Mediterranean Chick Pea Salad with Creamy Cilantro Vinaigrette

6 Mar

Sorry about the focus here. I still haven't mastered photo taking in my apartment, the lighting is kinda wacky.

Redneck Fresh goes Mediterranean for this week’s posting. I realized I hadn’t made anything that bordered on healthy in way too long, so I decided that I should probably, you know, fix that problem. I bought some really good feta cheese at that magical cheese shop I keep talking about, I had some chick peas in the pantry I’d been looking to cook, and so here we are. I ate this stuff for the better part of a week — it was cheap, healthy, and delicious. Also, go ahead and make this stuff a day or two in advance, as it marinates in the dressing, it just keeps getting better and better. Anyways, let’s get to it.

Stuff

Salad

1 bag (2 cups dry) chick peas (garbanzo beans are the same thing)

1 red onion

2 Persian cucumbers (or 1 regular cucumber, deseeded)

So many herbs. Mmmm, herbs.

3 sprigs of mint

1 lb. of grape tomatoes

Creamy Cilantro Vinaigrette

1/2 bunch parsley (curly or flat leaf)

1/2 bunch cilantro

1 T. cumin seeds

1 T. dried thyme

4 garlic cloves

1/4 c. olive oil

1 T. red wine vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

1/3 c. greek yogurt

1/2 a serrano pepper

1 t. salt

1 t. pepper

Steps

Salad

Before I go on, let me explain to you why I specifically said to use dry chick peas and not the crappy ones from the can. I will ALWAYS tell you that you should use real beans and not dry ones. Always. However, this time I went ahead and had a friend test the recipe, and he used canned beans. He said that, while it was a good recipe, the beans were a little overwhelming and mealy. Mealiness, aside from being one of the grossest words in English, is near the top of the list of reasons that canned beans are the worst. For something like a salad where the beans will be the primary vessel for all the flavors, you can’t be messing with that crap. Right.

So make the beans the way the bag tells you to, or do what I did and boil them, unsoaked, on high in a heavy pot with a bunch of water and 3 tablespoons of salt for 3 hours. It worked well. You want the chick peas done but not mushy. Also, what’s the deal with chick peas and black eyed peas? Do they really think they’re fooling anybody? We know you’re beans, give it up.

Anyways, drain the beans and throw them into a big salad bowl/mixing bowl/whatever you’re going to want to keep this salad in. Take the red onion and dice it into small pieces that are fairly uniform. I actually got in a hurry with this part and was not pleased with the fact that there were awkwardly sized chunks of onion floating around on my plate, be less lazy than me. Throw the onion into the bowl with the peas, and now we’ll cut up other fun things.

The reason I used persian cucumbers is because I didn’t have to skin or deseed them before I cut them into quarters and then cut those quarters into little slices. If neither of these things bother you, use real cucumbers. Cut all the grape tomatoes in half and throw them into the bowl, too. Now it’s time to learn the only interesting thing about this recipe from a technique perspective: How to chiffonade mint! I’ll line up some pictures, check the captions for the how-to.

Pull the leaves off of a mint sprig and stack them neatly on your cutting board.

Roll up the mint leaves like a tiny, tightly-wrapped burrito.

Cut thin slices off of your mint burrito, making beautiful little ribbons of mint.

Take this pile o’ minty goodness and sprinkle it over the top of everything else that’s already in your bowl. Wait to put the cheese in till the last minute so when you’re mixing you don’t turn the cheese into goo. Now, let’s make some salad dressing.

Creamy Cilantro Vinaigrette

Remember, leafy plants like herbs are mostly water anyways, so they'll turn into liquid no problem.

So this recipe is very simple, but requires some equipment. Namely, it requires a blender. I have an immersion blender which I call a stick blender, but my friends make fun of me for not using its proper name. I have weird friends. Anyways, I really just took all the ingredients listed for the dressing and then proceeded to blend the crap out of it. I didn’t do any pre cutting or anything else, I just threw it all in a cup and let my stick blender do its thing. Oh, and spilled everywhere. Yeah that was kind of crappy.

If you’re using a regular blender, be sure to put all your liquid ingredients at the bottom of the blender and mix things around with a spoon several times to make sure you get everything.

The color you’re looking for is almost neon green — as the yogurt and herbs emulsify, the color becomes really cool. Once you get there, give it one more stir to check for lumps (especially garlic, stems of herbs, or pieces of the serrano) and then you’re ready to dress and toss the salad.

So I had a little less dressing than the recipe calls for (since I kind of dumped the rest all over my counter when my blender exploded) but I feel like the full amount would have been even better.

There really isn’t a lot to dressing a chick pea salad; pour the dressing in and mix everything up. I added the cheese after I had done a quick toss with the dressing to keep from beating it up too bad. If you’re using pre-crumbled feta, just dump it in, if you’re using a brick of feta, crumble it up with your fingers.

As I said earlier, this stuff can sit for a few hours or even overnight to be super double awesome. If you want to serve it with a little bit of pizzaz (what a great word!), save some of the cilantro and parsley and cut it up and throw it on top as a garnish. In terms of serving suggestions, I made a ground venison thing that I served this on top of, and that was a fantastic pairing. If you want the recipe for said ground venison, share this post with somebody and let me know you did (with a comment or a post on the facebook page or something)

Seriously, the ground meat stuff was a perfect compliment. You want to reshare.

Let’s Eat!

– N

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2 Responses to “Mediterranean Chick Pea Salad with Creamy Cilantro Vinaigrette”

  1. nbledsoe 6 March 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    Special thanks to Tom at the Redneck Fresh test kitchen!

  2. Carey Jett Cooper 10 March 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    You MUST try this recipe — well done, Nathan! A word of advice — ask a friend to drag you out of the house before you eat every last bite in one sitting. It’s that good.

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