How to Compose a Seasonal Salad, Featuring Fresh Arugula with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Feta

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A commitment to seasonal cooking often requires a certain degree of improvisation. If you want to be the type of cook who can wander through a farmers’ market, purchase the best that the season has to offer, and then plan meals around your market haul later, it helps to have a few generic meal recipes in your back pocket that lend themselves to seasonal substitutions. I have thrown together a salad like the one pictured above dozens of times in many configurations, by substituting what I have on hand for the basic components and then pulling all the flavors together with a dressing. This version featured local arugula, spicy roasted chickpeas and tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, and a lemon herb vinaigrette.

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If you have been eating fresh tomatoes all season, I recommend that you try roasting them to deepen and sweeten the flavors. These roasted tomatoes were like candy, offering the sweet component of my salad.

My basic formula for a seasonal salad is this:

  • Greens – tender greens like arugula, spinach, and spring mix are my favorites, but I occasionally change it up with romaine, kale, or cabbage
  • Something sweet – dried or fresh fruit, tomatoes, and carrots are good choices
  • Something crunchy – fresh vegetables work well, as do nuts and seeds
  • Something fatty – creamy ingredients like cheese and cream-based dressings are good; so are oily ingredients like olives and marinated artichokes, and avocado is always a welcome addition
  • Something acidic – vinegar and citrus based dressings are great for cutting through the fatty ingredient
  • Protein (optional) – to make my salad a complete a meal, I add a protein component like legumes, tofu, tempeh, or quinoa
  • Something salty or spicy (optional) – salt and spice are great for balancing a sweet component and these flavors are usually covered in the protein component, fatty component, or dressing.

One component can deliver a lot of these flavors and textures. For example in this salad, the chickpeas offer the protein, crunch, and spice, while the feta offers the fat and salty flavors. As summer turns to fall, it’s fun to experiment with different ingredients and preparations to modify the final product. My guess is that the deep, hearty flavors of the spicy roasted chickpeas will start to take over, as cucumbers and fresh tomatoes become a distant memory.

Scroll below the recipe to find another one of my tricks for preparing meals with local, seasonal ingredients, even when life gets hectic.

Arugula Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas and Feta

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (or sub chili powder)
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 4 ounces fresh feta in water, drained and crumbled
  • Salad dressing to taste (try this Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss the sliced tomatoes in 1 Tbsp olive oil, then spread out the slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the cumin, paprika, cayenne, and salt into the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add chickpeas and toss to coat. Pour chickpeas out into a single layer on the same baking sheet as the tomatoes.
  4. Bake tomatoes and chickpeas at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, combine arugula, feta, and dressing. Add roasted tomatoes and chickpeas and gently toss to mix. Serve immediately.

Another one of my keys to quick seasonal food preparation is to pick up all my local ingredients in one place by using Relay Foods online grocery shopping, now available in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. If you have never used Relay Foods before, please enjoy $30 off your $50+ order by clicking the coupon on the left side of this page. Then please let me know how you liked it!

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Chickpea Noodle Soup

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I can’t explain this midsummer soup that I made at the end of a July heat wave, except by saying, “sometimes you just need comfort food.”

It was the end of a long, stressful day and I needed a quick late night dinner. Although it had been 90 degrees that day, I really wanted soup. So I scoured the pantry and fridge and came up with almost all of the ingredients for chicken noodle soup, except for chicken. No problem, I thought. I had chickpeas.

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Don’t worry. I haven’t lost my mind (yet). I am aware that chickpeas are nothing like chicken, and I know that just because an ingredient sounds like another, that does not mean they taste the same. However, I needed some protein and chickpea noodle soup just sounded so right that it couldn’t be wrong.

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I used a vegetable soup base blend that I had picked up from the frozen vegetables section, and I think the okra in this blend really helped to thicken the soup. I also added some texture by tossing a third of the chickpeas into the food processor before adding them to the soup. The noodles and legumes were very filling, and the veggies made me feel like I had made a semi-healthy meal choice.

