Food Photography – Spicy Chickpea Salad

What did you have for dinner yesterday? I was short on ideas so turned to cookbooks for inspiration. I ended up tweaking a Spicy Chickpea salad from the book Totally Vegetarian by Toni Fiore. Delicious!

Spicy Chickpea Salad

Work has been been crazy these past few weeks, forcing me to spend quite a few extra hours in the office. I always feel more slighted about this in the summer months. Why couldn’t this just happen in the winter when I’m all for hiding away in any warm room? True, I prefer hiding under my covers, but hey it beats the cold. But summer? Summer there’s hiking, climbing, picnics, swimming, the list goes on and on. Alas…

Pan-Frying Chickpeas with Broccoli

Of course, a busy schedule is no excuse for lousy eating. All those fast food trips will catch up to you, so it’s good to have some quick and easy options. At only a handful of ingredients and one pan, this sucker fits the bill pretty well. You’re looking at only 10 minutes of prep followed by another 15 of actual cooking. Rachel Ray, eat your heart out (which, by the way, is a ridiculous saying).

Pan-Fried Chickpeas and Broccoli

Pan Fried Chickpeas and Broccoli
This recipe uses very little oil, so be watchful. Stir too often and you won’t get any golden browning. Stir too little and you’ll get some burning.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can chickpeas; drained (or two cups cooked chickpeas)
1 head of broccoli; cutting the florets into halves or thirds depending on size
1 yellow onion; chopped
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a large pan under medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas and stir occassionaly until the begin to brown and turn golden; 4-5 minutes. Don’t stir too often or you won’t give them a chance to brown. Add the onion and broccoli and continue to saute. Stir more frequently now, but not continuously. After the broccoli begins to brown a bit and the onions have softened (7-8 minutes), add the zest, juice and salt; stirring for one minute for everthing to come together. Remove from heat and serve with salt to taste. Enjoy.

All righty! So now you know how to roast and peel a bell pepper. Time to put those fancy new skills to work. Hummus, as I’ve mentioned before, is easy to make and the order of steps is so flexible that it’s very easy to experiment with. AND it’s a great option for bringing something to a party (even when one of the hostesses of said party is a crazy foodie).

Ingredients for Fire Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus

Another great thing about hummus is that, if made with a strong flavor of its own, it can really work with a lot of different “scoops.” Sure pita and tortilla chips are the classics and they do offer some accent to the flavor; but they’re largely just edible spoons. As I type this, I’m eating some of this delicious hummus with celery (what can I say? I’m a calorie counter). Do not fall in societal constraints! Eat hummus freely, with whatever you have at your disposal!

Fire Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus

Fire Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups cooked chickpeas; drained
2 red bell peppers; roasted and peeled
2 medium garlic cloves; minced
1 1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons lemon juice
ground black pepper to taste (1/4 teaspoon or more)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Add all ingredients but the oil into a food processor and start processing. Add the oil slowly until you reach the consistency you’d like. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy.

Maybe it’s my engineering background or the way I was raised, but I hate wasting food. Whenever I have leftover ingredients I try to think of some way to use them. Often, I roast them, trying some new combination of herbs and/or spices, hoping for some new successful discovery (they’re all discoveries, just not all great ones). Even if it doesn’t become a big hit, I feel better knowing I used all I could. What can I say? I like efficiency.


Last week I posted a recipe with chickpeas and if you used canned, then you probably had half a can leftover. That’s where this recipe comes in. Roasted chickpeas can be a great crunchy food to snack on. At the base, there’s just oil and a bit of salt; but you can easily experiment with other herbs or spices to see what you get.

Turmeric and Cumin Roasted Chickpeas

Cumin and Curry Roasted Chickpeas
This recipe is for two cups cooked chickpeas, but can easily be scaled down.

2 cups chickpeas; cooked, rinsed, drained, dried
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1 pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 450. Combine all the ingredients and place in a aluminum foil-lined roasting pan. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally so the chickpeas brown (relatively) evenly.

Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes and (optionally) add additional salt to taste. Chickpeas should be crunchy. Enjoy.

It was a bit of a scorcher this past weekend; up to the low 90’s. I have a simple test for determining whether or not summer is here: if at any time my steering wheels burns me, it’s summer. I took full advantage of the great weather with a good deal of climbing and running. Man, I love Spring and Summer.

Saute the Spices

As I mentioned earlier, a change in season means a change in diet. Salads, cold sandwiches, etc. Something too cool you off is a plus, and not heating the home from your kitchen is just gravy. However, sometimes we just want what we want; screw the season.

I’m not that skilled in cooking indian style, but I’m a fan of this soup (the ease in preparing helps). The lentils and chickpeas mix well with the tomato and spices. The cayenne and red pepper flakes give it a bit of a kick, so feel free to temper with lemon juice if so inclined.

