Ugh. I’m too busy. The warrior cry of the working mother. The stay-at-home mother. The parent, in general. We are constantly feeling the undertow of life, sucked into long nights but short months as our children grow. I want everything to stop once in awhile yet don’t want it to end. This paradox echoes in my mind daily. I try to immerse myself in intellectually stimulating books in the still, sometimes quiet hours of the evening, to whisk myself away from this simmer and riptide, only to find my stomach grumbling. It always leads back to food. Well, and thinking about when this world will righteously defeat racism and cis heteronormative patriarchy, there’s only so much time I have in a day. If it’s not my stomach at bedtime, it’s one of the kids not-so-subtly announcing he or she is starving or someone bluntly breaking down into a weepy mess because dinner is not quite ready yet. You know, the usual. While I am not averse to chicken nuggets (I can boast sampling over six brands of these ubiquitous chickenesque lumps!), they are not my go-to food. No. Never. Hold on….
You know those interruptions I told you about in prior posts, one very recently, the late night oops! the baby is awake again! kinds of nights? Or, the kids are just generally indoor tornadoes? Yeah, that happened as I was typing “lumps.” Just as I get into a groove, my yarn is snipped, unraveling into some amorphous tumble of words. Story’s aphorism in this season of life: If I write, I will be interrupted. Always.
That’s where this chickpea salad comes in. It’s make-ahead. You don’t have to cook all the components at once. It lasts for a few days. Basically, you can be interrupted constantly and still end up with a great meal. And the person behind this recipe: the Serious Eats-Food Lab guy.
If there’s one chef I trust, it’s Kenji Lopez-Alt. His black bean burgers wowed me a few months ago, his advice on spatchcocking a Thanksgiving turkey was perfect (seriously, 2014 was the best Thanksgiving turkey ever), and his in-depth recipe testing is unparallelled. Have you seen his review on how to make a perfect boiled egg (better than mine, by far)? Have you tried his bolognese sauce with an unexpected secret ingredient for extra rich umami flavor? For all of you into the kitchen tech, I read his review on high-end blenders before I put in my request for Christmas this year: absolutely helpful to guide my decision. My cast iron pans got a nice oil and heat treatment to help give them their non-stick surface, per his easy instructions. Just as I moved out of the Bay Area in California, his family moved in; I enjoy hearing about his adventures on Twitter, reminding me fondly of a place that I called home for four years. And so when this recipe for a make-ahead chickpea salad popped up on my Twitter feed, I found myself trying to figure out the best time to make it after Thanksgiving leftovers disappeared and before we left on Christmas vacation. I made it twice in one week it was so good.
Thank you, Chef Kenji for a more than welcome interruption. Optimistically, I’d like to think it was a well-designed, though subtle, invitation.
One year ago: homemade chewy fruit snacks
From the awesome Serious Eats’ Kenji Lopez-Alt.
- ½ pound dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked overnight in cold salted water at room temperature
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 carrot, cut into 3-inch segments
- 1 onion, split in half
- 1 stalk celery, cut into 3-inch segments, divided
- 2 poblano or Anaheim chilies (I used poblanos -- wonderful!)
- 4 to 5 ounces bacon
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced (about 2 tablespoons, per Kenji))
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons juice from 2 limes, plus 1 extra lime cut into wedges
- ½ cup crumbled cotija cheese
- ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, white and light green parts only
- ½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- Drain chickpeas after the overnight soak and place in a large pot with bay leaf, carrot, onion, and celery.
- Cover with cold water by 2 inches, season with salt, bring to a boil, decrease to simmer, and cook until the chickpeas are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Discard bay leaf, carrot, onion, and celery.
- Drain and rinse beans under cold running water until chilled. Let drain in a colander and set aside.
- Meanwhile, char those chiles! I have a gas stove, so I did it directly on the burners (see my photo above). After completely blackening the chiles, I placed them in a paper bag to steam and cool. The skins slipped right off. You may need to rinse the chiles gently to remove some of the char. Kenji explains his method in the broiler: Place chiles on a foil-lined broiler pan, broiler on, turning chiles occasionally, until completely blackened on all surfaces, about 15 minutes total. Crimp foil to seal around the chilies and set aside for 10 minutes. Then, when cool, peel the chiles using your fingers.
- Whichever method you choose, discard skin, stems, and seeds and slice flesh into thin strips. And, whichever method you choose, the chiles end up smelling GREAT.
- Cook bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, until crisp. Remove from heat and stir in sliced shallots and garlic. Immediately transfer to a large bowl. Add olive oil and 2 tablespoons lime juice and whisk to combine. This step also smells wonderful.
- Now add those garbanzo beans add to bacon mixture. Add chile strips, cotija, scallions, and cilantro and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately with lime wedges, or for better results, store overnight in a covered container in the refrigerator. Salad will keep for up to three days. Eat and I found the overnight salad-sit made for a better meld of flavors, for sure.