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25 Jan 2010 - 16:25
15 Jan 2010 - 18:53

market herb watercress salad

Thursday, 03 Sep 2009

Fresh herbs are so beautiful and plentiful in the summer, I am anxious to use them at every opportunity.  You’ve likely noticed in the few recipes I’ve posted that I liberally through in bunches of herbs in almost everything to give flavor without adding too many unhealthy fats—the other, more gluttonous flavor enhancer.  Usually however, the herbs are a sideshow to the main dish, used to complement and enhance flavor combinations. In a few dishes however, the herb is the dish. Think tabbouleh, and now, this refreshing market herb salad.  The headliners of this show are parsley, cilantro, and mint, with a supporting cast of tangy quickly pickled red onions, earthy raw watercress, and some creamy chickpeas (a.k.a garbanzo beans) and deliciously moist, salty feta for protein balance. 

Herbs aren’t famous for the nutritional profile, though cilantro, parsley, and mint are powerful antioxidants containing many vitamins and minerals.  They, along with the watercress and chickpeas, are good sources of iron, folate, and fiber. Watercress and parsley are also great sources of vitamins A & C.

I found some beautiful pre-cleaned calamari at the market, so I chopped them up, lightly dusted the rings in whole wheat flour and sea salt, and fried at high heat for a few seconds.  Now, I don’t like frying – it can get messy, it’s not very good for you, and disposing of the used oil is a pain. So just a quick drive-by frying here, the little guys were patted down pretty thoroughly afterwards and the result was not at all greasy, just some calamari rings and teeny tentacles with a little crunch.  I am firmly in the tentacle loving camp; I have an admittedly strange fascination with biting off each little tentacle and relishing its varied texture.  I recognize that many of you are intensely grossed out by the curly bits however, and as they are not integral to this summer salad, just leave them out but please don’t pass altogether. 

market herb watercress salad

1 c dry chickpeas (= 3 c cooked)
1 dry red chili, toasted
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red onions, thinly sliced
120 mL (4 fl. oz.) cider vinegar
1 c cilantro, roughly chopped
1 c parsley, roughly chopped
1 c mint, roughly chopped
1 c scallions, green part sliced into thin rounds
2 c fresh watercress
1 c salty feta, cubed
1 lemon
olive oil
170g (6 oz.) calamari (optional)

Soak the cup of chickpeas for about 12 hours in a bowl of water (overnight or during the workday).  When ready to cook, boil the chickpeas in plentiful water for 60-90 minutes.  Skim off any scum that congregates on the surface.  The time will depend on the age and hardness of your chickpeas.  Taste to test—they should be firm but not crunchy.  Keep an eye on them as the time approaches, you definitely don't want them to get water-logged and mushy.  One cup dried chickpeas will yield approximately three cups cooked.  Drain and rinse when cooked through.

Heat a bit of olive oil and throw in the whole dry red chili. Add the chopped garlic and cook until the chili is fragrant and the garlic golden.  Add the thinly sliced red onions, sauté for 5 minutes and then deglaze with the cider vinegar.  Let the onions cook in the vinegar at a rolling boil until the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes.  

In a bowl, pour the warm pickled onions and chickpeas over the watercress to slightly wilt the greens.  Mix in all the chopped herbs, including the scallions, and the cubed feta.  Season with a smidge of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Top with some calamari and freshly squeezed lemon juice to serve.

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Hungry Burro - market herb watercress salad

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