Legumes are just as versatile and delicious as any other main-course ingredient. Plus, they’re packed with fiber and protein. Discover a mix of 160 dishes made with beans, chickpeas and lentils in Jenny Chandler’s The Better Bean Cookbook (Sterling Epicure, 2014). The following recipe for a chickpea, beets and feta salad is excerpted from “Salads.”
This book can be purchased from the Mother Earth Living store: The Better Bean Cookbook
Chickpeas make this refreshing eastern Mediterranean salad substantial enough to eat as a main course along with toasted pita. Make sure that your cheese is authentic Greek brine-cured sheep’s cheese (or less commonly a blend of sheep and goat’s cheese) and not the similarly packaged, and desperately bland, cow’s milk “salad cheese,” which lacks the characteristic tang and texture that you’re after.
Chickpea, Beets and Feta Salad Recipe
• 1/2 red onion, sliced
• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
• 3 cloves garlic, halved
• 1 pound 2 ounces home-cooked (or two 14-ounce cans of) chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
• 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
• 7 ounces feta cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
• 3 1/2 ounces baby spinach or other salad leaves
• 1/2 cucumber, diced
• Large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
• About 20 fresh mint leaves
• 2 small cooked beet root, roughly diced
• Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1. Soak sliced onion in the vinegar; it will turn a glorious fuchsia pink and become softer and more digestible.
2. Gently warm olive oil and garlic in a saucepan for about 5 minutes. The idea is not to fry the garlic but to infuse the oil and soften the garlic’s flavor. Remove pan from heat and take out garlic, chop it finely and return it to pan along with chickpeas. Stir them around in the warm oil, season with a little salt and pepper, and then set aside to cool.
3. In a dry frying pan, toast sesame and fennel seeds until sesame seeds dance around and turn gold. Tip seeds onto a plate and carefully toss feta around to coat each dice in a speckled crust.
4. Put onion with vinegar; chickpeas with their garlic oil salad leaves, cucumber, parsley and most of the mint in a serving bowl and mix carefully. Now add feta and beet root and toss carefully just a couple of times, otherwise the entire salad will turn a milky pink. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
5. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and a few mint leaves and serve with toasted pita or sourdough bread and a dash of extra virgin olive oil.
• Add a few pitted Kalamata olives.
• Add some roasted pistachios along with the pomegranate.
• Add grilled or chargrilled sliced aubergine.
• Use fresh coriander instead of mint.
• Serve this alongside grilled lamb cutlets, or lamb leg steaks. Marinate them in lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and grated onion for a few hours. Season with salt and pepper just before grilling.
More Recipes from The Better Bean Cookbook
Reprinted with permission from The Better Bean Cookbook by Jenny Chandler, Sterling Epicure, 2014. Photography by Clare Winfield. Purchase this book from our store: The Better Bean Cookbook.