Chopped Salad with Spiced Chickpeas and Tarragon Tahini Dressing – A crisp Mediterranean inspired salad with lemon chicken, tarragon tahini dressing, and spiced chickpeas. From the book Eating in the Middle by Andie Mitchell.
A few years ago, I lost a lot of weight. About 30 pounds – a toddler. I have since gained a lot of it back. It isn’t a great place to be or feel great, but I am really afraid to go back to life when losing weight was my #1 priority. All day I obsessed about food. What I was eating, what I was going to eat next, and what I was going to do with myself to not think about food. It was exhausting. I did lose weight, but I lost more than just that. I lost the joy that comes with food and cooking. I was wearing smaller clothes, but I was really frustrated and unhappy.
Eating is supposed to be a joyous experience. We not only eat for nutrition, but also for pleasure. We eat to gather, celebrate, and entertain. Cooking is something that made me happy and being able to cook for people gave me so much happiness. Cooking is not fun when you are secretly freaking out about carbs and using butter and wondering if you can sneak more protein in.
Around the same time I went to school to become a holistic nutritionist. I loved being in school and learning. I learned far more than I was expecting. (And I loved it.) Everything was geared towards eating whole foods. Nothing processed. Nothing refined. Dark greens at every meal. Eat clean all the time at every meal.
But I missed things. Pizza and pasta and cupcakes and cookies. I would obsess over them. I’d think about them all the time. Eating clean was hard. It felt like my efforts were never good enough. My interpretation was (and a completely incorrect one), why bother? If I don’t eat perfectly all the time, what’s the point?
The problem that I had was that I was missing the balance. It isn’t black and white. It isn’t all kale and no cookies all the time. It’s about finding a balance.
Turns out, I’m not alone on this one. My friend Andie wrote an entire book about this very issue. She lost 135 pounds – no easy feat. And while losing the weight was most definitely a challenge, fixing her relationship with food was even more so. (If you haven’t read her memoir It Was Me All Along you need to.)
When you are so focused on losing weight, it is hard to get to a place where you can eat things like pizza and chocolate cake and not freak out. But you can’t live a life when you can’t go to a restaurant or enjoy a holiday meal. There is a place for all of the things. Being able to have some sort of balance is the best way that I know to live a healthy life.
I can’t say enough good things about Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook. I have a love affair with cookbooks, I have hundreds of them. (Not an exaggeration, they are a pain to move, but I wouldn’t dream of not buying any more.) It is rare that I get a book and I want to make just about every single recipe in the book. This book is exactly what I needed to get back in the kitchen and find the balance.
One of the things that Andie writes about is eating a salad every single day. Not a boring salad, but one with life and interest and vibrancy. Salads are filling and you can pack a lot of flavors into every bite. I have been following her advice and let me say, I feel better and enjoy my ritual of eating a salad for lunch. Every day. (Well, almost every day.)
In particular, this salad is how I want to eat every day. Fresh, crunchy, salty, spicy, and incredibly delicious. My kids ate this (did you read that – THEY ATE IT.) wrapped in whole wheat pitas. I added some chicken, but otherwise made this recipe exactly as written and I’ve made it again and again.
- 3 Tablespoons tahini
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 Tablespoon tarragon, finely minced
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- zest from one lemon
- juice from lemon
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
- salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 romaine hearts, chopped
- 1 English cucumber, seeded and sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/3 cup kalamata olives, halved
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
- 3/4 cups crumbled feta cheese
- To make the dressing: Whisk together ingredients in a small bowl. Add 2 Tablespoons of water to thin out.
- To make the chicken: Add chicken to a plastic bag. Whisk together oil, zest, juice, garlic, oregano, mint, salt and pepper. Let marinate for 15-20 minutes. Add pieces to a saute pan over medium-high heat. Brown and cook through. Transfer to a plate until ready to eat.
- To make the chickpeas: Mix together the spices and salt. Pat the chickpeas dry with a paper towel. Put them in a gallon size plastic bag with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Seal the bag and shake to coat with oil. Add the spice mixture, seal the bag, and shake to coat with spices.
- Heat a non-stick pan with the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas and saute, shaking occasionally until they are brown and crispy.
- To make the salad: Toss together salad ingredients. Drizzle with dressing, top with chicken and chickpeas.
Leftover chickpeas can be stored in the fridge for a week in an airtight container. Reheat in microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute or in a dry skillet until warm.
**Full disclosure, Andie did send me a copy of her book. But she didn’t need to, I had already pre-ordered it and gave my other copy to a friend. 🙂 **