Spicy Tomato Soup with Red Lentils and Chickpeas

Spicy Tomato Soup with Red Lentils and Chickpeas

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic; minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup dried red lentils; rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked chickpeas (half a can); rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste

Bring a medium-sized pot to medium heat and add butter, garlic, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes. Saute for 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Enjoy.

All right, pop quiz: Name the first 3 three dishes that come into your head when you think “vegetarian cuisine.” Go! (No, seriously. Reader requests welcome.) For me, this list includes stuffed bell peppers; which is a bit ironic considering I’ve never actually made stuffed bell peppers. Until this week, that is.

Red Bell Pepper

I’ve had stuffed bell peppers before, but never a vegetarian one that I’ve enjoyed. Meat has a nice flavoring effect that can be difficult to compete with at times. Enter the power of spices.

Cauliflower Chopped Small

Both couscous and cauliflower have very mild flavors, so it’s up to the spices and sauted aromatics of the dish to take center stage. The chickpeas add a subtle flavor but also a nice additional texture. You can use any type of bell pepper you’d like, but I recommend a red or yellow. Their sweeter flavors really complement the curry of the filling; which fortunately isn’t lost in the roasting process.

Stuffed Red Bell Pepper with Couscous

Vegetarian Stuffed Bell Peppers with Couscous
You can use big long red bell peppers like I did, but I’d recommend the more traditional shorter fat ones if you have a choice. Of course, these have the nice advantage of becoming quasi-finger food.

2 cups cooked couscous
2 tablespoons oil
1 yellow onion; chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 garlic cloves; minced
2 cups cauliflower; chopped small (see picture)
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one can, rinsed and drained)
3 red or yellow bell peppers
1/2 teaspoon fennel
1/8 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sweet curry
1/2 cup stock
1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
3 medium sized red or yellow bell peppers

Preheat the oven to 350.

Saute the onion and thyme in oil under medium high heat until browned; approximately three minutes. Lower to medium heat and add the garlic for an additional minute; stirring frequently to prevent burning. Transfer to a medium bowl along with the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Cut off the top half inch of your bell peppers and remove seeds and membrane. Stuff your bell peppers with your filling, placing them in a glass baking pan as you go (metal sheets would work in a pinch, but you may want to oil it first). If you have extra, just pile it on top. Place your peppers in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until everything is cooked through. Enjoy.

Curry Couscous with Chickpeas

So I recently came to the conclusion that I’m not getting enough whole grains in my diet. This, to be quite honest, is an understatement. I don’t normally partake in the breads and pastas of the world. Not because I don’t like them (LOVE bread), but simply because I like to snack, and snacking on fruit just strikes me as a healthier course of action.

One Cup Couscous

Enter couscous. You may remember that Heather recently wrote about spicy shrimp and couscous, talking briefly about healthy eating. Couscous definitely fits the bill. This stuff will fill you up without weighing you (or your scale) down. When you cook this stuff it balloons in size. A quarter cup uncooked yields three quarters of a cup cooked! And less than 200 calories! I think I found a new best friend.

Stir-Frying It Up

This recipe comes from a cook book I’ve recently begun playing with: A Taste of Heaven and Earth. So far I’ve enjoyed cooking from it. It strives for simple dishes with sophisticated flavor and its ingredients are relatively common; obtainable at your average grocery store. Can’t find fault in that.

Curry Couscous with Chickpeas

As usual, I’ve upped the vegetable count significantly. Having tried this, I strongly recommend adding cauliflower; which I’ll be sure to do next time. And of course the usual spice disclaimer applies. I used four tablespoons of hot curry and it was a bit much.

Curry Cousous with Chick-Peas
adapted from A Taste of Heaven and Earth

1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 cup stock (or water if you must)
2 tablespoons oil
1 red onion; chopped
1 carrot; peeled and diced
1 celery stalk; diced
1 green bell pepper; diced
1 red bell pepper; diced
3 garlic cloves; minced
3-4 teaspoons curry powder; depending on your heat sensitivity and type of curry
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 1/2 cups peas; fresh or thawed and drained
ground pepper to taste
tamari to taste (soy sauce in a pinch)

Bring the stock to a boil in a small sauce pan, add the couscous, cover with a tight fitting lid, remove from the heat and let sit for five minutes.

With the oil, saute the onion, carrot and celery in a large pan (or wok) under medium-high heat until the onion is translucent; approximately 3-4 minutes. Add the bell peppers, garlic, chickpeas and curry, sauteing for an additional 2-3 minutes. Be sure to stir constantly so the curry mixes and to prevent the garlic from burning.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the chickpeas, peas and couscous and stir together for a two to three minutes. Remove from heat and serve with tamari and ground pepper. Enjoy.