I suspect that one reason Charlotte was ranked number two, rather than number one, in the recent "Manliest City" survey is because we have two Trader Joe's grocery stores. Nashville, which took the top honors, only has one. Someone had to pay the price, and if it means I get to have a Trader Joe's just a few miles away, it's OK by me.
Trader Joe's, if you're not familiar, is a privately owned, groovy kind of grocery store, chockfull of organic produce, fresh-made salads, imported cheeses and various oddities (chocolate-covered, salted edamame, anyone?) that make it a destination, rather than an errand. ( They also have a large selection of very fairly priced wines, but I'm on the abstinence plan until Easter.)
Among the mouth-watering, wallet-opening selection of prepared foods, Joe offers "balela," a chickpea salad, which, in addition to being both unusual and flavorful, is also a lot of fun to say. I'm adding it to my list of favorite words, along with "serendipity" (see my February 22 blog entry) and "malaka" (a handy Greek word I won't define here because my kids may read this).
Balela, balela, balela. There. I'm already smiling.
Oddly, balela is only available seasonally, which means I haven't been able to get my fix for a couple of months. Last night, I made my own attempt to duplicate it, and three, no, make that four, servings later, I've got to say it's pretty good -- even if it does nothing to improve our fair city's "manly" rating.
Balela (Chickpea Salad)
2 cans of chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped mint
1 roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced fine
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
generous squeeze of lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
generous grinding of black pepper
Gently stir together chickpeas, parsley, mint, tomato and red onion. In a separate bowl, stir together remaining ingredients and pour over chickpeas. Stir gently and refrigerate. If I can restrain myself, it will last 4-5 days in the fridge.