Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spiced Chickpea Spinach Salad

Many of us are lucky to be alive and shielded from the evils of the world. The sentence that follows is as much of a reminder for myself as it is for everyone else: Even if it’s a struggle, let us give everything we do our best shot, it’s the least we can do for our fellowmen in need.

Let’s take a moment to think about all the events that happened over the past week… The terrifying Boston Marathon explosions and the riveting hunt for the Tsarnaev brothers; the unexpected explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas; and the devastating earthquake in the Sichuan Province in China.

These tragedies are hard to fathom especially when we are not in the midst of it. We question why our brothers and sisters have to suffer and go through this pain. Absolutely no one deserves any of this! We seek for reasons why these things happen and blame it on pure malice and carelessness of our fellow humans and the ruthlessness of nature. We want to fight back, seek justice, provide physical assistance, and give comfort.

But what can we do when we are too far away and have no means to lend a helping hand? Perhaps we can give donations, pray, and channel good thoughts. But we can also help by starting small… even as small as saying thank you for simply being alive. While we are alive, let’s tell our loved ones how much we love and care for them, let’s smile at strangers, let’s give a little more to our work, let’s do a little extra to relieve someone of his/her burden. We can make our existence mean something by emanating our goodness towards others… this could be contagious in the best possible way.

This week’s Food Matter’s Project is Mark Bittman’s Mediterranean Cobb Salad. Thank you Sara (Pidge’s Pantry) for choosing something simple yet so deliciously satisfying. This is just the kind of nourishment that we need during these trying times.

I am not a big fan of salad bars at restaurants. I find them terribly boring… iceberg lettuce with tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, canned olives, and ranch, Italian, or blue cheese dressing. Blah! With a quick glance, Mark Bittman’s salad would be in this category. However, if you look closely, there is something special about it: the fancy dressing with the anchovies and chickpeas. Unfortunately though, we don’t have anchovies at home and I wouldn’t know where to find it. So, I adapted his dressing a bit. The result is pretty amazing, very reminiscent of chimichurri with the added saltiness from the capers.   

I also did my own take on this salad to make use of the ingredients we had on hand and to include the spiced chickpea recipe in Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem. The chickpeas are a fun and hearty addition and the warm spices that coated them definitely add a depth of flavor to the salad.

Instead of romaine lettuce, I used spinach because we had tons of it. It’s also good to load up on some extra antioxidants! The usual fixings of tomato, bell pepper, and red onion were in the mix too and I tossed these with a hunk of feta cheese, crumbled with a fork, to add a nice, sharp bite to the vegetables.
To complete the salad and turn it into a full meal, I chopped up some soft-boiled eggs sprinkled with a heavy hand of sea salt, and added them on top. It was just the perfect touch!

This is definitely not your usual “salad bar salad”… it is so much more. A complete dinner by itself, delicious, filling, and chockfull of good stuff!


Spiced Chickpea Spinach Salad (Makes 2-4 servings)
Inspired from Mark Bittman’s “Mediterranean Cobb Salad”, The Food Matters Cookbook and Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s “Spiced Chickpea” recipe, Jerusalem

1/8 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon capers
½ teaspoon caper brine
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, packed
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, packed
1 tomato, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
½ of a small red onion, sliced thinly
70 g feta cheese, crumbled with a fork
80 g baby spinach
spiced chickpeas (recipe below)
2 soft-boiled eggs (or hard-boiled, whatever you prefer)
generous pinch of sea salt

Boil two eggs to your preference. I personally prefer soft boiled eggs. Shell the eggs, chop, and sprinkle generously with sea salt.  

While the eggs are boiling, combine the olive oil, vinegar, capers, caper brine, parsley, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Purée for a couple seconds until it resembles a dressing-like consistency. Pour the dressing into a small serving bowl.

In a medium size bowl, gently toss the tomato, bell pepper, red onion, and feta cheese until well-combined. Set aside.

Assemble the salad on your serving plates. Start with a bed of spinach leaves, layer with the feta-flavored vegetables, then top with the spiced chickpeas and boiled eggs. Or, simply arrange each component alongside each other. Spoon a generous amount of dressing on top.

Serve with toasted pita bread or a hunk of good sourdough.  

Spiced Chickpeas
Very slightly adapted from Ottolenghi and Tamimi's "Spiced Chickpeas and Fresh Vegetable Salad", Jerusalem

110 grams dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Place the chickpeas in a large bowl, sprinkle with the baking soda, and cover with about an inch of cold, running water. Let sit for ten hours or overnight, uncovered. Use a colander to drain the water and rinse the chickpeas in cold, running water. Move the chickpeas to a medium size pot and add water to cover about an inch. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat. When the water is boiling, skim off the foam, then partially cover the pot and continue to simmer over low heat, until the chickpeas are tender. The total cooking time is one hour. When the chickpeas are fully cooked, drain using a colander.

While the chickpeas are cooking, mix the cardamom, allspice, cumin, and salt in a flat dish with tall edges. Spread the spice mixture all over the dish and toss the chickpeas around to coat.   

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick pan. When the oil is hot, cook the spice coated chickpeas for 5-6 minutes, stirring often.  Turn the heat off and move the pan away from heat. You may leave the chickpeas in the pan to keep them warm. Serve with a salad.

Do visit Pidge’s Pantry for  the original Mark Bittman recipe and the FMP website for other delicious takes on this salad.

Have a great week my friends! My love to you all…


  1. YUM! I love what you did with the chickpeas! I'm going to try that next time I make this recipe. Might be the even extra punch to take it over the top!

  2. I have been planning on making those spiced chickpeas in Jerusalem since I bought the cookbook. Love that you used them in the salad!

  3. I'm not really that into salads either but this does sound like one I'd love! So many fun mix-ins!

  4. Ooo, love the idea of the spiced chickpeas- sounds like a great a great addition. I added spinach and more veggies to mine as well, definitely helps give it a bit more flavor. And I completely agree with you, let's cherish every day we all have here, not everyone gets a chance at that! Blogger hugs!

  5. You can add to this list also the collapse of a textile factory in Bangladesh with 160 victims so far my friend! The list is endless and makes me wonder about almost everything. I love your salad is very refreshing!

  6. This truly has been a terrible few weeks.
    But this salad does not look blah at all! Yum! I love chick peas


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