Creamy Chickpea Fiesta Salad

Now this recipe must make it into one of my top 5 meals in the world. I just love it. It has all of my favorite things in it: chickpeas, tahini, miso, sweet potato, veg & fresh greens. Oh and olives. Hmm. It has the perfect balance of flavors, textures & is hearty enough to have it as is or (what I love to do) pile it onto a thick slice of freshly baked sourdough ciabatta bread. The flavor profile is so delicate and intricate, but it is robust & packs a wonderful punch, too. This fiesta salad is creamy, zingy, hearty, nutty with a slight floral/piney hint from the thyme.

 

I really love the Mediterranean cuisine– the use of olives, tomatoes, chickpeas, tahini, the use of herbs, all the different colors and textures and flavors. It’s such a fresh, tasty & abundant cuisine. The culture behind the food & food preparation fascinates me so much, too. For instance, the famous mezze platter is just so wonderful – a true celebration, a creation of a space that allows for ones’ food experience to be so much more than an individual experience, it creates a social, vibrant aspect around food and eating - a sense of sharing, a sense of community & a sense of celebration around food that is sometimes lost in the Western world, I find. Food & eating takes a front seat, it is a celebration of life instead of something that you do to simply get by, something that you do in autopilot mode. For example, eating that quick sandwich in the car on the way to work, or going through the drive through in order to have a quick, easy & convenient meal putting little to no thought as to what & how you’re consuming and in turn, what effect that has on your body, mind & quality of life. Personally, I would rather wake up that little bit earlier or prepare food for half an hour or so longer in order to increase vitality, health & energy.

 

This is a fun & festive dish to take to a dinner party or picnic gathering. It’s also hearty & tasty enough to make any meat-eating family members or friends feel like they’re not missing out on anything in a meal. This is in large due to the chickpeas which are high in protein & carbohydrates as well as the hearty sweet potato chunks. This is a satiating and satisfying dish perfect for a post workout or busy day meal. It can also be used as a delicious stuffing if you want to roast halved eggplants, scoop out their fleshy bits and stuff them with this divine chickpea mixture.  

 

Let’s talk a bit about the nutritional profile of this dish. This is a highly nutritious meal – full of hormone balancing, heart healthy fats from the tahini & olives, full of amazing probiotic properties from the miso paste, and we can’t forget about the great quality plant proteins from the vegetables, chickpeas, seeds & greens or the complex carbohydrates from the sweet potato & chickpeas that will provide sustainable energy throughout the day.

 

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a fantastic source of plant based protein, providing a host of beneficial vitamins & minerals, fiber and sustaining, slow-release energy. Even though chickpeas are an amazing source of protein (one cup being 15g of protein), they themselves do not make a complete protein (meaning they do not contain all the essential amino acids to make up a complete protein) but this is easy to get around. By adding/eating chickpeas with other vegetables and sources of quality amino acids or proteins the combination creates a complete protein (like eating your chickpeas with some nuts & seeds, or avocado or a mix of vegetables). Another example of creating a complete protein with plant based foods is by combining rice & beans. Together, they create a complete protein. Chickpeas are especially high in folate & manganese. Manganese is a key mineral in bone development & maintenance. The mineral Manganese is also an important factor in the process of metabolism. Folate or Vitamin B-9 is important for new cell growth & for brain cell communication.

 

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are an incredible food – packing an intense nutritional punch. They contain high levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin K as well as a range of Vitamin B’s. Sweet potatoes also contain carotenoids, which act as a potent antioxidant in the body protecting against cellular damage. Carotenoids increase eye & skin health as well as support cardiovascular health and supposedly aid in the prevention of tumor growth.

 

Miso Paste

Miso paste. Oh Miso paste. This is one of my favorite culinary tools – providing an incredible savory, umami complexity to any dish. Besides the flavor profile that it lends, it provides a host of incredible healing benefits. Miso paste is a complete protein, providing all the essential amino acids needed for optimum health. Miso also contains high levels of iron, calcium, potassium & B vitamins. Miso is a fermented bean product, and by undergoing this fermentation process the end product (miso) becomes a digestion aid to recon with. The fermentation process breaks down the complex proteins & carbohydrates in the beans and creates lactobacilli which increases the body’s ability to assimilate nutrients from the foods we eat, meaning that miso not only contains high amounts of vitamins and minerals itself, but it enables us to absorb more of the nutrients in the other foods we eat which is quite phenomenal.

 

Ingredients

(for the body of the salad)

·     2 leeks

·     1 yellow/white onion

·     ½ red bell pepper

·     2-3 medium to large zucchini

·     1 tin of chickpeas

·     14 kalamata olives

·     1 large sweet potato

·     1/8 cup soy sauce

·     1 tablespoon maple syrup

·     1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

·     1 teaspoon ground coriander

·     1 teaspoon dry thyme

·     1 bag of fresh mixed greens

·     1 fresh sourdough bread/rye bread or bread of choice (optional)

 

(for the sauce)

·     1.5 tablespoons red/brown miso paste

·     2 tablespoons tahini

·     ½ lemon, juiced

·     2 tablespoons water

·     5 sprigs of fresh Thyme

 

Method

1.       Preheat the oven to 180 celsius. Chop up the sweet potato into little bite sized chunks, place on the baking tray & bake until golden brown and cooked through. Place in a bowl & set aside.

2.    Prepare your mise en place (meaning chop up and prepare all your veggies for efficient & easy cooking). I usually chop up & prepare all of my ingredients and place in bowls so that the actual cooking process can be seamless, clean & easy.

3.    Place a large pan on the stove, bring to medium-high heat. Place about 1/3 cup of water into the pan, add the leeks & onions and sautee them until translucent, adding water as needed to keep them from burning. Add in the dry thyme and coriander and continue cooking until fragrant.

4.    Add the soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup to the onion mix. Continue cooking until the onion & leek mixture becomes “caramelized” (about 5 minutes). Add in the chopped zucchini (I chopped mine in quarters length ways and then into little chunks) and red pepper. Cook for a further 5 or so minutes until the vegetables become tender but not over cooked.

5.    Add in the drained & rinsed chickpeas as well as the sweet potato and mix well. Take off the heat and move onto making your sauce. Mix all of the sauce ingredients together. Add the sauce to the chickpea mixture in the pan. Check for seasoning and adjust if needed to suit your palette.

6.   Wash and dry your fresh greens then place them in a big salad bowl. Let the chickpea mixture cool and once cooled you can pour the chickpea salad over the bed of fresh greens.

7.     Serve with fresh bread and good company!

 

I hope you enjoy this delightful dish as much as I do, I’d also love to hear if you try it out. You can pop me an e-mail or comment down below.