Curried (Vegan) Cauliflower & Leek Soup

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This creamy Curried Cauliflower & Leek Soup is a delicious addition to our repertoire in the Cafe and has been very popular. It was the first creamy soup I had tried using a non-dairy milk.

The original recipe that I picked up on Pinterest from Beard and Bonnet calls for canned coconut milk, which I have listed in the recipe below. It was also elegantly garnished with crushed red pepper and cilantro stems.

This last time I made it, I used fresh coconut milk, which was thinner than the canned. It was easy to adjust for this by using only milk and no water in the soup. I have a few heat-sensitive customers, so I garnished this time with cilantro and red bell pepper.

I made a few other changes in the recipes, mainly in the procedure.

Curried (Vegan) Cauliflower & Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • Cauliflower, 2 lb.
  • Leeks, 1 cup cleaned chunks (white or light green parts only)
  • Ginger, 1-1/2″ piece
  • Basmati rice, dry, 1-2 TB
  • Limes, 1-1/2 for garnish and additional flavor
  • Cilantro, 1/3 cup
  • Thai green or yellow curry paste, 2-3 TB
  • Coconut butter, 2 TB
  • Coconut milk, 4 cups (either use one can augmented with water to make 4 cups, or use 4 cups of fresh coconut milk)
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Add coconut butter/oil to the soup pot.
  2. Prepare the veggies for cooking and pureeing, beginning with the cauliflower. Remove the greenest part of the cauliflower leaves and discard or save for use in another soup stock. Cut out the core and stalk portions of the flowerets and add to the soup pot. Reserve flowerets.
  3.  Wash mud out of the leeks and cut lower portion into chunks, leaving the tougher darker green portions for another soup stock. Add prepared chunks of leeks to soup pot.
  4. Peel ginger piece and add to soup pot.
  5. Cut away any brown parts of cilantro stems. Cut of remainder of stems and put into soup pot. Reserve the leaves to mince for garnish.
  6. Add the dry rice to the pot.
  7. Add half the coconut milk (fresh or reconstituted from can) to the pot.
  8. Bring mixture in pot to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook veggies until soft.  Cool slightly.
  9. Move the contents of the soup pot to a Vita-Mix or blender and blend until very smooth and hopefully thick.
  10. Move blended ingredients back to the stock pot and add the curry paste and perhaps a little lime juice if you wish. I like to use the lime as a garnish and let people squeeze their own lime juice into the soup if they wish.
  11. Add the uncooked cauliflowerets to the pot and simmer until the cauliflower is slightly soft. This won’t take long at all.
  12. Check the seasoning and add salt to taste or more curry paste if desired.
  13. Dish up, garnish with minced cilantro and either a few red pepper flakes or chopped red bell pepper. Enjoy.

Creamy Vegan Corn Chowder

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I love potatoes and consider them a great vegetable despite the bad rap they’ve gotten in recent years. I know the arguments about their role in spiking blood sugar — but the peel counteracts that. Whole foods – that’s the key.

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • Spanish onion, 1 large, small dice
  • Red bell peppers, 2, small dice
  • Red Potatoes, 16 small peel left on, quartered
  • Carrots, 6, 1″ dice
  • Water, 4 quarts
  • Cashews, 2 cups, soaked overnight
  • Cornstarch, 1 cup
  • Corn, fresh or frozen, 1-1/2 quarts
  • Salt & Szeged hot paprika to taste
  • Parsley, 1/4 cup chopped

Directions

  1. Saute the onion, bell peppers and carrots in extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Add half the water, add potatoes, and cook covered until potatoes are barely softened.
  3. Add other half of water to Vita-Mix or blender with soaked cashews and cornstarch. Blend until smooth and add to soup.
  4. Add fresh or frozen corn shortly before ready to serve. Bring back to a simmer, season and cook for 10-15 minutes.
  5. When serve, sprinkle chopped parsley on top.

Matboukha (Moroccan Salsa)

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I often serve Matboukha as a salad in the typical Middle Eastern style with pita (or Challah) for dipping. It is a delicious and versatile cooked tomato salad.  I have also used it for Shakshouka, a Middle Eastern dish in which eggs are poached in saucy tomatoes and peppers. Whenever I make something that calls for a tomato sauce, I like to use this one for a unique flavor.

