Curried Chickpea, Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Salad
A few days ago I stood in our kitchen with my hands squarely on my hips like a fishmonger’s wife, peering gloomily down at our garbage can. You see, we have that classic tri-can from Costco – the one which is perfect for sorting your garbage into recyclables, compost, and waste. At first we tried to do that. I even used those awful little stickers that they give you (note: I hate stickers almost as much as I hate sparklers, flashing lights, kids who smell like pee, and lawn ornaments shaped like smiling bears who hold “Welcome!” signs) so that we could tell what from which. Okay, the little green sticker is for organics, the white one is for actual garbage, and the blue one is for cans, bottles, cardboard, recyclable plastics, newspaper, shampoo bottles, juice boxes….uh oh. Oscar, we have a problem.
Very quickly our little garbage trinity became 1 part waste and 2 parts recyclables, with any organic kitchen refuse going into a green bin for neighborhood pick up. Even so, compartments 2 & 3 are chronically overflowing with cardboard, liquor bottles (we is what we is) and a remarkable number of bean cans. Goddammit but do we eat a lot of beans. I mean, I guess I realized that we were a legume friendly household with my weekly hummus binges, affinity for black beans, beans and rice, chickpeas and farro, bean salad, and almost anything else that’s bean related. It’s one thing to know that though, intellectually, and another thing to see the evidence staring you in the face through a pile of discarded tin cans.
First I scowled, because I really do like to think of myself as a person who enjoys variety, international flavors, exciting textural contrasts and all that jazz. But that’s just rubbish (huh? notice the pun? HUH??) because my garbage can speaks to something different. My recycling bin looks up at me, winks, and says, “You really ARE just worth a hill of beans, aren’t you?” Pish! Tosh! Let me tell you, I REFUSE (again with the puns! I’m on fire!!) to be harassed by a belligerent waste receptacle.
So, I walked away with my head down, knowing that the garbage bin was right. I felt fiber filled and ashamed. I really had just bean there, done that. But then I thought, ah just screw it. If I want to eat chickpeas, then chickpeas I shall eat. If that means taking out the recycling on a daily basis, well, then so be it. And on that note, I bring to you yet another bean salad.
Curried Chickpea, Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Salad
Serves 6 as a side dish, 4 as an entree with pita for scoopage
- 2 cans chickpeas (19 oz each) *
- 8 oz (1 cup) roasted red peppers **
- 8 oz large leaf spinach (about 8 cups) ***
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 red onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 lemon
- handful fresh mint (1/2 cup chopped)
- handful parsley (1/2 cup chopped)
- salt and pepper to taste
* I admit, chickpeas – like many other legumes – have a superior taste and texture when you prepare them yourself. But really, who has time for that? So yes, I cop out and go for the canned chickpeas on a regular basis.
** Uhhh…ditto for the roasted red peppers. Despite the fact that they’re deliciously easy to make at home, I still buy the jarred peps for weeknight meals. Such is life. If you were slightly more energetic than I am and you have homemade roasted reds, 1 cup is about 2 chopped peppers.
*** The coarse, tough, sinewy spinach that glowers malevolently at you from the back of the vegetable rack is exactly what you want. None of that namby-pamby baby spinach in this recipe! Baby spinach is tender and delicious, perfect for fresh salads and other applications, but gets stringy and turns to Ghostbuster juice when you cook it.
Dice the red onion and mince the garlic cloves.
Heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil in an extra large heavy bottomed skillet over medium low heat. Gently sweat out the onions and garlic for a minute or two. As soon as the garlic is fragrant and the onion is just starting to turn translucent, add the dry spices. Give everything a good stir and let this cook together for a minute or two so that the spices can blend and cook off some of the raw powdery taste.
Coarsely chop the spinach while the onions cook. When the spices have completely coated the onions and it’s starting to look just a wee bit dry, add 2 tbsp of cold water to the pan. Quickly plunk the spinach down on top and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Put a lit over the pan immediately and let it steam, undisturbed, for 3-5 minutes.
As the spinach wilts, give a rough chop to your roasted red peppers.
Drain the chickpeas and give them a good rinse under cold running water. When the spinach has been wilting away for a few minutes (even if it’s not completely battered down and it still has some spirit left) add the roasted red peppers and chickpeas. Take the pan off of the heat and let the mixture cool.
Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil with the pomegranate molasses. Squeeze in all the juice that you can wrench from that poor ill-begotten lemon and give it another good whisk until everything is combined.
Tear the parsley and mint leaves off of the stems. Finely chop the parsley (c’mon, it’s time to get down all tabouli-styles here!) and give a nice rough chop to the mint.
When the chickpea mixture has cooled down to room temperature, pour the dressing overtop and toss with the fresh chopped herbs. Do a final seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
You’ve probably heard me sing my little hippie hymns praising legumes to glory upon high, and you also likely know about my penchant for picnics….and my cravings for curries. Is it any surprise that I could eat this salad in the three-bags-full kind of way?
You can serve this salad cold but I like it much better at room temperature. If you made it the day before and it needs a quick refresh, just tear up a few more leaves of fresh mint and sprinkle them overtop. That bright and clean flavor just makes everything blossom again.
This ever-so-slightly-hot but oh-god-so-flavorful salad was a lovely accompaniment to Tunisian lamb burgers with cucumber mint yoghurt sauce. It was also quite nice the next day for lunch, if I don’t say so myself. And, to be quite honest, if there was any left I would have made it a glorious side to dinner tonight….which would inevitably be planned around said salad. Hey, sometimes when the salad says, “Eat me!!” I just say, “Well, yeah. What did you THINK I was going to do?” Then again, maybe you also shouldn’t be taking advice from someone who talks to her salad, so disregard that last thought…..