Chickpea and Desiccated Coconut Salad
This salad is my take on a standard Indian recipe for a warm chickpea salad. For some odd reason my husband loves chickpeas – in every shape of form! He loves hummus, he loves Chana Masal and he loves this couscous chickpea dish that I make and he loves this chickpeas salad. He loves them so much that if I don’t stop him, he’ll just open up a can of chickpeas, wash them under a stream of cold water and just eat the plain chickpeas. Since chickpeas are essentially quite healthy and he loves them so much, I try to incorporate them in our meals as much as I can.
For a lack of a better name, I am calling this dish a salad, but actually, Indians don’t consider this to be a salad but instead use it as a snack with their afternoon tea. The British left us with the wonderful tradition of having tea in late afternoon or early evening. So most Indians, when they come back from work at 5:00 or 6:00PM have a cup of tea and they eat a snack with that tea. Dinner is usually eaten much later at 9:00PM or later. Alternatively, affluent Indians will frequently have a shot of scotch or rum before their dinner and a snack usually goes with that drink. There are some standard savory snack items that go with this drink – roasted nuts or potato croquette or something like this chickpea salad. When I came to the US in the late 1980s, I went to a college in Chicago where the dorm’s cafeteria would shut down at 7:00PM and that meant that I could not afford to keep my Indian habit of eating dinner at 9:00 PM. This habit just stayed with me and I have stuck with eating an early dinner. With this evening snack completely eliminated from my life, dishes like this chickpea dish were made redundant, until I started making it as a light lunch dish. There are some standard things that I always put in it such as mustard seeds and dried/desiccated coconut, lemon juice, raw onions, green chili and chopped cilantro but the rest of the things can be varied. Sometimes I add raw cucumbers to it or even some diced radishes but today I chose to add ripe yellow and red grape tomatoes. They gave the dish a nice sweet and sour balance and I loved the color they added. If you are trying to lose weight or eat a vegan diet, this is a healthy and delicious option for you!
1. 3 cups of cooked chickpeas (I cooked mine overnight in crock-pot but you can use canned chickpeas if you so prefer)
2. 25-30 ripe grape tomatoes
3. 1 lemon
4. 1.5 teaspoons of whole dark mustard seeds
5. 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut flakes
6. 1 handful of fresh cilantro
7. ¼ of a medium sized red onion
8. 1 teaspoon of freshly ground coriander powder
9. ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
10. Salt to taste
11. 2 teaspoons of sugar
12. 2-3 green chilies (if you don’t like it spicy, cut back on these)
13. ¼ cup raw peanuts or roasted peanuts (you can’t see them in the picture above because I decided to add them after I had already taken the picture)
14. 1.5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (or any cooing oil)
1. If you are using canned chickpeas, wash them under a cold stream of water and then drain them in a colander. If you’re using dried chickpeas, place the beans and 4-5 cups of water in a slow cooking crockpot for 5-6 hours on low heat and let them get cooked. Add a little bit salt to the water and stir. Set the crockpot and let the beans get cooked. When they are fork tender, drain all the water from the chickpeas.
2. Dice the onion and the green chili into small pieces and set them aside.
3. In a small skillet warm up ¾ tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat and pour the raw peanuts into this pan to lightly brown them evenly on all sides. Keep stirring them frequently till they turn lightly brown (this step usually takes 5-8 minutes). Set the cooked peanuts on a dry paper towel and let the excess oil get absorbed by the paper towel. If you are using already roasted peanuts, please skip this whole step.
4. In a small skillet (you can use the same one that you used to brown the peanuts), warm the remaining amount of olive oil (3/4 tablespoon) and when the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. In 20-25 seconds they will start to pop and at that time switch the heat off and add the desiccated coconut flakes to the skillet. Stir everything constantly. The remaining heat in the skillet will brown the coconut flakes. Add the coriander powder and the red pepper flakes and stir everything.
5. While the skillet it still warm, add the juice of one lemon and the sugar to the skillet and stir everything. Set this dressing aside.
6. Chop the fresh cilantro leaves and also the grape tomatoes (into halves).
7. Pour the cooked chickpeas into a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped onion, green chili, cilantro leaves, grape tomatoes, roasted peanuts to the mixing bowl.
8. Now add the dressing from the skillet to the mixing bowl and gently toss everything gently. Taste for a balance of sweet, savory and tartness balance and adjust according to your own taste.
9. Serve the salad while it is still a little warm or at room temperature.147