Wilted Green Salad with Fresh Chickpeas, Feta and Greek Yogurt

Craig Claiborne, the late pioneer of food journalism for the New York Times once launched a New Year’s Day column with the line, “Blessed indeed is the household whose refrigerator contains an overlooked tin of caviar.”  Yes, well.  For most of us, it’s goodbye caviar times, hello salad days, not entirely a bad thing.  Substitute chickpeas for caviar and you’re halfway to Wilted Green Salad with Fresh Chickpeas, Feta and Greek Yogurt.

Claiborne was a great writer and his Blessed indeed. . . has rattled around in my head for years, rubbing shoulders with oddities like Bleak House and Gravity’s Rainbow, other instances when writers got the openings just right.  Desperate with hunger, who hasn’t peered into a refrigerator and felt that special relief (Yes!  Thank you, God!) on finding, not just any old shoe, but the one or two absolute favorites from which to fashion a meal?

Chickpeas are one of our magical favorites.  If you’re reading this and rolling your eyes (a feat in itself) then you’re either suffering from hummus overload or really don’t know garbanzos.  Chickpeas aren’t the story–they’re the 20-pound bond paper the story is written on.  They’re meant to be gussied up, cosseted with herbs, adorned with a chiffonade of sun-dried tomatoes, with apricots and almonds, with preserved lemon, saffron and harissa, with garlic and. . .  and. . .  A fried egg is just a fried egg, until you’ve tasted a mixture of ruptured yolk and chickpeas warmed in evoo with some fresh tarragon.

Our preferred chickpeas are tiny dried Italian cecci, but cans of chickpeas ordinaires reside in our pantry as well, just in case.  Fresh chickpeas, a recent novelty, at least in this part of the world, are delicious in their own right and you can drop them into any role usually played by fresh peas or favas.  Visually, they’re a delight to behold, shelling them provides a Zen-like respite in the middle of chaos, and they have a fine, subtle taste of something new.  But if you can’t lay your hands on any, then look in your fridge or pantry shelf for the comforting standby.  Blessed indeed.

Ken

PanMass Challenge cancer ride Update: Team Rialto-Trade is over a third of the way to our goal of raising $100,000 for the Jimmy Fund.  If you’re in the Boston area this Sunday, we’re holding a fundraiser bicycle ride and brunch at TRADE.   The optional no-drop 30-mile leaves TRADE at 10 a.m. (Jody and I are both riding) followed by brunch at TRADE from 1 – 4.  Think Island Creek oysters, Pat and Barbara’s Clams (we did a post on their aquaculture grant last summer), Bloody Mary’s and a good time for a good cause.  More info here.

“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him Father!”  –Lydia Child

Happy Father’s Day to all the cooking dads out there!

Wilted Green Salad with Fresh Chickpeas, Feta and Greek Yogurt

Makes 4 main course servings

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Vidalia onion, cut into ¼-inch dice, about 1 cup
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • ¼ cup celery peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 1 fresh hot pepper, stem and seeds removed, thinly sliced, about 1 ounce
  • ¾ pound fresh shelled garbanzo beans, about 1 pound in their shell (or about a pound of cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained if canned)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons anise hyssop or fresh mint leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
  • ¾ pound tender greens: watercress, spinach, arugula, peas shoots–trimmed of tough stems
  • 2 ounces crumbled feta
  • ½ cup Greek Yogurt mixed with 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated garlic and seasoned with salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan or wok over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown.  Add the coriander seed, garlic, celery, pepper and chick peas.  Season with salt and pepper, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook 4 minutes (reduce to 2 minutes, just enough to heat, if using cooked chickpeas).  Toss with half the lemon juice and  half the herbs and transfer to a shallow bowl.
  2. Increase the heat to high, add the remaining olive oil and the greens and toss for 30 seconds.  Season with the remaining lemon juice, herbs and salt and pepper.  Arrange on a platter, top with the feta and then the chick peas.  Serve immediately or at room temperature, offering yogurt for drizzling on the side.

Jody Notes:

I first encountered fresh chickpeas was when I was competing on Top Chef Masters.  The challenge was to cook for a Simpson character.  I pulled Lisa out of the hat.  Lucky me – Lisa’s vegetarian, a baritone saxophone player, a political activist and Buddhist.  What was I supposed to do with that?  I can’t remember how chickpeas made it to my mis en place, or what exactly I did with them, but I do know  the judges thought Lisa would love the dish.  Chickpeas saved the day – and helped me raise a few bucks for Partners in Health, the charity I was sponsoring.  

