My first trip to the grocery store postvacation was a blur of kale bunches and zucchini — and tubs of coffee. After two weeks of jamón and patatas piled high into thick, eggy slabs of tortilla in Spain, I needed to restock our fridge with everything green.
A week of mostly healthy eating was followed by a Saturday filled with pitchers of beer and pizza in the name of cheering on the Gators. So I was craving a salad.
I turned to a fairly new cookbook on my shelf for inspiration. Eating in the Middle, billed as a “mostly wholesome cookbook,” offers a mix of lightened-up recipes that, as promised, are flavorful and satisfying. Mostly wholesome is precisely how I prefer to eat.
I landed on a recipe for a chopped salad that intrigued me for its use of tahini and chickpeas. On top of chopped romaine, tomatoes and cucumber, tahini makes for a rich dressing that ties the fresh vegetables together with the warm chickpeas coated in cinnamon, cumin and cardamom.
I often fold chickpeas into a quick salad for lunch and let a simple dressing flavor the whole thing. From now on, I’m taking the extra step to season and crisp them up in a pan.
This recipe is fairly quick to put together for a weekend lunch (and it yielded generous leftovers). It’s also forgiving. I forgot to grab tarragon at the store, so I used parsley instead for the dressing. I did remember to pick up grape tomatoes, but the only small tomatoes available when I went shopping looked pale. Instead, I used brown-green Kumato tomatoes that were already ripe and juicy on my counter at home. In the spice mix for the chickpeas, I added smoked paprika — a habit from my Spain vacation I didn’t want to take a break from.
Chopped Salad with Spiced Chickpeas and Tarragon-Tahini Dressing
Raw red onion can be a bit pungent for some people. To soften it a bit, soak the sliced onion in a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes and then drain before adding the slices to the salad. The onion will have less bite.
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
Pinch of salt
For the spiced chickpeas:
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons olive oil
For the salad:
2 romaine lettuce hearts, chopped (about 6 cups)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 1 ¼ cups)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
⅓ cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
½ cup packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about ¾ cup)
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of water. Whisk in the garlic, tarragon and salt. Set aside.
Make the spiced chickpeas: In a small bowl, combine the cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, cumin, cayenne and salt.
Pat the chickpeas dry with paper towels. Put them in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Seal the bag and shake to coat the chickpeas with the oil. Add the spice mixture, reseal the bag and shake to coat the chickpeas with the spices.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas and saute, shaking the pan occasionally, until they are browned and crispy, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Make the salad: In a large bowl, toss together the romaine, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, onion and parsley.
To serve, divide the salad among 4 serving bowls. Top each with a quarter of the feta cheese, a quarter of the chickpeas and 2 tablespoons of the dressing.
Recipe from Eating in the Middle by Andie Mitchell.