I sometimes dread when the clock turns to noon. I should be excited for a chance to take a break from work and satiate my growling stomach, but instead I find myself staving off my hunger by eating another bowl of cereal or yogurt, delaying the inevitable task of figuring out what to eat for lunch.
When I have leftovers from the previous night's dinner, lunches are easy and quick. And if I'm going into the Union Square Greenmarket, I'll usually swing by City Bakery. But for the other 2-3 weekdays, I find myself challenged to create a dish that manages to power me through the afternoon, but not put me into a sleepy stupor within an hour of eating. In the summer I made a lot of arugula and mozzarella sandwiches or tomato and basil sandwiches. Occasionally I'll buy tuna fish from Brooklyn Larder and make my own tuna melt at home. But I don't always want to rely on carbohydrates to fill me, because carbs are exactly what triggers a mid-afternoon sugar crash.
I can't rely on devouring tomato sandwiches or slicing up fresh peaches and watermelon for a side dish anymore. An apple makes a great snack (and there are some delicious apple and cheddar sandwich combinations that I'm eager to try), but this Fall I'm challenging myself to make well-rounded, affordable lunches, that can be quickly assembled in the middle of the day, or even made the night before, so Justin can take a container of it into work.
One such lunch that we recently made fit my tall order of being nutritious, seasonal, and filling--if you eat enough of it.
This recipe is inspired by a traditional New Zealand salad. Kiwis frequently serve this meal as part of a barbecue, but it can easily be enjoyed by itself. Creating the salad is as straightforward as slicing and roasting sweet potatoes, sautéing garlic with several spices, tossing chickpeas in, and then sprinkling the salad with pine nuts and cilantro. Consider the portion size in the recipe below enough to serve 1.5 people. When Justin and I shared this dish, it wasn't quite enough for both of us, but when I made it for myself, there was too much food.
Roast Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad
Adapted from One World Vegetarian
Serves 2 as an entree
Total time: 25 minutes
2 sweet potatoes, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder (or seeds if you don't have powder)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bell pepper, if still in season
2-3 tablespoons chopped sun dried tomatoes (I used a sun dried tomato spread)
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon pine nuts
2 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
1) Turn your oven on to 350.
2) Put the sliced sweet potatoes into a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the cumin seeds, and the honey. Turn the mixture onto a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes. *If you have a bell pepper, you can put the whole bell pepper on the baking sheet to roast.
3) Remove the bell pepper, if using, and the sweet potatoes from the oven. When the bell pepper is cool enough to touch, slice it into chunks or thin strands, your choice.
4) Put 1.5 tablespoons of oil into a hot skillet. When the oil is hot but not bubbling, add the garlic, cumin, and cinnamon. Stir briefly before adding the bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes, and chickpeas. Stir until the new additions are coated with the spice mixture.
5) After everything is mixed, remove the pan from the heat and empty its contents into a large bowl. Add the sweet potatoes on top and stir everything together. Sprinkle the pine nuts and cilantro on top.