Warm Chickpea and Spinach Salad.
Photo: Henri Hollis
Photo: Henri Hollis

5:30 Challenge: Harness the power of chickpeas in this simple salad

Canned chickpeas are a weeknight power ingredient. Unlike other canned beans, they can be served hot, cold, blitzed into a puree or slow cooked for hours without ever turning to mush. The relatively neutral-tasting liquid in the cans is likewise a secret vegan weapon, as it works as a plant-based emulsifier with all of the magic of eggs. Chickpeas are also packed with protein, which means they can easily form the base of healthy, vegetarian-friendly dinners, such as this salad, in no time. All they need is a bit of a flavor-boost.

Roasting the beans gets them off to a good start. A bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and heat brings texture and caramel notes, but to really make them stand out, stir in another power ingredient, sun-dried tomato paste. Found near the nuts at the grocery store, this jarred condiment is really just ground up sun-dried tomatoes — easier to use than those packed in oil and far more interesting than traditional tomato paste. Fresh lemon zest also brings some complexity to the beans, and the lemon itself can be used in the salad dressing.

Once those chickpeas have sizzled and browned, toss them together with a box of pre-washed spinach or baby kale. You can also use arugula, but you’ve got to be okay with more-than-slightly wilted greens. Both spinach and kale will hold up a bit better to the heat of the beans, and they’ll offer a range of textures on the plate.

To round it all out, you’ll want a salad dressing, which can be made with the same ingredients as were tossed with the chickpeas, plus a final secret ingredient, that aforementioned chickpea liquid, to keep the vinaigrette emulsified. You will, after all, have some left over, and this magic elixir will prevent it from separating before you use it again.

This salad’s only accompaniment should be the best bread and butter you can find, and a little sprinkle of feta cheese, if you’ve got it in your fridge.

MORE 5:30 CHALLENGE:

Steak fajitas

Scallops with Fennel and Grapefruit

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Read the 2018 AJC Fall Dining Guide: Dining on Buford Highway 

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