Monday, July 21, 2014

Thai Cucumber Salad with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

Did you know that we get 20% of our total water intake from food? Fruits and vegetables are naturally waterlogged —some contain more than 90% water by weight! In the height of summer, when I am perpetually thirsty, I find myself gravitating towards the produce with the most water retention: watermelon, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, grapefruit, cantaloupe. While nothing beats a cold glass of H20, this Thai Cucumber Salad with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas certainly helps in the hydration department, keeping you as cool as, well, a cucumber.

Cucumbers, along with iceberg lettuce, contain more water per serving than any other vegetable: 96%! Swimming alongside crisp red onion, red peppers, and ample cilantro in an invigorating rice wine vinegar and sesame oil dressing, the cucumbers in this salad truly seem almost drinkable. You could stop right here—a perfectly cool summer side—but combining with roasted spiced chickpeas elevates the dish to a filling, protein-packed main. The juxtaposition of the bronzed, savory chickpeas—superbly crunchy on the outside, doughy on the inside—against the brisk cucumber salad is really spectacular. The chickpeas have a fun, snacking feel: I popped handful after handful into my mouth with the same addictive fervor as if they were Doritos, minus the guilt.

This salad only gets better with age. I made two batches and ate the latter half two days later, finding that the Asian flavors had really seeped into the veggies, enhancing them substantially. If you can, try to make the salad the day before eating it. In keeping with a Thai theme, I definitely recommend topping the whole bowl with a healthy serving of chopped honey-roasted peanuts (I am partial to Planter's); playing up the sweet vs spicy theme. If you want to bulk up your salad with more "hydrating" vegetables, try adding chopped mango, radishes, or watermelon to the mix.

Thai Cucumber Salad with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas (adapted from Oh She Glows)
Serves 2

Ingredients:

Dressing:
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1.5-2 tablespoons natural cane sugar, to taste
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Dash of Sriracha sauce, more if you like spice
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Salad:
2 medium field cucumbers
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish (optional)

Chickpeas:
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a medium baking sheet with tin foil.
2. Rinse, drain, and dry the chickpeas. (This process can be expedited by rolling them around in a paper towel a few times.)
3. When chickpeas are completely dry, transfer to the baking sheet along with the oil, salt, and rest of the spices. Mix thoroughly.
4. Roast for 20 minutes, stir, and roast for another 20 minutes, until golden brown and lightly charred.
5. While the chickpeas cook, prepare the salad. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, set aside.
6. Peel cucumbers and chop into "half moons": slice cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, and chop halves into 1/8 inch pieces. Dice the red pepper and onion. Place cucumber, pepper and onion in a large bowl. 
7. Add dressing and cilantro to large bowl, toss thoroughly. Let the salad sit for minimum 30 minutes; but preferably overnight. (Note: this only applies to the salad. Chickpeas are best [aka most crunchy] when eaten immediately after roasting. They do last a few days, but lose their crunch.) Before serving, add roasted chickpeas and sprinkle chopped honey-roasted peanuts atop salad if desired. 

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