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A catered lunch is often a pretty bleak affair, with soggy sandwich towers and hockey puck cookies.
So when I notice the table in the corner of my office is set with disposable tin trays and plastic serving spoons, I’m decidedly more skeptical than excited.
Sure, a free meal is a free meal, and I have no business snubbing one of those, but I have been known to subsist on trail mix from the office cabinet instead of a third-party-supplied lunch when the latter looks particularly sad.
CUT to a few weeks ago, when I commandeered a bowl of catered carrot chickpea salad so completely at my place of employment that our office manager asked if I wanted to bring the (very negligible, because I’d eaten all of it) leftovers home with me.
Where lunch was delivered from that day — and what else was even offered—are facts that remain a mystery to me, despite my fervent research. All I know for certain is that after creeping over to the spread of tin-foil-covered serving bowls and tentatively pulling a back a corner, expecting the mystery meat worst, I was met instead with a bright, beautiful side of shredded carrot, chickpeas, couscous, and feta. Simple but surprising at the same time, the salad won me hard; I’m not 100% certain that I refused to share, but if someone told me that was true, I’d believe them.
The recipe that follows is my best attempt at recreating that salad, borne from a place of acceptance that I will likely never have the real thing again. My only hope is that on some lunch-catered day in the future, The Powers That Be will repeat a previous order. Now I sprint to the lunch table every time, just to check.
Serves 4 as a side
1/2 cup dry Israeli couscous
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup shredded carrots
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
A few serious turns of fresh ground pepper
Photos by James Ransom