For the past several months, I have been happily imbibing the intoxicating grace and simplicity of this very chickpea salad at a sustained, near-daily pace. The situation is becoming so serious, in fact, that when my eye doctor routinely inquired during a recent visit as to if and how often I smoke (never) and consume alcohol (when there’s something worth celebrating, even if that something is just the end of a day), part of me felt compelled to admit that I oftentimes find happiness at the bottom of a can of garbanzo beans.
To be honest, I was afraid she wouldn’t understand. The trouble is that no one seems to understand the spirited qualities of these powerhouse legumes. My enthusiastic attempts at describing their gloriousness in this salad have largely fallen flat. And I’m not surprised, really. Grocery stores tend to stack them in back shelves, often in boring, towering configurations unbecoming the ingenious choreography they enable even in the company of the most rustic ingredients (when will they make it to those spotlighted endcaps?, I ask!). Most dishes, it seems, treat chickpeas as a meaty embellishment, a non-essential albeit pleasant inclusion. Even chickpeas’ starring role in hummus becomes disguised with the whirring of a food processor. Such injustice is not present in this salad, and that may be what I like about it most.
I simply cannot guarantee that words, or even pictures, will ever adequately describe the richly nutty, luxuriously creamy, and intensely versatile notes of a salad that requires less time to prepare than you might spend tying your shoes.
I’ve shook and stirred and tugged at the heartstrings of family and friends, hoping to convey some degree of persuasion by way of an impassioned speech containing elements reminiscent of the fervor of heated political debates.
When I’ve regaled my captive listeners with a description of garbanzo beans mixed with a judicious pour of olive oil and grating of parmesan cheese, I’ve been met with feigned enthusiasm and unconscious-but-obvious-on-their-faces skepticism. So now I’ve taken to a different strategy: chasing my house guests with spoons full of the stuff, imploring them to take just one indulgent bite in a final attempt to recruit them to my side. And let me tell you, it is a mighty spoonful of persuasion indeed.
Because I am unable to chase you with a spoon – as disappointing as that may be for you – perhaps you’ll take my word for it, and Molly‘s. The recipe is hers, after all, by way of her husband’s culinary genius. And if you won’t take my word for it, then you most certainly should trust this dynamic duo.
What’s so great about this chickpea salad is its versatility. A garbanzo bean’s humility surely peaks in its hospitality toward other ingredients – taking on all other flavors and complimenting each with a gracious subtlety. Care to add some garlic? Go for it. Hot sauce? You bet. Cilantro, parsley, any herb under the sun? Be my guest.
And after you find your concoction, invite your friends and family to be your guest and chase them with a spoon until they believe in you and your perfect little chickpea salad.
From: Molly Wizenberg
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tsp. olive oil
A pinch of salt
¼ cup loosely packed shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and stir gently to mix. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve immediately, or chill, covered, until serving.
**I encourage you to take Molly’s advice to enjoy this chilled. The time it takes to chill is just as important for flavor melding as it is for sheer convenience of always having this in your refrigerator for lunch at the office or indulgent spoonfuls for a satisfying snack.