I've become a huge fan of salad for lunch. It's quick and easy to throw together, and can be prepped ahead of time. Plus, I love vegetables, and making salad my standard lunch fare is a commitment to incorporate fresh, healthy, and wholesome ingredients into my diet regularly. But when salad is the main part of a meal, there are some things to consider. Satiety is one. What I've learned to do is pack my salads with plant-based protein. Another consideration is the weather. Cold, raw salads just don't do it for me on cool or rainy afternoons. So I learned to make warm salads.
The balance, Andie pointed out, looks and feels different for each of us. For her, it's about "living a full, vibrant life where no food is off the table", which is why you'll find recipes like Spicy Tofu Stir-Fry with Bok Choy alongside a hearty Lemon Cream Risotto for sharing and a decadent Peanut Butter Mousse Pie with Marshmallow Whipped Cream in the dessert chapter.
Every recipe comes with a backstory, acknowledging our emotional ties to food and certain recipes, and throughout the book are snippets of her culinary experiences and lessons. "The more I've learned about myself through cooking, the more balance I've found," she wrote.
For me, in the past year of eating and cooking in a new country, it has been about striking a balance between the old and the new... what I know and what I'm getting to know. Many a times it has meant indulging in a little fusion cooking where authenticity is gladly compromised for in-season ingredients. Or for the sake of eating healthier, as in the case of Andie's Lightened Up Pad Thai, which swaps out rice noodles for shredded cabbage to cut out carbs.
The biggest takeaway for me is this: there's a moment for everything and we can do our best to honor each and every moment. So when a cookie moment presents itself, I have the recipe for Andie's Coconut Oatmeal Cookies with Caramel Drizzle. Certainly a moment to celebrate!
Chopped Salad with Spiced Chickpeas and Tarragon-Tahini Dressing
Adapted from Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook by Andie Mitchell. Here's a power salad that is a meal by itself, packed with wholesome green goodness as well as protein and fiber-rich chickpeas that are heartily spiced and a tahini dressing that delivers in punches. Some changes have been made to the original recipe, namely omitting feta cheese (because I don't take dairy) and red onions (because I don't like them in my salad), and using five spice instead of allspice (both are just as great!). This recipe serves 2 and can easily be doubled. In fact, I encourage you to make more of the spiced chickpeas as they are great for snacking!
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon five spice/ allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
15 ounce cooked chickpeas, from can or frozen
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 romaine lettuce heart, chopped
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of water. Whisk in the garlic, tarragon, and salt. Adjust the salt according to taste.
Make spiced chickpeas: In a small bowl, mix well the cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, cumin, cayenne, and salt.
Pat the chickpeas dry with paper towels and place them in a resealable plastic bag with 1/2 teaspoon of the olive oil. Seal the bag and shake to coat the chickpeas with the oil. Then add the spice mixture, reseal the bag, and shake to coat the chickpeas with the spices.
In a skillet, heat the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas and saute, shaking the pan occasionally, until they are browned and crispy, about 5 minutes.
Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, toss together the romaine, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and parsley. Divide into desired portions and top each portion with half of the chickpeas and about 2 tablespoons of the dressing.
Extra dressing can be stored in the refrigerator. Leftover chickpeas can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Both will keep up to a week this way.