What a heart-full weekend this was. Last Friday I flew down to LA to stay with friends while I attended an amazing food styling and photography workshop put on by the White on Rice Couple. If you’re interested in food photography, I highly recommend their workshops!
This workshop was one of many amazing fund-raising efforts in this supportive food blogger community benefitting ‘A Fund for Jennie’. Coordinated by Bloggers Without Borders, as of Monday morning the effort raised $76,430.50! What a team! Jennie, for those of you who don’t know, is well-loved food writer, blogger, culinaire extraordinaire whose husband had a massive heart attack two months ago leaving her a widow with two young daughters. We were very lucky to have her join our class, and to share this experience with her. It was a day of laughter, tears, and new friendships begun.
And it was a day full of useful information on food photography from two top pros. I am, at best, a novice photographer. But after taking a few hundred photos of food over the last couple years, I want to know why a photo worked, and why it didn’t. I want to be able to execute a photo that even comes close to matching the picture I have in my head. Oh, and do it efficiently while my husband waits for the photo shoot to be over, so we can finally. eat. dinner. That might be an optimistic goal, but I’m giving it a good, honest shot (no pun intended).
So I’m starting by focusing on the 3 biggest “ah-ha” moments that I took away with me that I thought I’d share with all of you:
- Have a clear understanding of the story you want to tell with your dish, and set up your shot around that.
- Know what your ‘hero’ is in the shot and focus on it. For example, one apple in a basket of fruit, or a small, perfectly curled arugula leaf in a salad.
- Enhance your exposure control with white foam boards to reflecting a clean light onto the subject, and use black foam boards to minimize glare. Don’t count on fixing a badly exposed photo in Photo Shop.
So what does any of this have to do with Chickpea Salad? Well it wasn’t just a day filled with information and friendship; it was a food extravaganza too. You wouldn’t know it by all the eating I did, especially of the desserts, but, Hel-lo, I’m on a diet! Thank God I was wearing stretchy yoga pants, is all I can say.
For the next few days, I’ve now got salads on the brain, and this Chickpea Salad is one of my favorites that I go to time and again, no matter the season. I first saw it on 101 Cookbooks about a year ago, and although I loved it just the way it was, I kept modifying if for what I was in the mood for, or for what was in my refrigerator that day. It’s easy, healthy, and offers lots of opportunities to add twists of your own.
A Few Cooking Notes:
I strongly recommend chickpeas cooked from the dried form as they have a much better flavor and texture. Later this week I’ll post my recipe for cooking chickpeas that can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
Chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans. I’ll add some nutritional information on these members of the legumes family later this week too!
Harissa is a Tunisian hot chili sauce common in North African dishes, and you can find it in the condiments section of most grocery stores, or you can make your own. I’ll be posting my favorite recipe for this next week. It’s so easy to make and lasts a long time in the refrigerator.
Don’t like dishes too spicy? Just eliminate the harissa, although don’t forget it’s pretty well tempered with the yogurt dressing.
Pan-Fried Chickpea Salad with Curried-Yogurt (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 6 kalamata olives, halved or quartered
- 1/2 lemon zested
- 2 teaspoons harissa (optional; see Cooks Notes)
- 1 slice lemon juiced
- 3 cups arugula or watercress
- 1/4 cup red onion, minced
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 3/4 teaspoon curry powder
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Pinch each of salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon warm water, as needed
In a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat, heat up the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until the onion starts to go limp. Make sure the cooked chickpeas are dry, and add to the skillet along with the salt and pepper. If the chickpeas are wet, you can get some splatter with the hot oil.
Saute until the chickpeas begin to lightly brown and the onions are soft, stirring frequently – about 5-7 minutes.
Add the kalamata olives, harissa, lemon juice and lemon zest and remove from the heat. Stir it all together.
Immediately transfer the mixture to a bowl, and let cool to room temperature, or just a little warmer than room temp.
While the chickpea mixture is cooling, make the Curried Yogurt Dressing by combining the yogurt, curry powder, lime juice, and vinegar in a small bowl. Once the dressing is mixed together, add the cilantro and stir again. Add enough warm water to the dressing to make it the consistency you want and stir – for me, it was 1 teaspoon.
When the chickpea mixture has cooled, add the arugula or watercress leaves and fold in half of the Curried Yogurt Dressing until the chickpeas are completely coated. Add additional dressing as desired. Correct for seasoning.
As a finishing touch, sprinkle a little minced red onion on top for some nice crunch and flavor contrast.
This salad can be served at room temperature but I prefer to serve it just slightly warm.