MATBOUKHA
This recipe makes 2 quarts

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil, 2 TB
  • Garlic, 4-6 lg. cloves
  • Green pepper, 1 large
  • Tomato paste, 3 oz. (half a small can) – opt.
  • Plum tomatoes, 15 large
  • Cilantro, 1/2 cup chopped, packed
  • Salt, 1.5 tsp.
  • Cumin, 1 TB.
  • Szeged hot paprika, 1.5 tsp.

Directions

  1. Petite dice the tomatoes, and place in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and allow the liquid to be released. This won’t take long. Drain with a colander (you can reserve the liquid that drains and use it as a soup base).
  2. Petite dice the green pepper and set aside.
  3. Finely chop the garlic, and saute it briefly in the extra virgin olive oil. Add the petite diced pepper, continuing to saute until pepper softens.
  4. Add the other seasonings (salt, cumin, hot paprika) and saute briefly.
  5. Add the thoroughly drained tomatoes and turn off the heat.
  6. Add the tomato paste to thicken, up to half of a six oz. can.
  7. Add the finely chopped cilantro.
  8. Serve with bread for “dipping” or use in another dish.

Butternut Squash & Spinach Lasagna

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I saw a beautiful picture of Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna and thought I would like to make it for our Vegan Thursday entrée along with some roasted green beans, red pepper and cabbage slivers. Butternut Squash is often used in dishes as part of creating the color and mouth feel of a cheese dish. Alas, the recipe turned out not to be vegan. I went to work on my own version.

I built this dish based on a “Moroccan Eggplant Parmesan” dish I created several years ago. That dish included fried eggplant Middle Eastern style (without breading). The eggplant develops a great texture and is a wonderful addition to these layered vegetable dishes. It also included chickpeas and Matboukha, a Middle Eastern “salad” that we call Moroccan Salsa. I’ll post that recipe as soon as I finish this one.

I forgot to sprinkle capers on my lunch above, but they would make a great addition to the dish!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH & SPINACH LASAGNA
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • Butternut Squash, 2 lb. after peeled and cut
  • Spinach, 1/4 lb.
  • Eggplant, 1 regular
  • Matboukha (see recipe), 2 cups
  • Green onions, 3-4
  • Tomatoes, 2 plum
  • Chickpeas, 1/2 – 1 cup dried
  • Whole wheat lasagna, 8 strips (about half a box)
  • Parsley or cilantro, a little for garnish

Directions

  1. Prepare each ingredient for the layers separately. Start with the beans, which take longest. Soak overnight, discard water.  Add water to cover, bring to a boil, drain. Repeat process. After the second boil, add water to cover, bring to simmer, and cook until soft. Drain chickpeas and set aside.
  2. Make the Matboukha (you can also use a bottled spaghetti sauce, seasoned to your taste).
  3. Cut eggplant into round “steaks,” about 1/2″ thick. Salt and drain overnight or for several hours. Pat dry, deep fry or saute both sides in a pan. When light brown, remove from heat to a paper towel.
  4. Peel and cut the squash. Cook in a small amount of water until tender. Drain (if needed) and mash slightly. Set aside. I have a hard time peeling butternut squash, so I’m going to try roasting the squash next time and scooping out the contents.
  5. Wash and chop the spinach and set aside.
  6. Cook lasagna in salted water with a few drops of oil until al dente. Use a large shallow pan so strips can lie flat.
  7. Using a deep 8″ x 8″ pan, layer everything twice in this order: lasagna strips, cooked and mashed butternut squash, cooked chickpeas, spinach, fried eggplant, chopped green onions, Matboukha, sliced tomato.
  8. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes or until heated through. Remove from oven. Add a little Matboukha to the top and/or chopped parsley garnish.
  9. Serve and enjoy.

Quick & Easy Fatoush

fatoush02In an earlier post about Fatoush, made the old-fashioned way, I wrote about “value-added products.” There are some good ones out there, and here’s one I love:  a “Salad Kit” from Eat Smart, which I get at Costco. Most of the bag is made up of a slaw-type preparation of broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and chicory.

