Meatless Monday: Rustic spinach salad with roasted red pepper

A crunchy, sweet, salty, sour, and spicy good-for-you salad.

Beyond The Peel
Rustic spinach salad with roasted red pepper, feta, chickpeas and basil.

There comes a time every year when it just makes sense to start freezing, canning and preserving all the great foods that are available to us. In this particular case, I’ve started by roasting peppers and freezing them. Of course there’s always a few that make it into a meal instead of the freezer. It’s such a great way to take advantage of not only the price of produce from your local farmer but also a great way of preserving natural goodness right into the winter.

What concerns me the most, because I’m lazy and love the taste of great food, is that I can have things like roasted peppers to make homemade romesco sauce with very little effort and time. I love reaching into the pantry or the freezer and throwing together an amazing meal by reaping the rewards of forward thinking.

Notice that I didn’t say hard work. Thoughtful use of one’s time today will save you hours tomorrow. Another example of this was that I poured boiling water over half a cup of chickpeas this morning, by late afternoon, the cooking time was reduced to a mere 30 minutes. Now, for those of us without a pressure cooker, that’s pretty darn fast. The beauty of beans is the longer they soak, the less time they take to cook.

I know I also talk about the balance of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy from time to time, but I think it’s important for people just starting out in the kitchen to be aware of these flavor combinations. Not only will it help you distinguish a great recipe but also help you create one. Not only will you notice the balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy, but it will help you fix a recipe you’ve already made that is only so-so.

It’s not always the recipes fault. Maybe Shelley Adams’s lemons were juicier than mine. Maybe my salt is less salty than Bill’s, Nigella’s peppers hotter than yours, etc. It depends on so many factors.

So with your acceptance, I’d like to quickly go over some of the components of this recipe.

Most of my dressings include a little honey to balance out the acidity of the vinegar or lemon/ lime juice. You’ll notice I’ve left it out of this recipe. Roasted red peppers would qualify as sweet, at least in my books. The peppers in this recipe will actually take the place of the honey.

The feta is the salt, which is also missing, the onions and the crushed black pepper take the role of the “spicy.” The green peppers add a the bitter (at least for my taste buds), the olive oil is the fat that satiates but also gives it a rounded, more balanced feeling on the tongue, the chickpeas add texture and the roasted pumpkin seeds the crunch.

The spinach adds space on the plate so that we don’t overeat. The basil adds complexity. Simply adjust according to your tastes. Does it need a little more salt? A little more spice? Maybe it’s too acidic for your liking? After all, no two set of taste buds were created equal. Only you know what tastes good to you.

Rustic Spinach Salad with Roasted Red Pepper, Feta, Chickpeas, and Basil

1/2 cup raw chickpeas or 1 15-ounce can
 4 roasted red peppers
 1/2 cup feta
 1/2 green pepper
 2 green onions
 1 large handful of basil
 6-8 cups of spinach
 1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
 2 tablespoon olive oil
 Juice of 1 lemon
 Freshly cracked pepper

Cook the chickpeas according to directions.

Broil the peppers on a baking sheet until they are charred all the way around, rotating every 5 minutes or so. Remove the peppers from the oven and cover with a tea towel and allow them to cool for 15 minutes. Remove the peel and the seeds and chop unto 1-inch square pieces.

Clean and chop the green pepper to approximately the same size.  Finely slice the green onions and the basil. Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and toss until well combined. Add salt and pepper according to taste. You may decide to adjust the salt using a little more cheese or reducing the salt by substituting goat cheese for feta.

If you plan to eat the salad in one sitting, follow the instructions above. If you’ve got leftovers, then keep the spinach separate until right before serving in individual bowl or plates.

Related post: The Millet Energy Salad

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