Friday, August 7, 2009

J-Lo, Ray-Ray, and Chickpea Salad

The first full year of my career, I spent approximately 95% of my time researching Jennifer Lopez. I am not kidding. While other people were curing cancer, I was studying the star of Gigli. By age 22, I knew EVERYTHING about J-Lo, from her idol (Rita Moreno) to her high school (Holy Family) to the pronunciation of her first husband’s name (“Oh-HAN-ee NOH-ah”). In a roundabout way, the woman practically paid my rent.

In that time, I gained a tremendous respect for her. (Again, not kidding.) Whatever you think of Lopez’s movies, clothing line, perfumes, albums, dance shows, or proliferation of Diddy-esque romantic involvements, know this: that woman works her magnificent booty off. She’s been busting her hump since she was a kid, and occasionally, it results in bona fide wonderful things: Out of Sight, the video for “Get Right,” Trey Parker wearing her Grammy dress to the 2004 Oscars, etc.

Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize something: Rachael Ray is the J-Lo of cooking. No matter your opinion on Ray herself, you gotta respect how incredibly hard she works. AND you have to admit, whatever your foodie leanings, that she knocks some dishes out of the park. Seriously, Pasta Puttanesca is her Out of Sight. The only thing missing is George Clooney and that scene where she beats a bad guy with a police club.

If I had to choose a J-Lo venture to compare to Ray’s Chickpea Salad, it would probably be “Jenny From the Block.” Sure, it seems kind of basic, but it’s undeniably good. And eventually, you find yourself consuming it over and over again until your family/friends want to beat you with a police club.

About that recipe - unlike other bean salads, this one doesn’t need to marinate for a few hours before serving. It’s fine right out of the gate. It also makes a wang-dang office lunch, and involves no cooking whatsoever, which is nice when it’s 1,000,000° outside.

So, next time you’re tempted to dis Ray-Ray or J-Lo (or Brit-Brit or Hil-Clint any other famous woman with a dash in her nickname), stop. Think again. Because odds are, they’ve created something you actually really like.

P.S. RIP J-Hugh.

Rachael Ray’s Chickpea Salad
Makes 6 enormous side servings
From Rachael Ray.

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 small red onion finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
A few ribs celery and leafy tops, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or grated then grinded into a paste with salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons rosemary, finely chopped, a few sprigs
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, mix vinegar and olive oil. Whisk to combine. Add all other ingredients. Stir to coat. Salt and pepper to taste.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
TOTAL: 1443 calories, 50.5 g fat, $4.27
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 240.5 calories, 8.4 g fat, $0.71

(15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained: 1000 calories, 9.2 g fat, $1.60
1 small red onion: 32 calories, 0 g fat, $0.30
1 small red bell pepper: 19 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.96
A few ribs celery and leafy tops: 26 calories, 0.4 g fat, $0.50
1 clove garlic: 4 calories, 0 g fat, $0.04
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
2 tablespoons rosemary: 4 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.33
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar: negligible calories and fat, $0.16
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil: 358 calories, 40.5 g fat, $0.34
Salt and freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
TOTAL: 1443 calories, 50.5 g fat, $4.27
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 240.5 calories, 8.4 g fat, $0.71

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