What a great idea to run the unused parts of vegetables through a shredder to make a salad! The package contains a pumpkin seed and craisin packet — and unfortunately the package also contains a poppy seed salad dressing with ingredients I don’t want to use, which I generally have to discard.

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I use at least one of these 28 oz. packages every week. It’s a great source for important nutrients and allows me to put things together very quickly. Early in the week I use it for salads, and later in the week, as it gets a little older, I can use it in a stir-fry.

One of my favorite things to do with the slaw is to use it for a quick Fatoush, a salad that is characteristically made with leftover toasted or dried broken pita pieces. I like to use whole wheat Lebanese pita for this salad.

QUICK FATOUSH 
Fatoush means “crushed” or “broken” and refers to the Pita croutons that are a prominent feature of this salad.

  • Salad Kit – two large handsful of slaw
  • Avocado – 1/2 ripe, sliced
  • Tomato – 1 plum, petite diced or cut into slivers
  • Whole Wheat Lebanese Pita – one piece, heated in oven until crisp, broken into pieces

VEGAN DRESSING

  • Lemon – juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 TB) or to taste
  • Tahina – 1 TB
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp. or to taste
  • Pepper – freshly ground, to taste

This recipe is enough for two large salads.

Less is more — but for whom? Fatoush

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As the only vegetarian cafe in the area, I have many health-conscious customers. Increasingly they ask for gluten-free products. Most of my food happens to be gluten free naturally, but for those who want some kind of bread with their meal, I stock gluten free crackers.

Last week we ran out of our regular product and I had to run to a local store to pick up a substitute: $7.00 for a small box of rice crackers with just enough in it to provide a few small crackers to four customers. $7.00 for a product that has little nutrition, no fiber and is high on the glycemic index.

This same $7.00 would buy me seven bags of whole wheat pita, each with 10 “loaves” of six inch pitas, from a small bakery in Chicago that makes the bread fresh on their premises. Enough for 70 customers. Wheat with protein, vitamins B1, B2, B3, E, folate, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and good fiber content.

Why does it cost so much more to get so much less? This question aggravated me all week. I understand some of us need gluten free products — yet I cannot help but feel we are being duped by a food industry that creates a health problem and then offers “solutions” from which it profits enormously. Gluten-free sales reached more than $2.6 billion by the end of 2010 and are expected to exceed more than $5 billion by 2015. (Source: Packaged Facts, 2011).

On the other hand, I wonder if many of us go gluten-free thinking it’s healthier but choose “substitutes” that are not only more expensive but nutritionally inferior?

Two years ago I first heard the term “value added product.” I wasn’t familiar with this term so did a little research. “Value added” refers to any step in the production process that improves the product for the customer and results in a higher net worth.

I suspect the operative words are “production process,” which in my experience results not in added value for the customer, where value should be defined as enhancing health, but for the food industry, where value is defined as profit.

Those rice crackers I bought might be considered “value added”. They are simple grains of rice subjected to a series of steps involving water, heat, expensive machinery and sprayed on seasoning.

Chicken McNuggets would also be an example of a “value added product.” A few weeks ago, a report revealed the real content of a Chicken McNugget, renaming it “Chicken Little.” The Nuggets turn out to be no more than half chicken “meat” and the rest fat, cartilage, bone, blood vessels and nerves. While the real content of Chicken McNuggets may disgust some of us, there is nothing inherently wrong with using otherwise unusable parts of a chicken to create tasty food. People have always found ingenious ways to make the inedible edible: witness chit’lins (chitterlings) and gribenes.

Chit’lins are the intestines of a pig, stewed for several hours and sometimes fried into what some consider a delicious treat. Gribenes are a by-product of schmaltz making. Excess chicken skin is cut into small pieces and sautéed in a pan until the schmaltz (fat) is rendered. The “cracklings” are removed, and caramelized onions and seasonings added for a treat that in pre-low-fat diet days was well-loved by many Jews. Now that we know that fat, even animal fat, is not the cause of weight gain, diabetes and sickness in our American diet, who knows? These items may become popular once again. Coming soon to a summer near you: Gribenes and chit’lin stands!