If you just can’t bear the thought of hot soup in July, or you think it’s a waste to use canned and frozen ingredients in the middle of the best season for fresh produce, I get it. Really I do. I’ve eaten a fresh tomato sandwich for dinner the last two nights in a row so you know I appreciate what’s coming out of the dirt over what’s coming out of the can right now. But at least toss some fresh green beans and okra in the freezer now and bookmark this recipe, because if you aren’t ready today, I think this is just what you’ll be looking for in January.

Chickpea Noodle Soup

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Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 lb frozen vegetables (I used a vegetable soup blend that included carrots, potatoes, corn, green beans, lima beans, okra, peas, celery and onions)
  • 1- 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 quart low sodium vegetable broth
  • 4 oz. egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend (optional)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and onion to pot and sauté until onion is translucent.
  3. Add vegetables to pot, and cook while stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Divide chickpeas into three equal portions. Add one third of the chickpeas to a food processor, and pulse until finely chopped.
  5. Add whole and chopped chickpeas, broth, and 1 cup water to pot. Bring to a boil.
  6. Add noodles and the rest of the ingredients, return to a boil, then cover and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

Spiced Red Lentil Chickpea Cakes

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I have tasted a whole (helluva) lot of beers lately. I think I tried ten different spring seasonal beers over the last two weeks before settling on the one I would use for my pairing for the spring vegetarian beer dinner. Last week I hosted a fundraising event for Team in Training at Legend Brewing Co. in Richmond, and as the sun set, I stayed warm with a bourbon barrel brown ale. Then of course we had the beer dinner last weekend, featuring six different beers paired with six vegetarian dishes (more on that later). And then there were the extra side beers sampled before, during and after the dinner: New Belgium Dig pale ale, Legend Maibock, and Kyle’s homebrewed chile chocolate milk stout from last year.

For this beer dinner, I took a different approach for my pairing, choosing my beer before dreaming up my dish. In the past I have selected the dish first, then I have chosen a beer to match. In the winter, I tried three different versions of my BBQ jackfruit before settling on the winning recipe, then picked a beer pairing at the last minute. This time around, I focused all my taste testing on the beer. Eventually, one favorite emerged: a collaboration beer from Stillwater Artisanal Ales and The Brewer’s Art, a farmhouse ale called Debutante. Both breweries are from my hometown, Baltimore, MD. The talented brewer from Brewer’s Art, Rob Perry, bicycles with my Dad for Team in Training in Baltimore. I have met Rob a few times at the finish line of the Seagull Century, where he always brings a stash of craft beers to share post-race.

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Debutante made a lot of sense to me since it is seasonally appropriate, deliciously complex without being overpowering, and it is at least partially conceived by the masterminds at Brewer’s Art, who are big supporters of Team in Training. With my first TNT event just one week away, this was an easy decision. For some reason, the subtle spice and slightly sweet qualities of this saison led me to Indian flavors for my dish. I packed almost as many ingredients into my recipe as I did beers into my refrigerator over the last couple of weeks. My vegetarian chickpea cakes featured red lentils (which my palate and I think are the perfect complement to saison), chickpeas, cauliflower, carrots, cumin, coriander, and cilantro. These were thrown together at the last minute, meaning that I served them to twelve other people in my home, five minutes after the very first time I ever made them. A swig of maibock calmed my nerves as twelve forks cut in to twelve cakes for twelve first bites.

Some people might go for yeast plus yeast on this pairing, but I opted to let the beer be my bun, and I left this chickpea cake naked instead of serving it between bread. Before you accuse me of garbanzo negligence and public chickpea indecency, allow me to explain that I didn’t leave them completely nude. I offered a cucumber mint yogurt sauce for my non-vegan guests. The vegans just had to make do with a large spinach leaf and try not to feel like their tasty cakes were too exposed. I wanted to use arugula (and I think you should too if you try this at home), but none of the farmers at the market that morning had arugula yet, so I went with the spinach instead.

Shall we get to the recipe then?

