Joel’s Moderately Fancy Meal of the Week: Chickpea Salad!  »

Last night I had a family dinner, which is a fairly rare thing as my immediate family lives on the other side of the country. It wasn’t a super-fancy occasion, but when bringing a dish to a family dinner it’s an important thing to make it a little showy. This emphasizes one’s taste and discretion, and makes one appear to be a sophisticated grown-up person. Bear in mind that it will not keep your mom from correcting your grammar in front of everybody, I HOPE YOU’RE READING THIS MOM!!—but it’s still nice to show up bearing something that people will actually want to eat.

The bonus, of course, is that (if you do it right) you’ll have something that you’ll want to eat, which can be a lifesaver depending on the family. Anti-vegan or just plain bad cooks, the result is pretty much the same—you can only count on yourself. Don’t let you down.

This cooking challenge was compounded by the fact that I hadn’t been shopping in several weeks, so I had very little in the way of perishables. I had what was left of my Farm Fresh to You Capay Valley box, delivered at the beginning of the week; some dried legumes; and condiments and spices. As you might guess, I leaned heavily on the Farm Fresh box.

Here’s what I ended up using:
1.5 cups dried chickpeas (3 cups cooked, or 2 cans)
1 small spring white onion (substitute scallions, or a sweet onion for a different flavor)
3 gypsy peppers (substitute green or red bell peppers)
1 large heirloom tomato (substitute a plain old supermarket tomato, if in season)
2 nantes carrots
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

The first order of business was to cook the chickpeas. I started soaking them as soon as I got up, for about four hours; then simmered them in fresh water for about two hours. Tada! Creamy, delicious chickpeas, better than from any can. I strained them, making sure to reserve the liquid, and ran cold water over them to stop them cooking and firm them up a little.

This left only the peppers requiring cooking. To roast them, I placed them on a naked burner, turning frequently, until the skin was mostly blackened and peeling. I then put them in a bowl covered in plastic wrap to cool and steam the skin off.

While the peppers cooled, I quartered lengthwise and very finely sliced the onion. It goes in raw, so a regular yellow or white onion would be too strong. I cut the carrots into matchsticks about two inches long, and finely minced the garlic. Last, I diced the tomato into half-inch cubes.

At this point the peppers were cool enough to handle, so I rubbed off the skin—not using water, as that washes off the smoky flavor—and diced the roasted pepper flesh. I tossed everything together, and added around an eighth of a cup of olive oil, around two tablespoons of red wine vinegar (but go slow and taste often to be sure you want that much—this depends on the acidity of your tomato), the leaves of rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. The last important step is to let it sit for at least an hour, to allow to vinegar to mellow the onions and garlic.

Then, voila!  It is a delicious salad, and you are the envy of your family.

All of those skins and stems and things?  Don’t waste them!  There’s no reason omnivores should get all the fun—we, too, can use every part of the animal. Here are some suggestions for how to use the leftover bits.

Chickpea broth: use it instead of water to make rice (DELICIOUS), use it as stock in a recipe, or use it as a base for a more complex stock (perhaps made with the other left-over bits?)
Spring onion stem: use it in your stock; marinate it in lime juice, grill it, and serve it over rice (made with chickpea broth?); or if all else fails, compost it.
Pepper seeds, stems, and skin: compost the seeds and stems, but you can sparingly use the skin to give a nice fire-roasted flavor to anything. Including stock!
Tomato stem: feed it to your rabbit!  Or, you know, compost.
Carrot peels and tops: feed to your rabbit; use in stock (within a few days, before they go brown); or compost.
Rosemary stem: while it’s still fresh, use it as a skewer for grilling. Or feed it to your rabbit!  Or use it in stock!

My family was very pleased with this thrown-together recipe made from odds and ends. If they’re so easy to satisfy, how’s yours? Leave a comment and let us know.

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