What we do know is that when a “value added” product comes to us via the food industry, we can assume the way the product was turned into something that will “add value” for the industry probably decreases value for us. We can expect the raw food is subjected to heat and/or speedy, mechanized processes that result in undesirable changes in the food product (from the health standpoint), or cheap oils high in omega 6s are used, or sugar or undesirable chemicals are added.

A real value-added product is one made from scratch with the best, whole food ingredients. An example is “Fatoush,” a way that Middle Eastern cooks found to use up stale pita.

For a gluten free version, leave out the pita. Although delicious with it, it is substantial, satisfying and delicious without it. A few chickpeas thrown in will replace the protein and B vitamins of the wheat, some avocado or olives will add fat, and walnuts will add crunch. No designer gluten-free products needed, just real food!

FATOUSH
Fatoush means “crushed” or “broken” and refers to the Pita croutons that are a prominent feature of this salad.

Ingredients

  • Romaine, 1 “head”
  • Spinach, 1 quart
  • Radicchio, 1/2 “head”
  • Plum Tomato, 4 large
  • Cucumber, 1 large or 2 small
  • Green Onions, 1 bunch
  • Radishes, 5-6
  • Mint, 4-6 sprigs (1/4 cup chopped)
  • Garlic, 1-2 cloves crushed
  • Lebanese Pit,a 1 quart toasted pita strips
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/4 – 1/2 cup
  • Lemon, Juice of 1/2 – 1
  • Sumac, 1 TB
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Cut 2 Lebanese pitas into 2″ x 1/2″ strips and toast lightly or dry in oven. Set aside.
  2. Shred (slice thinly) the Romaine, spinach and radicchio. All greens should be in 2″ x 1/4″ strips.
  3. Deseed tomatoes and cucumbers. Petite dice (1/4″-1/2″ dice) tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes.
  4. Chop green onions and mint.
  5. Crush garlic.
  6. Toss the veggies, garlic and pita croutons together gently with the sumac.
  7. Toss again with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and salt to taste.
  8. Gluten-free: leave out pita and add chickpeas, avocado, olives and/or walnuts.

Tabbouleh (Middle Eastern Cracked Wheat Salad)

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For many, Tabbouleh is an acquired taste. A staffer convinced me at one point that Americans would be more likely to appreciate a less green Tabbouleh, so we added lots more cracked wheat. Now I prefer the more traditional version with lots of parsley and a sprinkling of cracked wheat, and that’s what we serve. It is a beautiful counterpoint to the many red and yellow salads that might accompany a meal.

Ingredients
(Makes about 4 cups)

  • Cracked wheat, medium (#2), 1/2 cup soaked, squeezed
  • Garlic, 1/2 clove, minced
  • Green onions, 2-3
  • Lemon, 1-2 lemons, juiced (to taste)
  • Parsley, 1-2 bunches, minced (8-12 oz.)
  • Sea salt, 1 tsp, rounded
  • Cumin, 2 tsp
  • Szeged hot paprika, pinch
  • Mint, ½ cup +, minced
  • Plum tomatoes, 2-3 petite diced
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup

Directions

  1. Prepare parsley. Wash by immersing in slightly warm water and agitating.  Lift from water, refill sink and repeat process. Drain parsley, then wrap in clean, dry towel to dry for at least 1/2 hour. I like to prepare the parsley several hours or even a day ahead.
  2. Soak the 1/2 cup of cracked wheat in warm water to cover until it softens (at least 20 min.)
  3. Squeeze cracked wheat dry and set aside.
  4. Mince parsley very fine. I find it easier to start by cutting off the lower stems so all are even, then cutting across the bunch starting from the stem end. If I roll the bunch as I work to tighten it, I can make pretty close cuts the first time through and don’t have to chop over it repeatedly, which mashes it. Place finely chopped parsley in a bowl.
  5. Finely chop mint and green onions. Add to the bowl.
  6. Mince garlic and deseed and petite dice the tomatoes. Add to bowl.
  7. Toss salad lightly with drained and squeezed cracked wheat, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and remaining seasonings.
  8. Taste and adjust seasonings.