Spiced Red Lentil Chickpea Cakes

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 pinches of ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg or 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax meal + 3 Tbsp water)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil

Preparation:

  1. Add red lentils and cauliflower to a medium sized pot. Cover with 2 inches of water. Heat over high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to low-medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. While cauliflower and lentils are cooking, mash chickpeas with a fork or blend in a food processer. In a large bowl, combine chickpeas with carrots, green onions, garlic, and cilantro.
  3. Preheat broiler.
  4. Drain cauliflower and lentils in a fine mesh strainer. Mash cauliflower into the lentils. When the excess cooking liquid has been removed, add to chickpea mixture. Stir to combine.
  5. To chickpea lentil mixture, add spices, bread crumbs, and egg (or flax egg for vegan version). Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Split mixture into six equal portions and form six patties.
  7. Brush a baking sheet with oil. Place red lentil chickpea cakes equal distance apart on baking sheet and brush tops with oil. Cook under broiler for 10 minutes per side.
  8. Serve with optional yogurt sauce: 1/2 cup plain yogurt + 1 tsp lemon juice + 1/4 cup finely chopped cucumber + 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint.

Now only one question remains – who’s going to bring the craft beers to the finish line of the Nike Women’s Half Marathon this weekend?

Hummus Lab

Lately I have been experimenting with hummus quite a bit. Ever since I learned how to make it at home last year, store bought hummus just isn’t enough for me. Granted, when I want the type of super smooth an creamy hummus that can only come from individually peeling every chickpea, I go to the store. Similarly, if I’m in a hurry to get somewhere, I pick up my hummus on the run. But I have found that since I learned how to mix up my own fresh flavors, the variety of hummus sold at the store is downright boring. Garlic? Been there. Roasted red pepper? Done that.

During this long experimentation phase, I have dubbed my chickpea processing time “Hummus Lab,” which delights me and confuses my friends. Did you ever watch that cartoon Sealab 2020? It’s kind of like that, except more delicious. I have successfully created several tasty flavors of hummus to dip my pita triangles, carrot sticks, cucumber slices and naked fingers into. Kyle is in hummus heaven. Isabelle wants to know when I’ll quit dropping chickpeas on the floor and start dropping kale again (girl loves her greens). I won’t have another boring BYOBB lunch for weeks.

Against my better judgment, I am sharing four of my favorite hummus recipes with you. I say this because I think I could probably make some money off these concoctions, but because my business plan writing days are over (for now at least), I’m just giving them away for free! Our favorites so far are the cilantro jalapeno and the dill pickle hummus, but all four are extremely tasty and far more interesting than what is on the grocery store shelves. All of them use chickpeas, although experimentation with other beans is already underway. Hummus Lab sequel? Maybe!

Enjoy!

The directions for all hummus recipes are as follows: add all ingredients to food processor and blend until incorporated and hummus is smooth.

Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus

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Ingredients:

  • 1-15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Sun-dried Tomato Basil Hummus

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Ingredients:

  • 1-15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Indian Curry Hummus

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Ingredients:

  • 1-15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • dash of ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Dill Pickle Hummus

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Ingredients:

  • 1-15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill
  • 3 dill pickle slices (round chips)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Side note on the dill pickle hummus: I could totally see this in a wrap as a vegan tuna salad substitute, or as a fun alternative filling for deviled eggs.

Curried Chickpea and Potato Cakes with Peach Salsa

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This recipe was inspired by fresh peaches from the market. I considered calling the dish Chickpeachutney Cakes. So much fun to say. Try it.

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We enjoyed this spicy, hearty, juicy, sweet dinner on a warm summer evening. I think it would taste best when the peaches are perfectly ripe and still warm from the market.

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Peaches are a delicious taste of summer, while warm curry and potato are reminiscent of fall. If you are like me, you are already looking towards the fall and anticipating the familiarity of its warm and spicy flavors on cool, crisp nights. I expect to make this dish over the next two month “tweason” that ties summer to fall. As an added bonus for vegans, there are no eggs in these cakes; this dish is totally vegan!

Curried Chickpea and Potato Cakes with Peach Salsa

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Curried Chickpea and Potato Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 1- 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and diced
  • small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided

Preparation:

  1. Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiled water until tender. Drain and mash.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, mash the chickpeas with a fork into a paste.
  3. In a medium pan, heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion until fragrant, then add carrots and garlic and sauté until tender.
  4. Add the cumin to the pan with the onions, carrots and garlic. Cook for 1 more minute, then remove from heat.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the potatoes, chickpeas, and onion-carrot mixture with lemon juice, curry powder, cilantro, salt and pepper.
  6. Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
  7. Divide chickpea potato mixture into 6 parts and form into patties. Fry in oil, 3-5 minutes on each side. Serve over lettuce or on buns.

