I invited a few ladies over for lunch and then proceeded to rack my brain for a week and a half on what to cook, until I came across this recipe for a chickpea salad, which then provided the catalyst for the rest of our Mediterranean lunch with lamb-raisin-pine-nut pies.

Chickpea Salad with Toasted Cumin Seeds

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
3/4 cup Italian parsley, leaves only
Small handful fresh mint leaves
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3/4 pound English cucumber
sea salt

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet (cast iron is nice) over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and crushed red pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about one minute or until the seeds are toasted. The cumin will turn slightly darker in color, and smell toasty.

Turn the heat to medium low and add the garlic. Cook, stirringly frequently, for about three minutes or until the garlic is turning golden. Do not let it scorch or turn brown.

Add the drained chickpeas and the chopped tomatoes and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chickpeas are warmed through and are shiny with oil. Turn off the heat.

Strip any remaining stems away from the Italian parsley. Finely mince the parsley and the mint and toss this with the chickpeas. Stir the lemon juice and zest into the chickpeas.

Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthwise. Scrape out (and discard) the seeds with the tip of a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon. Dice the cucumber into small, 1/2-inch square cubes. Toss the cucumber with the chickpeas. Taste for salt. If necessary, add flaky sea salt to taste.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before eating. This salad is best after it has had a chance to sit overnight in the fridge, letting its spices and juices soak together into more than the sum of its parts. Serve slightly warm or room temperature. Really good at any temperature, actually.

Lamb Pies with Raisins and Pine Nuts

  • 1lb  ground lamb
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 14 1/2-ounce cans diced peeled tomatoes, drained
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 17 1/4-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten to blend

Sauté lamb in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking up meat with fork, about 7 minutes. Transfer lamb to plate using a slotted spoon. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté until; tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Return lamb to skillet. Add tomatoes, raisins and allspice and simmer until juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in pine nuts and mint. Season with salt and pepper. Cool.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out 1 puff pastry sheet on floured work surface to 14-inch square. Cut into four 7 inch squares. Repeat with second puff pastry sheet. Beginning at 1 corner of each pastry square , place 1/8 of lamb mixture on the half of square, forming triangle. Brush pastry edges with egg. Fold pastry over filling, forming triangle. Press edges to seal. Brush pastries with egg. Place pies on 2 ungreased baking sheets. Bake until pies are puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

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