*The salad should taste lemony – number of lemons varies with size of lemons and amount of juice.

Samosa Double Baked Potatoes

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Two cuisines have inspired my cooking, first with vegetarianism and now with veganism: Middle Eastern and Indian. I have much more experience with Middle Eastern food since I have not only visited there but have had many Middle Eastern friends who shared recipes with me, have cooked Middle Eastern style foods for many years for my own family and based my Cafe around Middle Eastern foods. Now that I’m cooking more in my own home again, though, I’m trying more Indian foods.

Both traditions have a long history of making foods that are vegetarian or vegan or at least easily converted. I like foods that are not imitations of something else but just . . . well, are what they are, and that happens to be vegetarian or vegan or at least so heavily laden with wonderful treatments of veggies that you aren’t likely to even notice the absence of meat or cheese.

So I’ve long known my philosophy for making vegetarian foods, but I’m in unfamiliar territory with vegan cooking. I’m still looking for good vegan cheese and cheese sauce recipes and good egg substitutes — but as with vegetarian cooking, I’m not sure that substitutes will finally be the right direction. I’ve wanted to find things I like that don’t try to imitate something else.

This week I had a brainstorm! I wanted to make stuffed potatoes — but every recipe I found included butter or cheese or a cheese substitute.  I often make a little dish of stewed potatoes for myself with just olive oil and tumeric, salt and pepper. I like the taste and texture of mashed potatoes made with the same ingredients, and I suddenly realized my little dishes of potatoes are somewhat similar to the filling of samosas.

I love samosas! I’m very fortunate to have a small Indian grocery store walking distance from my house, and I stop in whenever I get a chance, hoping they might have fresh samosas. The robust seasoning and substantiality of these fried dumplings make a completely satisfying little meal-on-the-run for me. If I take it home and put together a soup or salad to go with it, I suspect it is a respectable part of a nutritious meal. It occurred to me that the filling for this item doesn’t use any dairy products or eggs, just two of my favorite veggies, potatoes and peas.

So I thought, couldn’t I use a samosa filling in a potato skin? And I started searching for a samosa recipe. I found one at The Tiffin Box and set about to make it with some changes suited to my needs. The seasoning in this recipe is exactly what I was looking for — perfect samosa flavor. I am going to add to the recipe a sauce recipe I found on Pinterest, which I’ll include below, and a fruit salad for a delicious plate in the Cafe.

The great thing about this recipe is that it has the deliciousness and satisfaction of a samosa without the deep fat frying, and it is vegan without all kinds of odd substitutions to approximate something different.

Samosa Double Baked Potato Filling Ingredients
(for every 2 large potatoes)

  • Extra virgin olive oil, 2-3 TB
  • Cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp.
  • Spanish onion, 1 diced finely
  • Ginger, 1″ piece chopped finely
  • Jalapeno, 1-2 chopped finely (I used half of one, about 1 TB – I love the heat, but I cook for heat sensitive folks)
  • Tumeric, 1 tsp.
  • Cumin, 2 tsp.
  • Amchur (dried mango powder), 1/2 tsp. (I didn’t have this)
  • Garam masala, 1/2 tsp.
  • Peas, 1/2 cup fresh or frozen
  • Lemon, juice of 1/2
  • Salt, 1 tsp. – to taste
  • Cilantro, large handful chopped

Directions

  1. Wash, oil and bake the potatoes in a 400 degree oven until fork tender, one to one-and-a-half hours. Remove from oven and cool.
  2. Prepare all veggies and seasonings.
  3. Heat the oil in a saute pan, then add the cumin seeds. When seeds sizzle, add the onion, and fry until the onion is soft but not colored.
  4. Add the ginger, jalapeno, turmeric, ground cumin, amchur and garam masala. Fry together for a couple of minutes, then add the peas, turn off the heat and set aside.
  5. Cut peeled potatoes in half, or alternatively cut a “lid” off the whole potatoes.
  6. Scoop the interior of the potatoes into a bowl being careful not to break the shell of the potatoes.
  7. Break up the potato flesh slightly in the bowl. It should remain somewhat chunky — I like it a little more on the chunky side.
  8. Put the pan with the onions, seasonings and peas back on the heat and stir in the chunky potato flesh. Add lemon juice and salt. Stir all together while heating until well mixed.
  9. Refill the potato shells with the pea and potato mixture.
  10. Store until ready to reheat in the microwave or oven, or serve, garnished with chopped cilantro.

