Monday, June 22, 2009


After a fabulously decadent jaunt to the city, we came home to the Cruz seeking something simple. A workout at the gym and a big salad did the trick. During my stroll through the produce section, I stumbled upon something I have never seen before...fresh chickpeas! The chickpea, also known as garbanzo bean, is a legume from the family Fabaceae. It is high in protein, and one of the earliest cultivated vegetables.

So I run into these dandy little pea pods and decide that they are definitely becoming part of our salad. I also grabbed a red pepper, a cucumber, an avocado, some baby carrots, a couple handfuls of arugula, and a wedge of drunken goat cheese.

My first thought was to simply shuck the green beans and toss them in, but then I thought about grinding some of them in a mortar to use as a dressing as well. So, grind them I did. A small handful of the beans and a clove of garlic (pow!). I decided to invite Dijon and Sherry along for the ride....
I introduced them to my friend from Utah, salt. Pepper and paprika showed up, too. They always make things fun...spice up the vibes, you know? Sherry grew up in Napa, but was born and raised in southern Spain. One of her friends from España happened to be in town for a while and she promised me that it wouldn't be a party without him.

O.K., I digress. So this "friend from Spain" is oil. A gift from my friends Ricardo and Karen. Real deal Spanish olive oil, deep green, nutty, rich, and NOT to be used for cooking (you'd get a Spanish smack-down for that). Spain grows lots and lots of olives (4.7 million acres of olive trees under cultivation). In fact, I have heard that most of the olives that are used to make oil in Italy and Greece come from Spain. Karen told me that, much to the shigrin of the Spaniards, the best olives and oil are typically sold off to Italia. Nonetheless, this oil is wonderful. ¡Gracias amigos míos, por un regalo tan sabroso!

Where was I? Oh, that's the dressing over there.

Slice the peppers, quarter and slice the cucumber, quarter the carrotinho, a handful of the green garbanzos, cube half an avo, dress, and toss. Some sliced yellow onion on top, serve. Delicioso.

I love salads. In Europe, in fact, I think all over the world, people tend to have a much broader definition of what defines a salad. Think potato salad, rice short, it doesn't need to have lettuce in it. That said, the big, Californian green salad can be such a delightful meal. My hesitation, though, is to not get carried away with putting too many strong flavored ingredients in one bowl. I think that I have achieved some nice balance here. We have some nutty, spicy, smoky flavors going on with the arugula, garbanzos, oil and paprika. A little punch from the garlic and sherry vinegar. The avocado and cheese gives us some rich smoothness that, along with the carrot, cucumber and pepper is the weight, the base of the meal.

We might as well enjoy a nice glass of wine while we're at it, too. I picked up a bottle from Vinum cellars. A Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend; very crisp, apple, melon and honey on the nose, and nice body. This wine is very slightly sparkling with plenty of acid which worked well with our salad. Salads dressed with vinegar-based dressings can be tough to pair with wine. I always try to find a wine with some acidity to stand up to the zing. This one was perfect. Nice price, too.

A lovely way to ease back in to Santa Cruz after a (happily) hedonistic Frisco get-away. I will be posting some photos and reflections on this jaunt of ours soon enough, by the way.

Ciao ciao for now.

1 comment:

  1. yum, looks good:) Makes me want a salad, and that says a lot since I am not a big fan of them.


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