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Chickpea, Swiss Chard & Basil Salad

Ah, this salad. This is one of my favourites that I've literally been making for years. So many years in fact that you (those dear readers of mine who have been with me from the start) may have even seen it here before - as I had posted this recipe in the early days and it was removed when I shuffled posts around and removed some that I no longer felt were representative of where I was at the time. That's right - way back in the days when I was just starting to have fun here - with time to spare (or the illusion of time amongst all of the existing pressures I was under). It's crazy how long ago that seems, and I was just reminded of this while visiting a dear old friend this past weekend.

It's amazing how much can change in 5 years, and it's been about 5 years that I really started writing and sharing recipes here in earnest. 5 years is a long time in anyone's world, but looking back it really feels as though I'm now living in a completely different world from those keen early days of this blog. My kids have grown from children to well, really big kids. One is preparing to leave us and start a life of her own at some point in the not-too-distant-future (it's all a lot to take in sometimes). Professionally speaking I'm in a whole new world, and after a few years of finding a brand new way I'm now feeling like I'm right where I belong again. Birthdays have passed and people and things have weaved their way in and out and back into my life as they tend to do. All that I need is exactly what I've got (well in truth, there is always some purging that can be done).

Chickpea, Swiss Chard & Basil Salad
Chickpea, Swiss Chard & Basil Salad

I'm 5 years older, looking ahead at what will be the last year of my thirties, and while this whole turning 40 thing is something I've been keenly aware was coming for a while, it's imminent arrival is bringing with it a certain something that I can't quite put my finger on just yet. It's not fear, in fact, it's the opposite - as I've been waiting for this kind of freedom for my whole adult life it seems. But there's a certain kind of reckoning that comes with the self-awareness of growing - and of getting older (let's face it, that's what it is!) - and really learning to work with yourself and who you really are. It's a calm kind of confidence that just sort of sets in. I think as young people, there always lies ahead this idea that we just don't know who we really will become, because really, we're still forming. Well, I'm almost 40 and I really feel formed now, at least in a slightly more permanent sense than I did when I turned 20, or 30, or even 35 - despite all of the adult responsibilities I had at those ages. There's a certain awesomeness about having that awareness of ourselves, and with it the ever-present challenge to continue to strive - to be better, to do better, and to no matter what, love who we are, as we are - while loving those around us too.

Why all of this now? Because this recipe has been with me since my early twenties, when I first had this combo in a natural foods deli in Calgary on a business trip with a colleague. Now that was a person who was forming, and when I re-created it this past weekend, it took me right back there again to being that 20 something young woman (I'd really like to go back and tell her a few things). I've always loved this combo of bright summer vegetables, and a use for a vegetable I don't really use otherwise (chard). If you can find baby chard I highly recommend it. There's just something about this salad that makes me feel really happy!

Embrace yet another reason to enjoy summer, be it the relaxing joy of heading to the market to shop for your veggies, or taking the afternoon to listen and enjoy those hearts that beat around you every day. Lord knows, there are enough reminders in the news every day to live for now - and a family bond or the comfort that comes from fully formed relationships and people is a treasure. If these days and moments feel fleeting, it's because they are ~ love them with everything you are, no matter what age you find yourself at :) XOX

Chickpea, Swiss Chard & Basil Salad
Chickpea, Swiss Chard & Basil Salad

Chickpea, Swiss Chard & Basil Salad:

  • 4 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2-3 cups chopped baby chard, or red chard
  • 1 large yellow zucchini, chopped & lightly steamed for 2 minutes
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped fresh peas
  • 3 large scallions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (or sunflower seeds)
  • 1 cup finely sliced sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2-1 cup fresh basil leaves, ribboned

Combine the chickpeas, chard, steamed zucchini, red pepper, peas, sun-dried tomatoes, and toasted pine nuts in a large mixing bowl. Add the dried basil and the remaining ingredients and stir well, tasting to adjust salt and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil leaves (and perhaps some optional salty cheese like feta).

You can opt to leave the zucchini raw, but I find it so delicious when it is just tender sweet. Of course if pine nuts are just too impossible to justify (these days they really are), sub in some toasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. Enjoy as is as or as part of a summer meal.

Chickpea, Swiss Chard & Basil Salad
Chickpea, Swiss Chard & Basil Salad

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