Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Roasted cumin & chick pea salad

I have a confession -- I talk a big game about working out.  I do love it and feel great during and after it.  But, sometimes I'm a little... distracted.  Sure, I go through the motions of exercising and probably reap similar aerobic benefits, but I'm just not 100% into it.  Ironically, these are the workouts that go by the quickest!  Yesterday, a very sweaty hour of cardio on two machines went by in a flash, when most days anything over 15 minutes on one machine has my exercise ADD spinning out of control.

So, how did I make it through this time?  I will say it wasn't the sports radio and talk about my beloved Penguins being the hottest team in the league right now.  And it certainly wasn't the top 40 hits, though Rihanna might as well be the soundtrack to my gym life.  (Love it, can't stop dancing to it even in my office!)  Anyway, it was because I was thinking about dinner.  Leftovers, to boot!  Shocking?  Not if this were what you were picturing -- roasted cumin and chickpea salad.  YUM!

I'll get to the salad in a minute, but first, some background.  You see, a good friend told me that her mom just loves the blog (thanks, Sue!) and if she had any requests at all, it'd be for me to feature dishes that are a little lighter, healthier.  You know, without butter.  What kind of operation do you think I'm running here?  :)  I kid... only slightly.

While racking my brain to find something that could qualify for "light" I remembered a recipe that I'd swiped a few days earlier from the gym's limited supply of reading material.  Think months or even years old issues of Newsweek, People, and the AARP newsletter.  When a rare Men's Health (oh yes, I'll read just about anything) or Woman's Day appears, I jump on it.  Just so happens that the latter had an article about trends in cooking spices.  It talked about roasted cumin.  I love me some cumin, so the idea of roasting it caught my attention right away.

Not familiar with cumin?  It's an aromatic spice, with a very distinct flavor and warm aroma.  This is the prominent flavor in falafel and taco seasoning mixes.  Cumin is very popular in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Mexican cuisine.

So, adding roasted cumin (that smells incredible, by the way) to a bowl of edible confetti -- bright red tomatoes, white onions, peach-colored chickpeas, spring green celery -- tossed with smooth olive oil makes for something that even this butter lover lusts after.  Don't expect this to become an everyday event, but for now, the lesson is that this healthy salad is darn good!

One Year Ago: Breakfast bars

Roasted Cumin &Chickpea Salad
(adapted from Woman's Day)
-serves 4

A few notes: Just one -- I prefer my onions a bit sweeter, so I used half of a sweet onion in place of the red onion.  If you don't mind the bolder flavor, stick with red onions.  Also, this makes for a great vegetarian main dish or a side to a plump roasted chicken breast, your call!

3/4 teaspoon cumin
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 celery rib, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1 (16 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Heat a dry skillet over medium heat.  Add cumin and toast for 1 minute or until spice becomes fragrant.  Remove from heat.  In a small bowl, whisk lime juice, salt, pepper and toasted cumin until combined.  Slowly add oil, whisking until blended.

Place onion in a large bowl and pour in dressing.  Place celery, tomato, and chickpeas on top of onion without mixing.  Cover and refrigerate 15 minutes.

Add feta to bowl with chickpea mixture.  Toss to combine and serve.  Store extra in sealed container in fridge for up to 24 hours.

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