Thursday, July 6, 2017

carrot, chickpea and peanut salad


While I am in the middle of the move and general upheaval, I am keeping up with the practical, like eating. I am finding time in the kitchen to be comforting. Here is one of the things that is sustaining me:

This salad is mainly my justification to eat a favorite snack- I love dry roasted salted peanuts. Specifically, I love dry roasted salted peanuts with a Diet Coke, straight out of the vending machine- the peanut sodium level so high it practically burns countered by the fizzy, ice cold achingly-sweet soda. In some now forgotten book, I read about a character who plunked salted peanuts directly into her bottle of Coke and this seems like completely reasonable behavior to me.

Before I lose you, let me alleviate any concerns and clarify that this salad does not contain Diet Coke. 

One of my personal discoveries of the last few years is that I don't actually love a lettuce based salad. I am thinking particularly of salads which float a few bits of meat, cheese and vegetable on a raft of ubiquitous spring mix. If the salad has an equal ratio of greens to other components, I am good. If the greens are varied (kale, arugula, etc), I am thrilled. Otherwise, I am kind of over it. It is not just out of boredom but because this type of lettuce heavy salad doesn't keep well in the fridge and generally tends to not fill me up. (Resulting in the above: afternoon snack of peanuts and Diet Coke).

This salad is a good one because 1) I can mix it up and have leftovers straight from the fridge 2) the heft of it satisfies my hunger and 3) it includes two of my favorite addictive foods: cilantro and roasted peanuts. The play of flavors with the sweet carrot, dense chickpeas and tang of red wine vinegar remind me ever so slightly of beloved pad thai (I hesitate to provide the comparison as I'm likely setting you up for disappointment, but to my palate, it hits some similar notes. I am the person at my Thai food restaurant who asks for extra chopped peanuts.)

The origin of this salad is from our domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson. In her book "Endless Summer", the salad is composed of simply carrots and peanuts with a red wine vinegar dressing but it was her description that made me first try it, some 11 years ago: "It's ingredient list may sound odd, but this is a combination that not only works but becomes addictive. Don't be alarmed at the amount of vinegar: the astringency of the dressing, against the fulsome oiliness of the nuts and, in turn, nutty sweetness of the carrots, is the whole point." Use of words like "fulsome" is what keeps me reading Nigella.

About a year ago, I was home from work on lunch break, staring at the contents of my fridge, deciding what to pull together. I remembered Nigella's salad and wanted to bulk it up a bit. Enter a lone can of chickpeas from the pantry. As George Clooney said, "God bless the chickpea." (Three cheers if you know which episode of Friends this reference is from!)

While I have gone on about my dry roasted salted peanut love, if you're not a fan, I think you could substitute dry roasted salted cashews with equal success. 

carrot, chickpea and peanut salad 

1 15.5 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
3 - 4 medium carrots, peeled and grated (grated on a the large holes of a box grater)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup rough chopped dry roasted peanuts
1 cup chopped cilantro 
salt & pepper to taste 

1) In a medium bowl, toss together the chickpeas and grated carrot with a fork (works better for me than a spoon at breaking up the clumps of grated carrot). 

2) Add red wine vinegar and olive oil and stir to coat. Let it sit for 3-4 minutes for the vinegar to soak in a bit. (If you're so inclined, take a pause to sip on that Diet Coke). 

3) Stir in peanuts and cilantro, give it a taste, and then season with salt and pepper: I wait to add salt until after the peanuts have been incorporated, since they bring so much along with them. 

This keeps well in the fridge for about 2 days. I generally get 2-3 lunches for myself out of it.