My cooking skills developed in the most unlikely of places: my college dorm. While most students associate the college diet with endless amounts of junk food, my eating habits changed for the better. Using limited ingredients, I learned to prepare healthy, satisfying, and delicious meals in under thirty minutes. I never worked with raw meat and fish, but discovered creative alternatives to incorporate protein into my diet.
Now that I am back home after completing my freshman year, I have expanded upon this cooking style that initially emerged out of necessity. Salads packed with legumes and veggies, rice bowls topped with a poached egg, and bean soups are just a few items on my list of “Everyday Eats.”
Once I mastered a basic formula for these dishes (grains + produce + protein + healthy fats), I realized the endless opportunities for adaptation. I have decided to share my original recipes in this weekly column, with the hope that they inspire you to approach cooking from a different perspective. I offer possible variations for each recipe, showing how you can tweak according to personal tastes. An added bonus, almost all of these dishes are ideal for transporting to work, proving that a desk lunch can be something to look forward to.
Finally, in keeping with the everyday theme, I took these photos using my iPhone camera. Traditional photo shoots can be tedious, a process more suited for a lazy Sunday morning than a Tuesday afternoon lunch break. So, for the first installment of “Everyday Eats,” I give you a Mediterranean-inspired chickpea salad. Fresh tomatoes and basil provide bursts of bright flavor, complemented by smoky toasted pine nuts and a creamy yogurt dressing.
Recipe by Maral Tavitian
For the salad:
- 1 15 oz. can of cooked chickpeas
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced crosswise
- 1/2 cup of cucumber slices (from about 2 medium cucumbers)
- 1/2 avocado, cubed
- 2 tblsp pine nuts, toasted
- 2 cups arugula
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt (not Greek, as it makes the dressing sour and thick)
- 2 tsp of olive oil
- 1 tblsp of lemon juice (from half a lemon)
- 1 tblsp of basil ribbons
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
Yields 2 servings.
1. Drain the chickpeas in a colander and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Mix together tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, chickpeas, and pine nuts in a medium bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. To make the dressing, combine yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, basil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Taste the dressing and adjust seasoning accordingly. Pour the dressing over the chickpea mixture in tablespoons, mixing just until the chickpea mixture is coated but not drowning in dressing. I had some dressing left over.
2. To plate, place one cup of arugula on each plate. Top with chickpea salad.
Adaptations: For a more Middle Eastern flavor, add 1/2 tsp cumin to the chickpea mixture. For an extra burst of sweetness, replace pine nuts with golden raisins. For added richness or if you’re really hungry, top the completed salad with an egg (fried, poached, soft-boiled). For extra crispness and robustness, roast the chickpeas with olive oil in a 400 degree oven until golden brown.