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!

Get Your Free Relay Foods Virginia’s Bounty Basket!

To thank me for writing a message of support for the Go With Bo campaign, my friends at Relay Foods are offering a special deal for Veg:ology readers.

They are offering a FREE Virginia’s Bounty Basket to ALL Veg:ology readers who want to give Relay Foods a try.

You can discover a wide variety of locally grown produce in this amazing mixed basket, which is also available for weekly refills, similar to a CSA share. Just to give you an idea of what is included in the basket, which changes every week, here is what was included in the Richmond basket, half share, for the week of 9/17/12:

  • Harvest Hill Farm Sweet Potatoes, about 1 lb. (2)
  • Harvest Hill Farm Collard Greens, per bunch (1)
  • Henley’s Orchard York Apples – Half Gallon (1)
  • Local Food Hub Red Juliet Tomatoes, 1 pint (1)
  • Local Food Hub Carrots, 1 lb. (2)
  • Harvest Hill Farm Virginia-Grown Yellow Squash, about 1 lb. (1)
  • Local Food Hub Red Leaf Lettuce, 1 head (2)
  • Local Food Hub Red Bell Peppers (2)
  • Vintage Virginia Apples Heirloom Apples, about 1 lb. (2)
  • Local Food Hub Yellow Onions, about 1 lb. (1)
  • Harvest Hill Farm Large Eggplant, each. (1)

To claim the offer, simply visit RelayFoods.com, build an order for one Virginia’s Bounty Basket, half share (retail value $40) plus $10 worth of additional groceries, and enter the promotional code RelayVeg at checkout. The cost of the basket will then be deducted from your total. You can select your pickup date and location, then after Relay does the shopping for you, pick up your groceries from one of their friendly employees.

It’s that easy!

Please note that you do have to live in the Relay Foods service area, and their minimum order amount is $50 so you do have to order additional groceries to take advantage of this offer.
I recommend closing the gap with some of my favorite local products:

  • Blanchard’s Coffee whole bean coffee
  • NoBull veggie burgers
  • Homestead Creamery milk
  • Twin Oaks organic tofu
  • The Farm at Red Hill salsa
  • Montana Gold Bread Co. 9-Grain Bread
  • Bearer Farms’ Local Wildflower Honey

So, tell me!

Have you tried Relay Foods before? Will you try the Virginia’s Bounty Basket? If you have tried it, what did you think?

Go With Bo 2012: Eat Local with Relay Foods

Have you heard that Relay Foods has launched Go With Bo 2012 for this year’s campaign season? It’s a campaign to get the word out on all the food-related platforms they stand for, that includes support messages from local organizations and bloggers as well as information about topics relevant to Relay Foods shoppers.

I am honored that Veg:ology is included in Bo’s “Kitchen Cabinet,” and I was very excited to write a post about eating local for the campaign kickoff.  Check out my article, Seasonal Changes in Local Produce, and my recipe for autumn apple slaw over on the Go With Bo tumblr page, and let me know what you think.