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.
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.
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.