Za’atar Chickpea and Grain Salad

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I always seem to be carrying too much stuff.

I take public transport to work, so everything I need to make my day comfortable, I have to carry on my shoulders. I’ve begun to consider a backpack but there’s part of me that’s too vain to do that. It’s the part of me that used to work at a fashion magazine. She feels shame from even thinking about a backpack.

The other part of me is all, girl, get yourself a backpack and stop complaining!

For now, I’m still rocking my awkward too-heavy leather handbag and extra tote bag combo because I still need all of the things every day.

I need entertainment, so there’s usually a book (please don’t start talking tablets – I like my books with tangible and sometimes pre-owned paper pages.) I need to be protected from the elements and office air conditioning, so there’s always a cardigan and/or scarf, sunglasses and sometimes an umbrella. I need to be hydrated during my 50 minute commute, so there’s usually a water bottle an occasionally a coffee thermos.

And, of course, I need to be well-fed. There are a few decent lunch options around the office, but I prefer to bring my own most days. And snacks. I need the snacks.

voraciousvander

Sometimes organizing a lunch to bring can be annoying in the evening when all I want to do is plant myself on the couch and eat popcorn by the fist full. But most often, I like to see it as an opportunity to get creative with new spices and combinations of vegetables, grains, cooking methods and textures.

This salad was one of those finer combinations. I made a big batch of it on a Sunday night. We had it as a side dish with baked snapper that evening and I had it for lunch the following two days. It held up perfectly.

The za’atar is what makes this salad. Za’atar is a  Middle Eastern herb and spice blend that includes the punchy acidity of sumac with warming cumin and nutty sesame seeds. The result is an exciting addition to a salad, roasted vegetables and meats or a great topping for flatbreads and pizzas.

I used a rice, barley and quinoa blend I bought at the health food store, but you can use whatever grain you’d like. Barley is great in salads like these, as are wheat berries, farro and quinoa.

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Za’atar Chickpea and Grain Salad

This recipe was inspired by Green Kitchen Stories

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice or mixture of grains
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (if from a can, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 cup chopped grape tomatoes
  • 2 cups finely chopped kale
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta
  • salt & pepper

Heat oven to 400 F/205 C.

If you need to cook you rice or grains do so now. For mine: Place 1/2 cup wild rice, barley and quinoa mixture with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for another 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss eggplant cubes with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Toss very well to coat. Sprinkle in 1/2 tablespoon of za’atar and a teaspoon of sesame seeds. Toss again to coat the eggplant.

Spread eggplant out on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden on the outside and cooked through and soft on the inside.

In a large bowl, place chickpeas, tomatoes, kale, cilantro, cooled eggplant and grains. Drizzle with olive oil, vinegar, remaining 1/2 tablespoon of za’atar and salt and pepper. Toss well to combine.

Top with feta and serve at room temperature. Can be made in advance and served hours or days later.

4 thoughts on “Za’atar Chickpea and Grain Salad

  1. hehehe I have the opposite problem to you I usually find handbags way too big, I carry around my wallet and my phone and that’s it, and now I have a ridiculously small handbag that I can’t carry anything extra in. Sadly this means I have to carry a plastic bag when I bring lunch to work.

  2. I really LOVE this dish. I just finished my second helping of it, sitting in my backyard and enjoying the last rays of today’s sun in what can best be described as a rather hesitant Dutch spring season :)
    Lots of compliments from the other side of the globe! Marion – the Netherlands

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