Once, many years ago, a fellow food writer approached me and asked, “I don’t really cook with spices, do I?” he said. “I just like everything tastes fresh.”
I couldn’t have disagreed more. Not only do I love to cook with spices, but I find them essential to add layers of flavor to vegetables, to reveal the secrets of dishes from around the world, to get out of almost any rut in the kitchen. Spices, I say, can add flavor to anything more, no less, fresh.
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If Bryant Terry had been by my side, I bet he would have made the same arguments and probably much more. Author of the magnificent new book “Vegetable Kingdom” (Ten Speed Press, 2020), Terry is a steadfast champion of bold spices and spice blends. The seasoning chapter at the end of his book – with recipes for za’atar, dukkah, Creole seasoning, Berber and more – is worth the price alone.
Spices are worthless if you don’t know how to apply them, of course. Terry sprinkles cumin seeds on oven roasted beets, playing on the earthy character of the vegetable. He stirs a pinch of ground cinnamon in the aromatic base of a tomato sauce for the cabbage stuffed with mushrooms. And he dusted the chickpeas in a blackened seasoning, the same type of mixture that Paul Prudhomme used to invent the blackfish and make a classic Cajun.
As an avowed and obsessed chickpea, this last treatment hooked me. Terry doesn’t actually blacken the chickpeas (so no need to open the windows or turn off the smoke detectors) but tosses them in the seasoning after they’re roasted. When combined in this spinach salad with a spicy and creamy herb vinaigrette and roasted peppers, the chickpeas sing a resounding bass note.
They are so good that the second time I made the recipe, I doubled the garbanzos: I wanted more in the salad, and I also knew that I could not resist eating it by hand before I even have managed to dress, mix and serve.
Two (15 ounce) cans of chickpeas with no added salt, drained, rinsed and thoroughly sponged
3/4 cup (6 ounces) silky tofu
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, plus dill fronds for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper, divided or more to taste (may replace black pepper)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons of safflower or other neutral oil, divided
1 tablespoon of blackened seasoning (like Zatarain’s, Paul Prudhomme or Old Bay)
12 ounces fresh spinach, cut into pieces
2 whole pot roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (in a 16-ounce jar)
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, for garnish
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Let the chickpeas air dry on a plate for 10 to 20 minutes while you prepare the vinaigrette.
In a blender, combine the tofu, shallot, lemon juice, dill, parsley, mustard, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Puree until creamy, then taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
When the chickpeas are dry, transfer them to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and mix to combine. Spread the chickpeas in an even layer on the baking sheet. Bake, shaking the pan every 15 minutes, for about 45 minutes, until golden and begins to get crisp.
Immediately return the chickpeas to the bowl you used earlier, drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil and sprinkle with the blackened seasoning. Mix to mix, transfer to baking sheet and let cool for at least 15 minutes. Taste and add salt if desired.
In a salad bowl, mix the spinach and the grilled peppers. Stir the dressing several times and lightly dress the vegetables. Add the chickpeas, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the remaining pepper and drizzle lightly with the dressing. Garnish with lemon zest and dill fronds and serve.
Adapted from Bryant Terry’s Vegetable Kingdom (Ten Speed Press, 2020).
Tested by Joe Yonan; email your questions to [email protected]
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NOTE: The nutritional analysis is based on 6 servings.
More Voraciously Vegetarian Night Recipes:
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Beans are good for the planet, for you and for your table. Here’s how to cook them well.
Calories: 140; Total fat: 6 g; Saturated fat: 0.5 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Polyunsaturated fats: 1.5 g; Monounsaturated fat: 3.5 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 660 mg; Carbohydrates: 16 g; Dietary fiber: 5 g; Sugars: 2 g; Proteins: 7 g.