The Zagunis Zest: Chickpeas With Chard And Pan-Roasted Tomatoes

Hello to all of my fellow amateur chefs out there! This is my first contribution to the Words to Sweat by blog, so I would like to introduce myself.

My name is Mariel Zagunis. I am a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the sport of fencing who is currently training full time towards making my third Olympic team next summer for the London 2012 Games.

There is a lot more to me, however, than just slicing and dicing people with my sabre. I also love to slice and dice in the kitchen! If you’re like me (apart from the whole fencing thing), and enjoy cooking, but also have to balance work, exercise, travel, sleep, and the like, then you know how difficult it can be to get a complete and tasty meal on the table.

Just because you’re living a fast life, however, doesn’t mean you have to resort to fast food. Although my schedule can get pretty full, I always try to find time to cook. Spending time in the kitchen can be relaxing and rewarding, especially when the end result is enjoying tasty food prepared by your own two hands.

In my monthly feature, I will be sharing with you readers some of my favorite (and sometimes experimental!) recipes with you that are quick, easy, healthy, and tasty- perfect for life on the go.

Squeeze In Ingredient Prep Time

One of the best pieces of advice that I can give you if you are super busy is to plan ahead when it comes to grocery shopping. At the beginning of the week, have a list of the meals you want to make and stock up with all of the ingredients. This way you will only have to make one trip to the store, which will end up saving a lot of time.

There are some shopping short cuts you can take as well, like buying pre-minced garlic or pre-made sauces such as pesto (but fresh ingredients and homemade anything always tastes better in my opinion!) Also, if you find yourself with even as little as ten minutes of downtime in between activities you can quickly chop up some vegetables or do other prep work so everything will be ready and waiting when it comes time to start cooking the meal.

For example, in the evening after the gym, but before showering and dinner time; or during a free Sunday afternoon you can get a LOT of prep work done! If you have kids, get them involved in the kitchen too! There are plenty of safe and simple tasks with which they can help: washing produce, opening cans, grabbing spices and ingredients when needed, stirring/mixing, peeling vegetables (this was always my assignment as a kid!). And what could be better than sitting down as a family to a home cooked meal to which that everyone contributed to?

Mariel’s April Recipe

Chickpeas & Chard Over Rice

All that being said and without further adieu, here is a dish that I hope you try this month. It is called “Chickpeas with Chard and Pan-roasted Tomatoes”.

I actually made this for dinner last Saturday and was literally in awe of how quick and easy it was. (But as you’ll see in the pictures, I omitted the tomatoes–whole cooked tomatoes are not my fav!) There are very few ingredients, but the combination of rich flavors means this dish doesn’t need much.

You can serve it over brown rice or whole wheat couscous. It is so fast from start to finish that there’s time to cook some chicken in the pan with the left over liquid and have everything done in less than 45 minutes.

Chickpeas with Chard and Pan-roasted Tomatoes


2 T olive oil
4 small plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 small bunch swiss chard, thick stems and ribs removed and leaves torn (about 8 cups)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed
2 T fresh lemon juice
Chicken thighs or breasts (optional)

Cooking Directions

  • Start cooking the rice or couscous according to package directions.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Ad the tomatoes, cut side down, and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until browned and starting to soften, 3-5 minutes; turn and cook for one minute more. Transfer to a plate.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add the chard, garlic, 2 tablespoons water, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper to the skillet. Cook, tossing, until the chard wilts.
  • Return the tomatoes to the skillet, add the chickpeas and lemon juice, and toss until heated through, 2-4 minutes.
  • If cooking chicken, place in the pan and cook until done.
  • Serve over the rice or couscous.

2 thoughts on “The Zagunis Zest: Chickpeas With Chard And Pan-Roasted Tomatoes”

  1. Hey cutie!! What a neat idea!! Just want you to know how proud of you I am and watch with pride when I see you on the strip!! Good luck with everything and this cooking deal is SO coo!
    Hugs to you and your Mom!!

  2. Finally! A fellow fencer who loves the kitchen!!! I do chef assisting with a school here in Atlanta and we get to assists chefs trained from all over the world. And I just bought some chickpeas this week….think I’m going to try this recipe…looks delish 🙂


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