Samosa Sauce Ingredients

  • Cilantro, 1 bunch (about 1 cup , packed)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1 TB
  • Ginger, fresh, 1″ chunk
  • Garlic, 1 clove
  • Salt, to taste
  • Vinegar, 2-3 tsp.

Alternate Samosa Sauce Ingredients (if you like it hotter)

  • Cilantro, 2-1/2 cups
  • Mint, fresh, 1/2 cup
  • Spanish Onion, 1/4
  • Garlic, 6-8 cloves
  • Ginger, 1/4″ peeled
  • Jalapeno, 1 in chunks or to taste
  • Lemon juice, 2 TB
  • Cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp.
  • Water, 2-3 TB or as needed to make pesto consistency
  • Salt to taste

Directions for both sauces

  1. Pulse all but the liquid items in a food processor until evenly and finely chopped. Run for a second or two.
  2. Add liquid items and pulse one or two more times.

This is not necessarily a combination I would have planned, but I happened to be double-checking my Tabbouleh recipe the same day that I made these Samosa Double Baked Potatoes — so I enjoyed them together for dinner:

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Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas with Cauliflower

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Cauliflower is moving onto the list of “superfoods” these days, but it has always been a favorite part of dishes in the Middle East. I love this spicy chickpea dish with cauliflower. I picked up the recipe on the internet — I have forgotten where just now — and have used it many times with a couple of small changes, mostly related to procedure.

I served the chickpeas and cauliflower this time with a tumeric-tinted quinoa, seasoned with lots of chopped onion, salt and pepper. I also made a raw sweet potato and beet salad with a bit of chopped mint and an extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice dressing.

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Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas with Cauliflower
(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients

  • Chickpeas, dried, 1 lb.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, 2 TB
  • Spanish onion, 1 petite diced
  • Cumin, 2 tsp. ground
  • Coriander, 1 tsp. ground
  • Turmeric, 1 tsp. ground
  • Szeged hot paprika, 3/4 – 1 tsp.
  • Cinnamon, 3/4 tsp.
  • Ginger, 1 TB fresh minced
  • Garlic cloves, 2 minced
  • Celery, 1 lg. stalk diced
  • Cauliflower florets, 1 quart
  • Plum tomatoes, 8 petite diced or one 19 oz. can
  • Parsley leaves, 1/2 cup chopped
  • Cilantro leaves, 1 cup chopped
  • Lemon, juice of one + wedges for garnish
  • Salt, 1.5 tsp.

Directions

  1. Prepare chickpeas. I like to soak them the night before and in the morning drain them, put them into a pot with water to cover, bring to a boil and drain — then repeat that boiling and draining process two more times before I put them into the pot covered with water one last time for cooking. Cooking will take at least an hour, maybe two. Check periodically to see if more water is required.
  2. Add the extra virgin olive oil to a second pot. Petite dice the onions, and add them to the pot to saute until soft.
  3. Add the ginger, seasonings (except salt) and celery and saute.
  4. Add the petite diced tomatoes and simmer with the seasonings with the lid on the pot until the tomatoes give off their water.
  5. When there is plenty of moisture in the pot, add the cauliflower and steam briefly until fork tender. Turn off the spices and cauliflower and set aside until the chickpeas are ready.
  6. When the chickpeas are ready, drain them. You may want to put your colander over a bowl to catch the remaining cooking liquid in case it’s needed for the dish. I have never needed more liquid, but your preferences may vary.
  7. Put the drained chickpeas back into the pot in which they were cooked. Add the tomato and cauliflower with seasonings and most of the chopped cilantro and parsley.
  8. Gently fold tomato mixture and chopped greens through the chickpeas.
  9. Garnish with additional cilantro and parsley and lemon slices and serve.