Chickpea salad with cumin

Not even scared : Même pas peur

Chickpea salad with cumin

Have you ever wondered why the rooster is the national emblem of France ? The word Gallic comes from Gaul, the name of France before it was France – back when Vercingetorix was kicking some Roman ass. But the Latin word gallus also means rooster. In French cooking, we talk about gallinaceous birds, otherwise known as poultry. But the real reason ? For some French people, it has to do with singing.

You can find out more about the rooster as the symbol for France here, and as a Christian symbol, according to this famous source, the crowing of the rooster “at the dawning of each new morning made it a symbol of the daily victory of light over darkness and the triumph of good over evil.” But Parisian friends like to say that the rooster is our symbol because it’s the only bird that keeps singing, even when its feet are in the merde.

Chickpea salad with cumin


Last Friday, November 13th, I should have been singing. Local artist Marcello was holding one of his sing-a-long concert evenings, the Marcello Sound System, in a café in the 12th district. Marcello plays his guitar and leads the singing, and everyone in the café sings along with him, using the printed lyric books he brings along to every concert.

A few weeks ago, my man and I were invited to Marcello’s wedding, held at the town hall of the 20th district, just a block from our apartment. As we stepped out onto the parvis, or plaza, in front of the town hall, Marcello’s musician friends had gathered to join the crowd of fifty-some wedding-goers.

An incredible sound

The group was a motley crew of musicians with drums, saxophones, and a handsome singer whose voice sounded out of the megaphone he was holding to his mouth. He sang everything from Be-bop-A-Lula to the haunting music from Time of the Gypsies, Yugoslav director Emir Kusturica’s best movie.

As our group threatened to overshadow other couples leaving the town hall after their own weddings – which are programmed about every half-hour on Saturdays – something incredible happened. Another wedding party had brought its own musicians, and suddenly the jangling and thudding of what looked like enormous tambourines began resonating throughout the plaza.

Chickpea salad with cumin

Men in long white djellabas and fez hats blasted long Moroccan trumpets towards the sky. “Our” musicians, still playing their tzigane, or gypsy music, approached the others, slowly at first. And then everyone began playing in earnest, not competing, but rather the sounds of both groups intermingling harmoniously, almost as if they’d planned to play together. For a short time, there was a beautiful melding of cultures right in front of our town hall. And during that brief moment, I actually felt that all was well in the world.

Tossed but not sunk

Chickpea salad with cumin

Right now, as the French rooster has its feet deeply planted in merde, and as I hear police sirens all day long, I’ve been feeling enormous sadness, rage, confusion, and yes, some fear. On television Saturday night, politicians repeated the message “Nous ne reculons pas devant la peur” or “We will not back down in the face of fear.” The key word, repeated many times, was détermination.

During these difficult days, the other words I’m seeing a lot are Fluctuat nec mergitur – “tossed but not sunk” – the motto of Paris since 1358, written on the Paris coat of arms. Even though it will not be smooth sailing, like Marcello on his guitar-boat below, we will stay afloat. And like Marcello and the Gallic rooster both, we will keep singing.

Chickpea salad with cumin

My thoughts are with the families and friends of those people who perished in the November 13th terrorist attacks.

Chickpea salad with cumin

Chickpea salad with cumin

This is one of Marcello’s favorite recipes, and mine too, because it’s so incredibly easy to make. The salad is wonderful on its own, or sometimes I drop some of it onto a green salad for some protein and extra oomph.

ingredients :
- 1 15-ounce can (425g) cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), or about 2 cups
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and pressed or very finely minced
- 4 teaspoons Sherry or red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus a bit more for drizzling over the chickpeas
- a twist of the pepper mill
- a bit of fresh lemon juice, to taste, for drizzling
- a small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

how to make it :
1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas well. Shake them dry in the colander.
2. Toast the ground cumin : in a small but heavy saucepan, or cast-iron skillet, heat the cumin to medium (no oil needed, but stay close !). As the cumin toasts, shake the pan and toss the spice around. After about 3-4 minutes, the toasted cumin odor will spread throughout your home. Scrape all the cumin into a small bowl to cool.
3. Now combine in a medium bowl the chickpeas, onion, and garlic. Toss these ingredients together.
4. In the small bowl with the cumin, combine the vinegar and salt. Stir quickly with a fork, and slowly add the olive oil, continuing to stir quickly to form an emulsion. (You can also do this with a tiny whisk.)
5. Pour the vinaigrette over the chickpeas, add pepper, a bit of lemon juice, and the chopped cilantro, and toss well to combine.This salad is best left refrigerated for an hour or two before eating it, but if you’re like me and can’t wait, that’s okay too !

makes 3-4 servings

Tags : Paris , chickpeas , cumin , Marcello Sound System , French rooster


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Mitch 20 novembre 2015

Cool boat ! I want one.

Allison Zinder 20 novembre 2015

Marcello is from Marseille — he probably got it there !

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