I did my best to sneak off to Japan for two weeks without you noticing, and let me start by saying, it is still very much winter there. Rain, sleet, snow, and morning mist all made commendable appearances. One of the first things I did upon arrival in Tokyo was invest in a serious umbrella. It seems no one in Tokyo shelters themselves from the elements with less than a four-foot span. My pocket umbrella was laughable. Needless to say, I can't wait to share some of the highlights and photos with you. The bad news is that it might take me a week or so to organize the photos (and links) of the places we visited. In the meantime, I thought I'd share a simple chickpea salad. This was the first thing I cooked when I got home. A chickpea salad might seem an odd way to get things going in the kitchen again, but a day before we left San Francisco I cooked up a big pot of chickpeas. We didn't put a dent in them, and I tossed them in the freezer before we walked out the door. I don't normally freeze beans, but was happy to see them when I got home, and they held up beautifully. After a quick trip to the farmers market I pan-fried the chickpeas with some baby leeks and a bit of garlic. I used a creamy dressing made with plain yogurt and curry powder, and finished off the salad with plenty of chopped cilantro and chopped red onion. It's a substantial salad, flecked with plenty of color, and I love the way nuttiness of the chickpeas play off the tangy curry-spiked dressing.
You can add all sorts of things to this salad depending on the season - sliced green beans, asparagus, or broccoli florets (all blanched) might be good choices. Or simply add a bit of sauteed spinach. I almost opted out of the curry approach at the last minute, seduced by some vibrant broccoli I picked up along with the leeks at the market. I was thinking that a lemony-broccoli pesto would be a great dressing in place of the curried yogurt. Or how about a version of this salad using Thai curry paste instead of Indian curry powder? In this scenario I might skim some of the coconut cream off the top of a can of coconut milk and use that in place of the yogurt - again thinning it with warm water, coconut water, or broth. If I'm going to make this an entire one-pan meal I might through in some tofu or black lentils for that little extra boost of protein.
Pan-fried Chickpea Salad Recipe
If you are pinched for time, you can certainly skip the browning of the chickpeas - just skip adding any leeks altogether and add the chopped garlic and the lemon zest to the yogurt dressing. The only ingredient I would add to this version the next time around would be a handful of toasted, slivered almonds. Just a hint of sweetness, toasty nut flavor, and lots of crunch. You can use canned chickpeas, but chickpeas cooked from dried beans are infinitely better tasting, and the texture much better.
1 tablespoon clarified butter, olive oil, or coconut oil
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), pat them completely dry with clean dish towel
1 cup of chopped leeks
1 medium clove of garlic, minced
zest of one lemon
1/3 cup plain yogurt (I typically use low-fat Greek)
1 1/2 teaspoons Indian-style curry powder (or to taste)
scant 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 or 2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup of loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup red onion or red spring onions, chopped
Heat the cooking oil in a large skillet and add the chickpeas. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they start getting a bit golden in color. Stir in the leeks and cook until the chickpeas are more golden and the leeks have browned a bit as well, roughly 7 - 10 minutes total. At the last minute stir in the garlic and the lemon zest. Remove from heat, and set aside.
While the chickpeas cool (I like to serve this salad at room temperature), make the yogurt dressing by combining the yogurt, curry powder, and salt in a small bowl. If you need to thin it out a bit, particularly if you are using Greek yogurt, whisk in warm water a tablespoon at a time. Taste, adjust, and set aside.
When you are ready to serve the salad, toss the chickpea mixture with most of the cilantro and most of the chopped red onion. Add about 1/2 of the yogurt dressing and toss again. If you like more dressing, keep adding until you are pleased. Serve on a platter sprinkled with the remaining onions and cilantro.
Serves 4 as a side.