Picnic peccadilloes: Cilantro-Lime-Sunshine chickpea salad

You may have heard by now, but last weekend there was a mighty meeting of the minds in Central Park–lovely Alejandra organized a picnic! It couldn’t have been more perfect: the weather was beautiful, we scored a nice spot by the pool (the LAKE called the POOL, not the pool called something else. So we’re clear), and among the guests were such lovely luminaries as Anna, Marc, and new entrant to the world of food blogging, Francoise. But the real star was, unsurprisingly, the food. I mean, you’d expect no less from a food blogger’s picnic, right? Right.

chickpea salad

So I’m sure you can understand the minor tizzy I went into, trying to figure out what to bring. I mean, if anyone is going to know whether I flub something, it’s going to be these guys, right? Refined palates! Superhuman understandings of deliciousness! It’s enough to make an amateur quake in her boots. Keeping that in mind, I decided to go with a tried-and-true favorite: Chickpea salad with cilantro, yogurt, and lime. This is one of my favorite dishes for summer, because it is really very satisfying, while still being light and cool and refreshing. It’s also quite forgiving, and will probably be pretty happy with whatever add-ins you go with. Plus, it’s pretty quick to make (unless you, like me, forget to caramelize the onions in advance. Those always take far longer than you’d expect)!

the tracks of my corn

There are two major things to keep in mind with this dish:

  1. Texture is a major player here. You want contrast and complement. I generally use kamut as the grain, because its chewiness offsets the texture of the chickpeas so well, but wheatberries or israeli couscous would work well, too. I also love juxtaposing diced bell pepper with avocado–the crunch seems to highlight the silkiness.
  2. DO NOT ADD THE LIME JUICE UNTIL YOU’VE ALREADY MIXED IN THE DRESSING. Lime juice + bowl of yogurt=sad. You want it to have been distributed and dispersed enough that the addition of the juice won’t cause curdling. Apply this rule to the vinegar as well. You need the acidic kick, but you don’t want cottage cheese.

With those ground rules firmly in place, you should be just fine with this recipe–it’s light, refreshing, flavorful, and makes a great impression on new and old friends alike. Go forth!

Cilantro-lime-chickpea-salad

1c your favorite grain, prepared according to instructions (I like kamut, but really anything will work)
1×15-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 avocado, diced
2 ears corn, shucked
1 bell pepper, diced
1 onion, sliced

DRESSING:
3/4c plain greek yoghurt
zest and juice of 1 lime
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Handful cilantro, chopped
2-3 tbsp rice or white wine vinegar
olive oil
salt
pepper

  1. Preheat your oven to 350. Give your corn a light rubdown with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. When the oven reaches temperature, roast the corn until it is golden, about 15 minutes (be sure to check in and turn the corn occasionally–you don’t want to blacken it). Remove from oven, let cool enough to touch–then cut off all the kernels.
  2. Meanwhile, caramelize your onions by sauteing them over low low heat with a knob of butter. THIS WILL TAKE FOREVER. Start this step as soon as possible. Or, if you’re clever, spend a Sunday afternoon making a whole bunch of this stuff in advance.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lime zest, cilantro, about 2 tbsp olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Do not add the vinegar or lime juice at this point. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the grain, the chickpeas, and all the vegetables. Add the dressing and stir to combine thoroughly.
  5. Finish it off with a few squeezes of lime juice and the rice vinegar. Again, toss to combine thoroughly.
  6. At this point, you could chill it if you wanted, but I have enough trouble leaving enough to share with other people. Chilling generally proves to be too much of a test of my patience, but you may be made of sterner stuff than I.
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