Thursday, July 30, 2015

Nick Pandit's Apple Chickpea Salad in Cilantro Mint Lime Pesto...

Nick and I met over a year ago when we were both in a busy checkout line at a local grocery store.  During the wait, a conversation ensued and we exchanged business cards. Although, he is an educator and speaker and has worked at organizations such as IBM, Ford, the Canadian nuclear industry and several Ontario Community Colleges he is also passionate about the culinary arts. In fact, he told me that he has over 90 cookbooks in his personal library.  

Nick Pandit, Richmond Hill, ON
Photo Credit: Helen Feng (

A self-taught “foodie” he has been creating recipes and experimenting in the kitchen for over 40 years. As he explained to me, a turning point in his youth was the beautifully crafted short story by Truman Capote, “A Christmas Memory.” The story reveals the power of the culinary arts to create a family-centred tradition. In that story, two distant relatives come together to celebrate the Yuletide Season where they do things for - and with - each other. Thus, to this day, that piece of writing compels him to annually bake about 25 cakes, and then give them away as Christmas gifts. Often these cakes are laced with rum, brandy or amaretto and sometimes left "plain" for those who do not consume alcohol. 

Having been a 35mm photographer at weddings and for restaurants/bakeries in the 1980s and 1990s, Nick is migrating these days to the DSLR format. The blending of the culinary arts and the visual media has always held an appeal for him. Hence, it was quite natural when he provided me with his intriguing list of Top 10 “foodie” films for this guest post

1. Mostly Martha (2001)
2. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
3. Big Night (1996)
4. Tampopo (1985)
5. Babette’s Feast (1987)
6. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
7. Chef (2014)
8. Waitress (2007)
9. Spinning Plates (2012)-- Susan says, "I have yet to see this one-- now on my to-watch list!"
10. Chocolat (2000)

Just recently, Nick facilitated a workshop for the Toronto District School Board where the attendees were students from the Food Processing & Certification Program. He has sent his students my way for some food industry guidance and coaching, which has been superbly rewarding. As part of the graduation ceremonies, a potluck lunch was organized and the following recipe was his contribution-- an inspiration from the many herbs and vegetables grown in his own garden! Subsequently, Nick forwarded that recipe to me so that I would try it out with my own family. The results were super-tastic and this recipe is a definite “keeper!”

Apple Chickpea Salad in Cilantro Mint Lime Pesto
Makes 6-8 servings

3 cups fresh cilantro leaves including stalks, loosely packed (these
 have a lot of flavour when making the pesto) 
1 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/2 cup raw, lightly toasted cashews
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt (to taste)
1 to 3 jalapeño peppers (to taste)
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese (optional)
3 green onions (white and green parts), roughly chopped
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 can (796 mL) chickpeas, rinsed and well drained (no excess water)
2 medium size Granny Smith apples, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup small sized sweet red, black or green grapes (seedless)
1/2 cup sweet coloured pepper, cut into 1/4 inch squares
1/2 cup green pepper, cut into 1/4 inch squares 

NOTE: If you are not using Asiago cheese, substituting with another 1/2 cup cashews is a great option. Adjust salt level according to taste.

Place the cilantro, mint leaves, green onions, lime juice, cashews, olive oil, salt, hot pepper(s), garlic and grated cheese (if using) into the bowl of a food processor - or use an immersion blender - and pulse until mixture is combined and smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add more olive oil and lime juice in equal proportions; if too thin, add more cashews.

Makes two cups pesto; one for the salad, refrigerate the other cup and use within a few days, or place into a sealed container and freeze up to three months. 
It is such a versatile sauce you could use it as a condiment-- serve it like a Salsa Verde over steak or pork chops, a dip with crackers or toasted pita bread, or a spread on a sandwich.

Add chickpeas, apples, peppers and grapes into a large bowl. Pour one cup of pesto onto the ingredients and gently toss – making sure not to crush or bruise the grapes or apples. Allow salad mixture to marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving. 

Susan says, " What a beauty! The combination of flavours and textures were out of this world. 
The burst of juicy grapes is a surprising element amongst the crunchy textures."

Nick's crunchy salad was a complementary side served along grilled pork chops, creamy orzo, sautéed vegetables and corn for dinner. My son Sébastien loved it!

This makes a satisfying healthy meal in itself, a nice side salad or packed for lunch the next day. Give it a try as a fabulous alternative to yet another lacklustre sandwich! For another spin on chickpea salad, try it Mediterranean-style. Thank you Nick for adding a new and delicious flavour twist to my family's chickpea salad repertoire with your garden-inspired ingredients and luscious pesto! It goes to show, you just never know who you end up talking to at the grocery store and what kind of friendships can ensue... and this one, is a keeper! :)

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