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Stir-Fried Chickpeas and Asparagus with Brown Rice and Lemon Tahini Dressing


Tonight we went to a barbecue. It was supposed to be a bocce barbecue, but the wind picked up and by the time we finished our roast beef, salmon, potatoes, salad, and Thai prawns in spicy coconut milk with chilies and bits of tomato, onion and cilantro and sourdough bread to mop up the broth, we wussed out and packed it all inside to drink wine around the table and listen to 80s music over coconut-lemon bars and brownies.

Soon enough John Cusack came up in conversation. At which point it was revealed that V, whom I must make a point of getting to know better – much better – perhaps she’s in the market for a new best friend? – lived in the Chelsea Hotel in New York in the 80s and actually hung out with John and his sister. (What a bonus wedding present that would be, hey? Joan Cusack for a sister in law? Could the package really get any better?)

But wait, it gets better. She went to see Pretty in Pink with him. He called her and asked her to go, even. John Cusack called and invited her to a movie. It was the advance screening, at which they showed an alternate ending in which Andie (Molly Ringwald) ends up with Duckie (Jon Cryer) instead. It was the one they both voted for, but I guess the consensus was that she live happily ever after in cinematic history with Blane (Andrew McCarthy). So I’m sitting there eating brownies with someone who went to see Pretty in Pink with John Cusack, for real and true. I touched her as much as I could subtly get away with sitting casually next to her at the table. I’m down to two degrees of separation now. It’s a good thing I have size 11 feet – they do come in handy when I need that extra reach.

(In case you’re wondering the same thing I was, I did ask why she didn’t end up with him, and she said it was because she already had a boyfriend; one of the Kids in the Hall.)

So this all came up about three hours ago, and since then I’ve had a bit of fuzzy feedback in my brain that sort of flushes out all other information, both coming and going. So I’m afraid I can’t really relay much in the way of May long weekend goings-on thus far. I just need to have some time to settle down with it, to ponder how a girl not much older than I ended up leaving Calgary for New York and doing laundry with Iggy Pop and his wife in the laundry room of the Chelsea, going to see Pretty in Pink with John Cusack, and then wound up at a patio table with me, laughing at W when he came out of the house pantsless to ask one of us to wipe his bum. Sometimes I’m just so blown away by the possibility of it all.

I will, however, tell you about a chick pea-asparagus-brown rice dish I made last week and again yesterday afternoon, and which I will undoubtedly make again. I had a big bunch of asparagus, and I have to say I’m a little bit done with asparagus – it was completely uninspiring and going south quickly in the fridge while I summed up the gumption to do something with it. So I moseyed on over to 101 Cookbooks and typed in “asparagus” – it’s like the grown-up version of shaking the magic 8 ball – always interesting to see what pops up. Ten Minute Tasty Asparagus and Brown Rice. It lived up to its name, and then some.

I did streamline it a little, and skilleted everything separately in order to really brown and caramelize it all. Yum. I can tell this is going to make it into my regular rotation. (If I have one?) I’d definitely make a batch for John, if he ever asked me to.

Stir-Fried Chickpeas and Asparagus with Brown Rice and Lemon Tahini Dressing

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May 17, 2009

adapted from 101 Cookbooks

  • Makes: Serves 4.


a drizzle of canola or olive oil

1 19 oz. (540 mL) can chickpeas, drained well

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 onion, chopped

1/2 bunch asparagus, cut into 1" pieces

2-3 cups precooked brown rice (cold rice fries up better, with separate grains instead of turning pasty)

1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted

Tahini Dressing

1/4 cup tahini

juice of 1 lemon (or 2-3 tablespoons)

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. hot water

1 garlic clove, finely crushed

pinch salt


1To make the dressing, shake everything up in a jar. Depending on how much you like, you may have enough for a second batch of chickpeas with asparagus.

2Heat a generous drizzle of oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat; add the chick peas and cook for a few minutes, until they start turning golden. They will sputter and pop as they cook. Add the garlic and a bit of salt and cook until they are nicely golden and getting crispy. Transfer to a shallow bowl.

3Add the onions to the pan, along with a little more oil if you need it. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until golden. Add the asparagus to the pan and cook for a minute or two, putting the lid on the pan if it helps, just to allow the asparagus to brighten and soften a bit. Dump that into the bowl with the chickpeas.

4Add another slick of oil to the skillet and cook the rice for a few minutes, just to warm it through and brown it a bit as well. Add the chickpeas, onions and asparagus back to the pan and toss it around to warm it all through, then divvy it among bowls and sprinkle with almonds. Drizzle with a bit of the tahini dressing, and pass more at the table.


