This month Just Bento is featuring vegetarian recipes. Though I am not a vegetarian myself, I do like to cut down on the amount of meat I eat when the summer rolls around. Call me crazy, but sometimes those grilled veggies can be just as exciting as some of burgers, hot dogs, and whatever else might frequent your bbq in the summer (unless your grill belongs to my friend Sean, then his bbq meats win every time).
This bento was mostly improvisation after a trip to Costco. I had a lot of veggies to use up, so I started by making the pasta salad. Pasta salad is the easiest thing in the word to make so I’m not going to waste anyone’s time with a recipe for this one. I will give you a hint though: Dress your pasta salad while it is still warm if you are not using mayo. The hot pasta will actually absorb the dressing and make for a much tastier salad. You might want to add more dressing later though, because sometimes too much gets absorbed and you can be left with something too dry. Also, never add your veggies until the pasta has cooled. The hot pasta could over cook your veggies or make them wilted and unappealing. My pasta salad contains the following: french beans, mushrooms, roasted red pepper (roasted myself on my gas range), and feta cheese. For dressing I just used some red wine vinaigrette.
Now since, I didn’t have any protein in my pasta salad, I made some spiced chickpeas for the side. I love making these and they taste even better the day after you cook them because the spices get a better chance to mix together. These spiced chickpeas are also great because you can pretty much make them different every time depending on what spices you have on hand. For my chickpeas, I used Turkish Spice from Penzey’s, but you can also use curry, cumin, or whatever you like.
1 can of chickpeas (or equivalent soaked chickpeas)
2 tb olive oil
2 cups veggie stock
1 shallot, chopped
2 tbs tomato sauce (or even ketchup if you like things sweeter)
1 clove chopped garlic (optional)
spices of choice (cumin, coriander, parsley, paprika, cilantro, etc)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in shallow pot (I use a small saucier). Add shallot and cook until it starts to become translucent, then add garlic if you choose. Continue to cook until garlic is cooked and shallots are translucent and a little brown. Add chickpeas. Next add enough stock so that it is level with the chickpeas. Once the stock begins to simmer, add tomato sauce and spices. Stir occasionally and allow the broth to reduce. Basically, all you are doing now is cooking things down so that the chickpeas and onions get soft and cooked. If you find that things get too dry and the chickpeas are soft enough to your liking, simply add more stock and continue to cook down. This is also a fun time to adjust the seasoning and make this dish really your own. Dish is done when chickpeas are relatively dry and start to come out of their skins a bit.