Peach Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp honey
  • pinch of ground cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and chill until ready to serve. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash and Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

Thank you to everyone who commented with congratulations on our new home. Kyle and I are very excited and hope to move in by Christmas. Can you believe we are nearing the end of 2011? I feel like summer was not that long ago and here we are a week before Thanksgiving. Have you planned your menu yet?

I was thinking about vegetarian “special occasion” main dishes last week and decided to mix things up with a new grain. You might recall that barley was served on the vegetarian plate at the Foodbuzz Festival 2011 gala dinner. I had tasted barley in soup before, and of course I’d also had it in beer but I had never tried barley as a side dish before the Foodbuzz Festival. So when I wanted to make a quinoa stuffed acorn squash last week and discovered that I had to run to the store for some more quinoa, I decided to pick up barley instead.

This dish was spicy, nutty and a little sweet. It’s a protein powerhouse with garbanzo beans and barley in every bite. I found it to be very filling and delicious. Served with a fresh salad or sauteed greens, this stuffed squash is a hefty vegetarian main dish that is perfect for Thanksgiving.

And in case you need even more inspiration for your holiday menus, here are my top vegology recipe picks for a very veggie holiday weekend.

Veggie Pot Pie – all the comfort, none of the meat

Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce – very scalable and creative, can serve two or twenty two

Butternut Squash with Spinach and Feta – a great side dish for potluck meals

Pumpkin Chili – football anyone?

And here is a new one to add to the list:

Barley Stuffed Acorn Squash (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • 2-1/2 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 – 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup raisins (or dried cranberries if you wish)
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare a rimmed cookie sheet with cooking spray. Place squash halves cut side down on cookie sheet. Bake 30-40 minutes or until tender.
  3. While the squash is baking, prepare the filling. Heat barley and 2 cups of the vegetable broth in a saucepan over medium heat until boiling, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add carrots and cook 4-5 minutes. Then add garbanzo beans, raisins, curry powder and cumin. Stir to combine.
  5. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of vegetable broth to the pan with the vegetables and let simmer until vegetables are tender and liquid has reduced.
  6. When the barley is finished cooking, combine with vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. When the acorn squash is done baking, flip the halves over and butter the flesh. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the insides of the squash halves. Plate and fill with barley mixture, serving one squash half per person.

 

Harvest Quinoa Salad

Here in Central Virginia, we have been blessed with a funny in-between season this year that feels a lot like fall. Sure, it’s been a little rainy at times, and the temperatures have been all over the place as the mercury jumps up and down again every few days. Usually we have about three days of fall per year, but this year it feels like we have had fall for two or three day stretches every week or so for the last month and a half. Fall is my favorite season and I feel a little cheated every year in this climate. So this year, I have savored these spells when they come, and then I have tried to appreciate the warm sun or cool rain in between, knowing that fall will be right around the corner soon. . . once again.

There is something about fall that fills me with excitement. Maybe it’s the weather that keeps me on the edge of my seat. Or maybe it’s the great range of sensations that we get to experience during the transition to winter. The crackly crunch of leaves beneath my tennis shoes, then the slippery splash of my yellow rain boots in an unexpected downpour. Wrapping big soft scarves around my neck and buttoning up a cropped trench on a cool morning, then shedding my layers for a warm stroll on a sunny afternoon. The crisp crunch of a fresh apple, and the spicy smoothness of warm pumpkin pie.

This Harvest Quinoa Salad can be served warm or chilled and it offers both the sweetness and the spice that we love about this time of year. I hope it finds a place on your table while the apples are still perfectly ripe this autumn.

Harvest Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1-15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2.  Add quinoa, curry powder, apple, and raisins to vegetable broth. Stir to combine. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in chickpeas, cover and cook for 5 more minutes.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve hot. For a chilled version, combine honey, lemon juice and olive oil and toss salad in dressing to coat. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

 BONUS Beer Pairing

Serve with Sixpoint Sweet Action for a hoppy-malty-bitter-sweet experience you won’t soon forget. You’ll have the best of both worlds. . . all around!