Chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce

Several people have recently told me they’re interested in eating more plant-based dishes as a way to lower their carbon footprint, but that they don’t know where to start, don’t have much cooking experience, or can’t easily find some of the less common ingredients such as seitan. It can seem daunting at first. And because some of the fancier vegan foods are often found at organic stores, there’s an unfortunate misconception that a plant-based diet is more expensive than a conventional animal-based one.

So today, I decided to show you a super simple, super yummy dish I’ve been making lately and really love. It’s based on a few very common ingredients – onion, canned cooked chickpeas, prepared tomato sauce plus optional soy yogurt and scallions – that can be found at even the most basic grocery store. I found all of these things at my local Monoprix, the French equivalent of Safeway in the US or Tesco in the UK. If you stock up on canned chickpeas and tomato sauce ahead of time, whipping up a dish like this is a breeze.

Legumes in particular are very easy on the planet, requiring far less fossil fuel and water to produce than meat and other animal-derived foods. This makes them an ideal food for a future marked by increasingly common droughts due to climate change.

Chickpeas (and other legumes) are also extremely good for you, packed with protein and offering long-lasting energy.

Furthermore, this is a super low-cost dish. To make the two servings in this recipe, I spent just €4.49, or €2.25 per serving ($2.55 or £1.91). That’s about half the price of a cappuccino.

The cost breaks down as follows: 2 cans chickpeas (€1.30), 1 jar arrabbiata sauce (€1.69), 1 small red onion (€0.32), 2 small 100 g containers of soy yogurt (together, €0.56), 2 scallions (together, €0.28) and 1 lime (€0.34). I also used tiny amounts of olive oil and ground coriander which would come to a few cents’ worth each.

This dish is fairly foolproof and can easily be adapted to incorporate other ingredients. You can use any other legume (navy beans, kidney beans, lentils) in place of the chickpeas, for example. I recommend not using red lentils, however, as they tend to turn into mush when cooked and you would end up with a kind of tomato-lentil mash (although it would probably still be delicious). But you can easily add other vegetables to this dish, perhaps adding extra tomato sauce to cover everything. You can also opt to serve it over rice or couscous if you happen to have some on hand, but it’s already very filling on its own.

Did I mention how yummy it is? The idea of chickpeas may not spontaneously inspire you, but when they’re prepared ahead of time (ie, coming out of a can), they’re wonderfully moist. I love their texture combined with the heat of the rich, spicy tomato-y sauce and the cooling yogurt and tangy lime juice. The flavors are somewhat reminiscent of Mexican cuisine.

A dish such as this is perfect as a make-ahead packed lunch too. Why not give it a try?

Chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce

Makes 2 servings

  • 4 cups (530 g) drained chickpeas or navy (white) beans (two 14 oz/400 g cans, before draining)
  • One 14 oz (400 g) jar arrabbiata or other tomato sauce
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) onion, any color, or shallots, chopped
  • ground spices/herbs such as coriander, curry, cumin, herbes de provence (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (200 g) plain soy yogurt (optional)
  • 1 or 2 scallions (green spring onions) or bunch of chives, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Note: I was using a small frying pan, so the amounts shown in the photos below are for one serving. To make two servings at once, use a larger pan and the total quantities listed above.

The first thing you’ll want to do is roughly chop your onion (or shallot). You can either slice it, as shown, or dice it  do it however you want, cause this is an easy recipe, remember!

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Drizzle some olive oil into a frying pan, heat on medium-high, and sautée the onion for a few minutes. If you like, add a dash of herbs or spices (I often add ground coriander and thyme), but since the arrabbiata sauce is already seasoned, this isn’t strictly necessary.

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When the onions have become a bit translucent, add the chickpeas. Save the liquid from the can if you’d like to make meringues or something with (do a search for “aquafaba” on this blog to find recipes). Sautée, stirring often, for a few minutes to heat the chickpeas and allow the flavors to begin mingling.

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Now add your arrabbiata or other tomato sauce.

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Continue to heat until the sauce begins to simmer. Take off the heat soon after so the sauce doesn’t become dry.

Transfer to a serving bowl and top with a dollop of plain soy yogurt plus chopped scallions or chives. The yogurt has a nice cooling effect, counteracting the heat of the spicy sauce, and reminded me a lot of sour cream in this dish. I used the most basic grocery store soy yogurt, but you might want to try the thicker Greek-style soy yogurt that’s now becoming available (in France, look for the Sojade one at organic shops).

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Another nice touch to this flavor combination is some fresh lime or lemon. The vitamin C in the citrus juice also helps your body absorb the iron in the legumes.

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Enjoy!

Variations: serve on top of rice or couscous, add vegetables (spinach, bell peppers, potatoes, mushrooms etc.), experiment with spices.

Chickpea of the sea salad

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 levelsoverfishing 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!

Chickpea salad

Makes about 2 cups of chickpea salad

Ingredients

  • 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

 

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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.

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Drain the chickpeas, saving the water from the can if you want to make something with aquafaba later.

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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.

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Now, in a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, caper brine and seaweed flakes or finely shredded nori sheet.

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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).

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Add the onion, celery and capers to the mashed chickpeas and stir to combine.

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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!

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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.

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Enjoy!

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.

Deviled avocados

If you can devil an egg, why not an avocado? This is one of those recipes that are quite easy to make but seem more complicated, and are thus perfect for impressing dinner guests. 😉

As a starter, one avocado half can be served per person, or for a light lunch (perhaps with a larger salad), serve two.

Traditional deviled eggs are made by mixing the cooked yolk with mayonnaise and mustard. This healthier vegan version just subs cooked chickpeas for the yolk and adds kala namak Indian salt (also known as black salt—comes in packages like these), which provides the sulfury flavor reminiscent of egg. It can of course be made with regular salt, but the effect would not be the same. A bit of turmeric makes the mixture more yellow, which also helps recreate the look of the traditional dish. Black pepper is added to boost the turmeric’s bioavailability.

The most challenging part of this recipe is probably having the luck to land upon perfectly ripe avocados. Once you’ve managed that, the rest is a breeze! If serving at a party, the filling can be made ahead of time.

Deviled avocados

Makes 4 filled avocado halves

Ingredients

  • 2 avocados, ripe but still firm
  • a few handfuls of baby greens

Chickpea mixture:

  • 1 cup (165 g) cooked chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon kala namak Indian salt
  • pinch ground black pepper
  • several pinches ground paprika

Equipment needed: food processor or blender

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The first thing you will want to do, before making the chickpea mixture, is to cut open your avocado to make sure it really is ripe and also hasn’t gotten overripe and formed black spots inside. If the avocado isn’t useable, you’ll have saved yourself the trouble of making the filling, and you can try again another day. If the avocado is fine, put the two halves back together to keep them fresh while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

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Now combine the chickpeas, mayonnaise, mustard, turmeric, Indian salt and black pepper in a food processor or blender. Pulse until you have a hummus-y texture. If it seems too dry, add more mayonnaise or perhaps a tiny bit of water (a little goes a long way, so start with a teaspoonful). Add more turmeric if the mixture does not seem yellow enough. Taste and adjust the other ingredients to your liking.

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At this point, you can open up the avocado again and place the halves on a bed of greens (here, I have used spinach dressed with a bit of tamari sauce and olive oil and garnished with pink peppercorns). You can opt to serve the avocados in their peels, or to be a bit fancier, remove the peel as I have done here. If you choose to remove it, proceed slowly to prevent large chunks of avocado from coming away with the peel. If this nevertheless does happen, you can to a certain extent gently press and mold the avocado flesh back onto the side or bottom of the avocado without it being very noticeable.

Fill the avocado halves with the chickpea mixture. If you have a pastry piping bag with a wide nozzle, you could try forming a swirl shape. Otherwise, just fill them with a spoon, taking care not to press down too hard on the avocado as this could cause it to break. Sprinkle with the paprika and a dusting of additional Indian salt.

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Enjoy!

Variations: If you’re in the mood to be creative, you could try adding fresh chopped herbs or spices like curry powder or Ethiopian berbere to the chickpea mixture.