Fresh chickpeas, nutty flavored and brilliant light green under their skins, appear in the market briefly, so when you can capture them, use them.  They need hardly any cooking.  Most legumes are dried so getting them fresh is a seasonal treat.

Ken wasn’t happy when he saw the list of ingredients for this recipe.  “Anise hyssop?  What’s that?  That makes two strange ingredients!”  “You don’t have to use them,” I said.  “You can use regular chickpeas, and mint.”   Anise hyssop is a lovely fuzzy herb  native to North America and a member of the mint family.  The stems and flowers have a sweet anise flavor, but the leaves taste like a cross between anise and mint.  Our herb maven Eva  grows it for us at Rialto and Trade every year.  M int is a fine substitute.  

With a different selection of herbs you could spin this dish in a completely different direction.  We love cilantro, but some families hate it and the same is true of dill.  I chose these herbs to take the dish in an Eastern Mediterranean direction, but I could just as happily chosen basil, parsley and mint.  Finally, if you have any celery leaves, add them to the herb mix.  They provide a nice bright accent.

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14 thoughts

  1. Ken, this dish sounds delicious as usual, but the colors in your photos—green on fuchsia, green on white with blue strips, and green on green with green background!!! I’ll never talk down to you again when it comes to aesthetics.

    • Hi, Megan–You’d be surprised–Jody got the chickpeas at Whole Foods. I’m sure if they don’t have them at yours, the produce manager could get a couple of pounds for you. They’re wonderfully delicate. Ken

  2. I doubt I’ll find fresh garbanzos where I shop, but I always have both dried and canned chick peas in the pantry, so will be crafting some spin on this lovely salad soon.

    • Hi, Steve–They’re definitely worth a trip to Whole Foods, believe me. Since this is the first time I’ve seen them, I have no idea how long they’ll be around. Strike while the iron is hot! By the way, you’ve planted an evil seed in my brain regarding homemade ice cream–I’m probably going for the Kitchen Aid attachment. Ken

  3. Such lovely photos—particularly love the chickpeas falling into the wok. Maybe we need to plan a real visit to Whole Foods to see if some are there. Usually, this time of year, our WF visits consist of madly running in for a few staples on the way home from the farmers markets. Jeez, I’d hate to think we’ve missed something as lovely as these!

    • Hi, Michelle–Farmers markets in your part of the world are probably going crazy right now (we have another few weeks before things really pop). I don’t know about regional variations in WFM, although I do know that if something we want is being offered in a different New England WF then we can usually have the produce manager of our local one make sure we get it (e.g a particular kind of blood orange). Good luck. Ken

  4. Chickpea salads are some of our favorites–especially with feta. When I was in high school I did a summer exchange in Spain and one day after siesta my host sister brought a bunch of these pods to the table and invited me to eat them with her, popping them out of their little packets and popping them into our mouths raw! I’ve seen frozen fresh (also green) chickpeas at whole foods and have bought them though the bag is as yet unopened, but I will try it for this. I think I will need to find anise hyssop for my herb garden, but thanks for providing an accessible substitute.

    • Hi, Sara–Aha! I was wondering why during all my times in Europe I’d never run across fresh chickpeas–clearly I was in the wrong country! Thanks for the tip about fresh frozen ones – I’ve never noticed them. Let us know how they taste. Anise hyssop is great and worth making an effort to grow. See my answer to Sally below. Ken

  5. Wow: “Chickpeas aren’t the story–they’re the 20-pound bond paper the story is written on.” Where do you come up with this stuff, Ken? Great writing. This is spot on for what I want to eat right now, and I bet I can find fresh chickpeas in my neighborhood. (Also in need of a Zen exercise.) Anise hyssop….not sure about that, but I want to add something new to my herb garden this summer, so I’m keeping my eye out for it.

    • You know, the other night Jody and I cooked dinner for a generous couple and several of their friends in exchange for a PanMass Challenge donation. Dinner involved making a chiffonade of anise hyssop leaves, and I think the flavor–a combination of mint and anise–was a revelation to everyone. Some things I’ve read claim the stems and flowers of the herb tastes like anise and the leaves like mint, but the leaves we were using definitely tasted like both. Ken

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