Chickpea Potato Salad
For this month’s recipe redux I thought I would make a Lebanese Moussaka with my favorite bean – chickpeas or garbanzo beans. It’s a recipe I’ve been playing with for a while now, based on a Moussaka I buy at a few Middle Eastern stores near me. But, it takes hours to get the eggplant velvety smooth and rich and the chickpeas soft and supple. As usual however, the holidays got the best of me and time got away. Guess I’ll have to save that for another recipe redux.
Instead I looked in my pantry and did what most cooks will do, used what I had on hand, which happened to be – potatoes, parsley, lemon and of course chickpeas. I saw this recipe in the Washington Post on December 14th and it reminded me very much of the lemon-herb salads I was inspired to make from one of my culinary Lebanese students this semester. She created masterpiece salads with simple ingredients – olive oil, lemon, an herb (like cilantro, parsley or basil) and raw vegetables – and got her fellow students to try (and like) foods like cabbage and apples or carrots and barley that they wouldn’t normally have touched. After one taste I was hooked and have been putting together my own such salads regularly.
This recipe is wonderful because it’s so versatile. Cooking the garlic takes the edge off of it, but if you’re a garlic aficionado you could always add it in raw. I mixed in some carrots for color but I think it would also be fantastic with some kalamata olives and red onion. I would add the red onion with the garlic but if you like the bite and crunch go ahead and keep it raw.
Light and fresh it’s a great alternative to traditional heavy mayonnaise based potato salad.
Here are some tips to remember:
I used fresh garbanzo beans to cut the salt, but you can also use canned, drained and rinsed. Canned are often softer than fresh for two reasons:
1. Your beans are old. Most fresh garbanzo beans on the shelf tend to be old (years old). If you go to a Middle Eastern store where turnover is high your chance of getting fresher dry garbanzo beans are probably better but in the average supermarket store, chickpeas in general may be hard to find so – good luck.
Old beans (any type) lose moisture as they sit. Beans also have small pinpoint holes in them that absorb water as they sit – that’s why we soak them. In old beans or beans that have not been stored properly the holes close up so little water is absorbed. That’s why for some beans, no matter how long you cook them, just won’t soften up.
2. You don’t cook them long enough. If your beans are old, they can take twice as long (or longer) to soften than dried fresh beans (if they soften at all).
Unfortunately you can’t tell by looking at a dried bean whether it’s fresh or stale (chemical changes also occur inside the bean as it ages which makes them less desirable to cook)
TO SALT OR NOT
Salting is another issue and one that there is much debate about. I like to salt my beans in the middle or the end, but you can salt your beans in the beginning as well. Click here to see what the experts say about it.
This salad is excellent served warm with large poached or boiled shrimp or chicken.
Adapted from the Washington Post
6 to 8 servings
1 1/2 pounds all-purpose new potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped (3 tablespoons)
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 carrot, washed, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 large or 2 medium lemons
1/4 cup chopped, loosely packed parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until a metal skewer or the tip of a sharp knife can slide easily through the potatoes. Be careful not to overcook them.
Meanwhile, heat the oil and garlic in a small saute pan or skillet over medium-low heat. The oil should be just hot enough to cook the garlic without browning it. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until it’s soft, then remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.
When the potatoes are done, drain and cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut into 3/4-inch chunks, placing them in a mixing bowl as you work. I kept the skin on but you can peel if you like.
Add the chickpeas, carrot, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, parsley, the cooled garlic-oil mixture and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Gently toss to mix and evenly distribute the ingredients. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Please visit my fellow recipe reduxers to see what other “pea” potlucks they have in store: