I don’t have anything adorable to say about this salad, aside from the fact that (provided all ingredients are in the same building as you are) you can go from the 6pm announcement “Mama, I know I told you the potluck started at 6:30 but I just checked and she meant to say come around 4” to “Everybody in the car!” in about 15 minutes. If you have only half the ingredients, provided they are the right half, you can cut your time down considerably and still have a tasty offering for the communal table, if not a good photograph of the salad itself. It was actually quite a purty salad, though you would not necessarily know that from mug shot above.
Continuing last week’s theme of why it is good to live near a Middle Eastern market, or to stock up in one when the chance presents itself, here is a little love poem for the spice mix known as zatar. Also known as za’atar, zahtar, and zahatar. To compound the confusion, however you spell the word, it’s the generic name for a family of herbs (all cousins of oregano) which grow wild in the Middle East, and when it refers to the spice mix rather than the herb itself, there are numerous types of zatar, chiefly divided into red (or aleppo) and green, with infinite regional variations in the dozen countries which enjoy it but are rarely in agreement with one another. For the purposes of my ode, we are talking about basic green zatar, which is a mix of thyme, oregano, sumac and sesame. It is easy to find in Greek, Arab or Israeli markets, and the work of a moment to order online. (Try here and here if you don’t have a favorite source).
It is one of the best things that ever happened to a bowl of popcorn, in case you are wondering what else you might ever do with it. In Israel, when you buy a bagel from a street vendor, they hand it to you with a little bag of green zatar to dip the warm bread into. My children became believers on the spot.
If you don’t have any, won’t order it, and still want to make this salad, try a very generous amount of cumin and some sesame seeds as a substitute. If you don’t have preserved lemons on hand, lemon juice, salt and olive oil make a fine replacement for those.
The seasoned beans alone are pretty delightful, so if you lack the vegetal items and still want something delicious, you can stop right there before you go any further and still find an eight-year old can put away most of the bowl without stopping to take a breath.
chick pea salad
- 3 c cooked, drained chick peas (about a cup dry beans, soaked and cooked, or two 15 oz cans, rinsed)
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 1-3 cloves garlic, minced
- about 3T zatar, or 1T cumin and 1T sesame seeds as a substitute
- about 2T minced preserved lemon
- about a cup of minced fresh parsley
- 1 medium tomato (or equivalent amount of cherry tomatoes), chopped
- salt, olive oil, fresh lemon juice (or lemon brine) to taste
Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet until it ripples. Add the chick peas (the more you have drained or even patted them dry, the less they will spit at you). Cook until they are golden toasty brown all over, about 5-7 minutes, total. That golden crispiness is the main attraction. Insist upon it. Add the minced garlic and the preserved lemon, if you have it, and continue to cook and stir for about a minute. Turn off the heat and add the zatar, or the cumin and sesame, and toss to combine. Remove to a bowl, and let cool a few minutes. Toss with the parsley, tomatoes and as much additional seasoning as you need to make it irresistible.