars come alive, the juices come out and the vegetables just dress themselves, absorbing all the lovely flavours of the herbs and oil.

 

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If you think garlic sautéing in butter/olive oil is one of the nicest (savoury) aromas, think again. Tomatoes and peppers roasting in the oven with rosemary is an aroma that can make any stomach growl. Ever since I tried Clara’s blistered cherry tomatoes, I’ve had a weakness for roasting tomatoes in the oven- big and small. I agree, cherry tomatoes look prettier when roasted and paired with pasta or a topping for a tartine, but when you are roasting tomatoes for a soup, it doesn’t matter. I also found these red chillies in the market earlier this week, and was a little undecided about what to do with them.

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Anita suggested pickling them, which I intend to do, but I was impatient to get cooking with them, so I slit, de-veined and de-seeded them, tossed them with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, thyme and crushed pepper, and put everything in a 200 degree oven for 40 minutes, with a gentle toss and massage after 20 mins.

Once done, I blitzed everything in a blender with a little water, and added the mix to a pot of simmering lentils- dinner is done.

ROASTED TOMATO & LENTIL SOUP

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 2 medium red chilli peppers, halved, deveined and de-seeded
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, fresh or dried
  • A good grinding of black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup red lentils or husked masoor dal
  • Water for boiling

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 200 C.
  • Place the tomatoes, peppers and garlic in a roasting tray/baking dish and toss with the olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper till well coated.
  • Place in the oven for 40 minutes, checking on them after 20 mins and giving everything a quick toss.
  • Once cool, place everything in a blender and blend, adding a little water, till smooth.
  • Place lentils in a large pot and add enough water to cover. Simmer on medium-low heat until lentils are tender, skimming off the foam at the top periodically. Once the lentils are tender, add in the tomato-pepper puree and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes more. Add more water or vegetable stock if necessary.
  • Season with more salt and pepper if you wish, and drizzle some olive oil over the top before serving.