Thursday, July 21, 2011

Get Yer Grains & Legumes: Chickpeas, Barley, Tomato, Avocado + Bacon Bowl

This post isn't so much about a recipe as an example of how I eat on (very nearly) a daily basis, inspired by a couple of folks and some basic decisions I made a few years ago about how I wanted to eat for the rest of my life - more on this in another post.

Hulled black barley
Just about once per week I cook up a batch of chickpeas (1 cup dry). Drained, they store beautifully, if kept refrigerated, for up to a week. I'll generally do another grain or legume and this week it was black, hulled barley. Black hulled barley tastes the same as regular hulled barley. I don't cook it to the point where it fully opens up, but just prior to that. It's nutty and (I think) delicious - I prefer it over pearled barley in many applications - although beef barley soup is one example where pearled barley tastes great. Pearled barley is polished to remove the outer bran layer. It cooks more quickly and isn't as chewy as hulled (I like the chewy). Hulled barley also keeps well if completely drained and refrigerated for 4-5 days. There are many hot and cold dishes I prepare where I throw in a handful of one or the other - or both.

Everything but the almonds I added as garnish are shown here. While I usually store chickpeas fully drained, yesterday
I cooked some with bay leaf, garlic and a little olive oil and stored them in their cooking water since
I knew I'd be using them within a few days.

Recipe: Chickpeas, Barley, Tomato, Bacon and Avocado Bowl

Serves: 2 as a main

I really love the taste of whole toasted cumin seeds. If you only have ground cumin, start with a moderately heaping 1 teaspoon. If you want to go vegetarian or vegan, substitute strips of braised, smoked or baked tofu for the bacon and add it when you garnish. Some sweet or hot smoked paprika can substitute for the smokey bacon flavor if you wish. The parsley is the main "greens" ingredient but you could use chard, kale, spinach or any other green of choice. This salad tastes best if you can let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. If you do that, take it out before you eat - it's best served at room temperature.

  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon cut crosswise into 1/2" lardons
  • 1/4 cup reserved, sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 dozen large roughly chopped raw (or toasted) almonds
  • 1/2 (large) avocado, diced (do this right before you serve)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of whole cumin seeds
  • generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 large, or 2 small cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 scallions, sliced or cut in 1" julienne strips. Reserve about 1/4 cup for garnish
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup roughly chopped parsley
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup cooked hulled barley
  • Juice of 1 lime or 1 small-ish lemon

salt and fresh ground pepper for seasoning.
olive oil


Add the chickpeas and the barley to a microwave-safe bowl large enough to toss along with the other ingredients. If your chickpeas and barley came out of the refrigerator, stick it in the microwave and heat it up for a couple of minutes.

Heat a 10" non-stick skillet on medium high. If you are using a regular skillet, add a couple of teaspoons olive oil to the pan and when it begins to shimmer, add the bacon. Cook until it's browned, but not too crispy and somewhat tender. Remove, and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Pour the fat from the pan into a heat proof bowl and reserve. Wipe out the pan with bunched-up paper towels to remove the tiny crispy bits of bacon. Set the bacon aside, but don't put it in the refrigerator.

Put the pan back on the heat and add 1 teaspoon of the reserved fat. After about 15 seconds, add the cumin seeds and the red pepper flakes and toast  over medium heat for a couple of minutes. The cumin should be a little darker and will be very aromatic. Clear a little spot and add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Add 2 more teaspoons of the reserved fat, then add the scallions and the halved cherry tomatoes to the pan with a pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste, stir and cook for a couple of minutes. The scallions should soften, but the tomatoes should not be cooked so long they begin to break down.

Remove the skillet from the stove and add the mixture to the combined chickpeas and barley. Toss and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Squeeze in the juice of one lime (or lemon); toss and taste again. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

At least 1/2 hour before you serve remove the salad from the refrigerator. When you are ready to serve, taste it once more and adjust the seasoning if necessary then divide it into two bowls. Dice the avocado and garnish each bowl with the avocado, chopped almonds, reserved chopped scallions, parsley and top with the crispy bacon lardons.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nan, your pics are wonderful.

You have to make this for me someday.