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27 comments on “Stir-Fried Chickpeas and Asparagus with Brown Rice and Lemon Tahini Dressing

  1. robyn
    May 17, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    She’s a big liar. No way did she know all those people, and no way did she pal around with John. She’s trying to get into your good books for a free copy of Grazing.

  2. Sarah
    May 17, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Mmh, that looks delicious Julie. I love chickpeas and will definitly give this recipe a try. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Nishta
    May 18, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Always looking for something else to do with my beloved chickpeas AND you have given me the “watch High Fidelity” craving!

  4. KC
    May 18, 2009 at 8:09 am

    I also think Andie should have ended up with Duckie…Blaine was so…awkward…unlike Jake in 16 Candles…

  5. Cheryl
    May 18, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Was I the only one who actually thought both Blaine and Ducky should have ended up with each other? Seriously, I totally thought they were gay.

    PS Julie, I discovered over the weekend that my feet are now 11s too. Sigh…

  6. Jen
    May 18, 2009 at 10:37 am

    I simply adore this post, star struck story, recipe and all. BTW, love the Duckman.

  7. Fiona
    May 18, 2009 at 11:23 am

    That recipe sounds delicious.

    I’m always fascinated by how people move around the earth and end up in Calgary. Especially if they bump into a Kid and John Cusack along the way.

    Thirty Helens agree… that’s a great story!

  8. Manon from Ontario
    May 18, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Hmm looks good.
    I wonder if you could also serve it cold with some vinagre in the dressing?

    Made you no knead bread today, WINNER, everyone loved it, got to tell you that I served it with maple butter, YUM! Also we had your pork loin Maple Apple with roasted potatoes, YUM, man Julie, your recipes rock 🙂

    My family loves me now!

    Great Monday to you.


  9. Peter
    May 18, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Hi Julie, I’ve arrived here courtesy of Aimee’s blog and it’s a pleasure to meet you!

    I do catch your show with Ned here in TO and the two of you work well in the kitchen.


  10. Marta
    May 18, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    I just read your interview in Aimee’s blog, I didn’t realize you were also in Calgary!
    These chickpeas looks like heaven, I’m always looking for new ways to cook these babies since I adore them.
    Oh, I love your banner 🙂

  11. the other allison
    May 18, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Told you you should have named your dog Cusack. Then maybe if you rubbed him everyday he would grant you a wish!
    Mallow cookies – gone
    Compote – gone
    I love being your neighbor.

  12. Kathryn
    May 18, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    done with asparagus???????? I will not be done with asparagus until the local farmers tell me that I am!

  13. JulieVR
    May 18, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Yes yes I know, you’re right! Just temporarily done… too much of a good thing!

  14. robyn
    May 18, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    THIRTY HELENS AGREE! oh Fiona, you made my day!

  15. Sophie
    May 19, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Hello Julie,

    I think this lovely dinner looks wonderful: it is healthy & delicious too!

  16. Judy
    May 19, 2009 at 6:26 am

    This recipe is one of the best things I have ever eaten! Thank you.

  17. Natalie
    May 19, 2009 at 7:34 am

    But I thought all the Kids in the Hall were gay? ??

  18. Becky and the Beanstock
    May 19, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Now THAT is my kind of barbecue. Bocce is great but wine and lemon bars are oh so much better! You have the most amazing stories. (Plus, I must admit, that I’m highly encouraged by the notion that there CAN still be a social life post-kids).

  19. Sherry
    May 19, 2009 at 9:12 am

    I mentioned it awhile back – John Cusack is filming some 80s themed movie in Fernie BC. You’re closer to him than you think, a quick 3.5 hour drive. So thankful you’re still blogging.

  20. Lauren
    May 19, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    i love your website… and i love love love when you can add nutrition information to your recipes, such as you did for the roasted red pepper and tomato soup. i made that btw, delish. do you by chance have nutrition information for this recipe? it looks SO good… and i even have tahini!

  21. marce
    May 20, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Made this for dinner last night and had it again for lunch today. It was as delicious as you said it would be and I was thrilled that it was also full of fibre and good nutritiousy type things. Thanks for the recipe!

  22. Salamander
    July 14, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I just made this dish last night and it was PHENOMENAL! It’s a perfect meal (although I served it with miso-glazed veg and tofu skewers), that is wonderful as leftovers as well! I’m so excited to have it for lunch today.

    Though I wonder, what to do with the rest of the lemon-tahini dressing? I ended up thinning it out a bit with some more water and lemon juice.

    (PS – I first saw a “Breakfast Bean Cookie” demo at the Vancouver Wellness Show, and bought both your books afterwards. Haven’t looked back and LOVE all the cookie recipes you’ve got going. Haven’t heard a complaint yet, but many raves from my coworkers!)

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