Deconstructed ‘Hummus’ Salad with Toasted Chickpeas and Briney Olives

My brother is a rock & roll musician with the group Runner Runner. Make sure to check ’em out, they are a lot of fun! Having found some serious success recently, I’d certainly not put them in the category of starving artists, yet there is no doubt that all of the guys have very healthy appetites. I’m told they are always excited for my visits to Huntington Beach, because they know they will be cooked for, and well-fed. After all, what sort of guest shows up empty handed, and what better gift than sharing something you love to do? This recipe has proved a consistent favorite of the RR guys. More importantly, it is très simple to make, and you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen. In fact, circumstance and necessity had me prepare it the first time, as the range of dishes to be made was dictated by what I found in Runner Runner’s cupboard. With the help of a little inspiration from another great food blog, Smitten Kitchen, the dish came together brilliantly. It was so good that the guys from Runner Runner actually asked for it three days in a row!

The Smitten Kitchen recipe really is fantastic, and I love how she plays with the idea of deconstruction in the kitchen. Taking things apart so their constituent elements show more clearly, yet still meld is really appealing to me. It’s like a see through clock, that let’s you see how it ticks, but still tells time well. Knowing what things are also make it more fun for the diners enjoying the meal.

Despite the inspiration, my recipe differs slightly from Smitten Kitchen’s. First, I think toasting the chickpeas in the pan really helps enhance their already amazing flavor, and adds a warmth to the dish. Second, I like things spicy, so I add sautéed fresno peppers to the final mix. Not only does their kiss of fire tie the flavors together, their red color adds brilliantly to the contrast of the final product. I also omit the parsley she recommends, substituting green onions instead for that essential spark of green color which plays so well with the red of the fresnos and the purple of the onions and olives. Though parsley is delicious, and can add a lot of interest to a dish, I think it is an enormous pain in the neck. I hate picking those tiny little leaves off of the stems, it takes forever, and is messy. Such tedium is not my idea of fun in the kitchen. And don’t get me started on how parsley is sold in huge bunches, which are more than you could ever need for one recipe. So, instead of being able to buy one or two sprigs like you might need for whatever you happen to be preparing at a given moment, you have to buy the whole bunch, and most of goes to waste fermenting into a rotted slime in the bag in your fridge. Yech! Hence, I eschew parsley, unless it is absolutely essential. The last difference, is that I add a touch of tahini and some sesame seeds to the salad as a final homage to its hummus origins, and as a sort of binding dressing. Also, on account of the toasting, and the tahini, I avoid smashing the chickpeas, because those two elements make mixing the whole thing break down the chickpeas just the right amount.

Deconstructed ‘Hummus’ Salad with Toasted Chickpeas and Briney Olives

  • 3 fifteen oz. cans of chickpeas
  • 1 red onion (I like to use shallots, because they are delicious, but any red onion will work)
  • 1 scallion
  • 2 lemons (1 for zesting, both for juice)
  • about 15 pitted, briney olives, like kalamata (in a pinch, a can of plain, sliced black olives will work too)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 ripe red fresno peppers
  • 1 tablespoon of good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon tahini
  • 2 teaspoons of sweet paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of sesame seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by rinsing your chickpeas well in a colander. Allow them to drain and dry well.

Slice the red onion into rough pieces, making sure to separate them from one another. Slice the garlic cloves atomically thin. Slice the fresno peppers into rounds. Slice the pitted olives into rounds. Slice the green onion very thinly. Zest one of the two lemons. For those readers who might not know, zesting is removing the skin of the lemon in tiny little strands. A grater will work for this, or there is also a tool made just for it, the lemon zester. The zest is then used for both seasoning and color in many dishes.

Heat a pan to medium heat. Add enough of the olive oil to just coat the pan. Let it warm up. Then add the drained, dryed chickpeas to the pan. Sauté them for about 5 minutes over medium heat, or until they just toasted and beginning to brown.

Remove the toasted chickpeas from the pan, placing them in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan, and let it heat up to medium. Add the sliced garlic and fresnos. Cook for about 3-5 minutes over medium, or until the edges of the garlic just start to brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic, or else it will become bitter.

Once the garlic and the fresnos are toasted, add them to the chickpeas. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the tahini, and juice of both lemons. For those of you who do not know, tahini is sesame seed paste used throughout middle eastern cooking. It is available in most grocery stores. Just check the international food aisle.

Stir all of the ingredients together, making sure they are mixed well. Serve it up, and enjoy the praise and love of rockstars.

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