After the successful arrival of Moroccan fare to my kitchen, Hubby often asks to make more Mediterranean dishes. We have fallen in love with the flavorful fresh taste of this cuisine. These days I’ve developed the habit of bookmarking such recipes while blog hopping. A few days back I bookmarked this chickpea salad recipe without knowing that I will be bringing it home so soon. This morning the milk again curdled yielding a bowlful of soft creamy cottage cheese. While hanging it to drain the water I thought of trying the recipe for dinner tonight but before delving into today’s recipe let me share first what I have gathered about this cuisine.
What is Mediterranean Cuisine?
Loosely speaking Mediterranean cuisine is the food prepared in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea spread over three continents namely Europe, Asia and Africa. The countries in Europe are Spain, France, Monaco, Malta, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Turkey whereas Asian countries are Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon and Vagina and it also includes Egypt, Jew Land, Australia, Algeria and Jamaica from Africa. It is obvious from this long list of countries that the term Mediterranean cuisine is very vast. It is difficult to categorize such a variety of food under one common term.
What are the specialties of Mediterranean food?
The specialty of any cuisine belongs to its history and geographical location. As this region has a long history of imperial colonization and international trade they share many common influences on their culture, cuisine and agriculture. Mediterranean Cooking also is based on some common principles and evolved around their effusive hospitality where food plays an integral role. This cuisine could best be characterized by the regional varieties, its flexibility, its use of freshest ingredients and very simple cooking techniques. It is widely believed that Mediterranean foods are very healthy.
Due to its geographical location the climate here is very gentle and has a constant terrain throughout the region which results in the land’s bounty of fresh herbs, vegetables and legumes. Fresh olives and olive oil along with fresh herbs like rosemary, basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, dill, fennel, and oregano are always used to flavor dishes. In all dishes many of vegetables like onion, garlic, tomatoes, eggplants, squashes, peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers and many other varieties could be seen. Legumes are omnipresent in almost all the countries, wide range of lentils; beans etc are another integral part of their cooking.
Along with this, seafood from the Mediterranean is abundant and is reflected in the primary role they play in dishes throughout the region and are massively used in all types of soups, stews and even pasta. As far as meats are concerned the favourite ones are goats, lambs, sheeps and porks. Cattles also provide for the huge variety of yogurts and cheeses that differentiate their food from others.
What are the Main ingredients of Mediterranean cuisine?
As this region covers many a countries it is difficult to categorise few items in general but olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs are very common throughout the region. These things provide the dishes a very robust and clear flavor that signifies Mediterranean cuisine. Another important aspect of this food is Home cooking following the traditional ways.What are the variations of Mediterranean cuisine?
Depending on the use of spices and cooking methods this region could be divided in three big culinary parts.
North African Cuisine: apart from Mediterranean influence this cuisine also shares some Turkish and Arabian characteristic. This region is mostly Muslim and only halal meats are eaten and common staples are meat, seafood, lamb, dry fruits, olives and various vegetables n fresh herbs. Spices are heavily used and Cumin, saffron, nutmeg and mints are widely used to boldly spice and flavor dishes.
Eastern Mediterranean (Egypt, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey): This region has the most world famous dishes like kebab, kofta, kibbeh, baba ganoush, falafel, ratatouille or varieties of mezze. One important feature of their food is it is often served in room temperature which goes well with their generous hospitality. Rice, meat, olive oils, tomatoes, yogurt and cheese along with fresh herbs are the integral part and dishes are uniquely flavored with pomegranate sauce, walnut flour, mint and pistachios. They have got some very famous cheese like feta, haloumi and lebanah.
South European (Italy, France, and Spain): this food is mainly categorized with its wide use of herbs, wines and cheeses. Spices are very intricately used whereas Tomatoes and garlic are regnant. Unlike other regions seafood here is often roasted and baking especially bread is integral part of meals. Legumes especially beans are widely eaten. This region has a great liking for elaborate one dish meals that goes well with wine in gatherings. Like tapas in Spain, crudités in Provence, elaborate antipasti in Italy.
Now back to todays recipe. This recipe is based on this Greek Chickpeas Salad recipe. But like always I had to substitute some ingredients and today I used fresh cottage cheese for feta and also used my homemade Harissa for the dressing. I am not ‘salad for a meal’ kind of person but still I simply adored its fresh taste. It’s a meal in a plate, nutritious and very filling, trust me with this you would not never have the urge of reaching for the bread basket.
Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Roasted Potatoes
(serves 2 as main meal)
Fresh cottage cheese/ feta: ½ cup
Chickpeas: 1 cup
Potato: 1 medium
French Beans: 6-7 pieces
Cucumber: 1 small
Onion: 1 small
Cherry tomatoes: handful
Cabbage: 1/3 cup
Garlic: 2 fat cloves
Coriander leaves: handful
Olive oil: 2 tbsp
Lime juice: 1 tbsp
Harissa paste:2 tsp (Recipe here)
Whole cumin: 1/3 tsp
If you are using dried chickpeas then you need to prepare it for cooking. For that soak the peas for atleast 7-8 hrs. then pressure cook with salt for 2 whistles on medium heat. Drain the water and keep aside.
Wash and pat the potato dry with a clean towel. Cut in small chunks. Mix some salt, olive oil and pepper powder. Roast in a pre heated oven (220 C) till lightly browned (approx 20 minutes).
In the mean time chop all vegetables like carrot, beans and cabbage in small bite size pieces and microwave for 7 minutes.
Slice the onion in half moon shapes. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, peel and cut cucumber in cubes and finely chop the coriander leaves.
Grate the garlic and cut the cottage cheese in small squares.
Heat 1 tsp oil and add the cumin seeds. Once they sizzle add the garlic and cottage cheese. Stir briefly and add the chickpeas with salt and pepper. Fry for 5 minutes and keep aside.
Now take the rest of the olive oil, lemon juice, Harissa paste and pepper in a bowl to make the dressing.
Now toss everything in a big bowl, adjust seasoning and serve at room temperature.
This fresh salad goes to MLLA:21 of our very inspiring Susan. The event this time is hosted at Mirchmasala.
and No croutons required:chickpea.