Chickpea of the what?
Allow me to explain. Those of you who live in the US will probably be familiar with the Chicken of the Sea tuna brand. I never knew why they called it that, but a quick visit to their site the other day revealed that fishermen of yesteryear used to refer to white albacore tuna this way because its light color and neutral flavor made them think of chicken.
Today, amid concerns about mercury levels, overfishing and bycatch (the needless demise of non-targeted fish and other species such as dolphins and turtles), more and more people are reducing their fish consumption. Happily, for those who like the taste of certain seafood dishes, there are ways to reproduce the flavors.
This very easy chickpea salad has a mayonnaise-mustard-caper dressing that gives it a tangy flavor reminiscent of tuna fish salad (hence the name). It’s also filling and protein-rich and has a bit of crunch thanks to the celery and onion. Furthermore, it is a versatile and forgiving recipe—the quantities of the various ingredients don’t need to be exact, and if you add too much of one thing you can easily balance it out by adding more of another. Also, if you love onion, you can add more that the amount specified, or less (even none!) if you’re not so much of a fan. If you don’t happen to have celery on hand, you could add other crunchy things like radish, green apple or even walnuts. This is a recipe where you can let your imagination loose and experiment endlessly.
It can be served in the same ways as a tuna or chicken salad: on bread for an open-faced or traditional sandwich, atop a green salad, on endive leaves, in lettuce cups or even on halved canned peaches! (yes, I’ve tried this and as strange as it sounds, it’s good!).
Without further ado, let’s move on to the recipe!
Makes about 2 cups of chickpea salad
- 14 ounces (400 g) cooked chickpeas
- 1/4 cup (40 g) finely diced red onion
- 1/2 cup (112 g) diced celery
- 1 teaspoon whole capers, or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon brine from the caper jar
- 2 teaspoons dried seaweed flakes or shredded nori sheet
- 1/4 cup (5 g) chopped fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
Begin by dicing the onion and slicing the celery. If your celery branches are very wide, cut them in half lengthwise so the pieces are more bite-sized.
Drain the chickpeas, saving the water from the can if you want to make something with aquafaba later.
Transfer the chickpeas to a bowl and mash them with a potato masher or fork. They should be broken but not pulverized to the point that they become hummus (for this reason, it’s best not to use a food processor). There should still be visible chunks of chickpea in the mixture.
Now, in a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, caper brine and seaweed flakes or finely shredded nori sheet.
The mayonnaise mixture will look like this when ready. Taste it and adjust to your liking. You may find you would like it to be a little more spicy (add more mustard) or less so (add more mayonnaise), or more “tuna-y” (add more caper brine and/or seaweed).
Add the onion, celery and capers to the mashed chickpeas and stir to combine.
Finally, fold the mayonnaise mixture into the chickpeas and stir until thoroughly integrated. Add the shredded parsley and stir a few more times to combine. Your chickpea of the sea salad is now ready!
The chickpea salad can be served in many ways. Here, I have prepared some mini open-faced sandwiches on a type of rye bread often found with the name Baltik or Artik in bakeries in France.
Variations: Make a curry version of this chickpea salad by adding curry powder and omitting the capers and caper brine. Add any of your favorite nuts and seeds (pine nuts are quite good in this). Serve in endive leaves, lettuce cups or on halved canned peaches as shown above.