Do you ever snack on things that don’t exactly fall into the “socially acceptable” category? Growing up, my family regularly made long drives between distant cities to visit relatives for a weekend or so. During those trips, we often stopped at a certain roadside fast food chain for a meal and a leg-stretch. Inevitably, my father would get chili and a side salad. And inevitably, I would ask for his packet of salty, herby, crunchy croutons. What I’m getting at is: I liked to snack on croutons. And I like to think that you might like to snack on these crispy spiced chickpea croutons too.
how to make crispy chickpeas
Turns out the best way to get super crispy chickpeas is not to start by peeling off all the skins from canned/boiled chickpeas (but please do this for the smoothest hummus). Nor to drain the cooked chickpeas and pat them bone dry before baking. No. The trick is to start with soaked dried chickpeas and skip boiling them altogether. Much like good falafels are made by taking soaked dried chickpeas and cooking them via frying, these snacky, crouton-y delights are achieved by taking dried chickpeas, soaking them, and cooking them in the oven.
- dried chickpeas – as many as you like (I usually go for 2-3 handfuls of dried chickpeas)
- olive oil
- fine salt
- dried herbs & spices of your choosing
- Put your dried chickpeas in a large bowl, cover abundantly with cool water, sprinkle with salt, and let soak for 8+ hours. In a pinch, you can soak them in just-boiled water for at least an hour. You want them to be quite plump, and they should more than double in size, so make sure you’ve got enough room in your bowl for their expansion. In terms of salt-to-chickpea ratios, you’ll want to add to the water up to 3/4 tsp of fine salt (that’s 3.7mL, if you’re feeling precise) per cup of dried chickpeas (roughly 240mL).
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 210°C (410°F). Drain your chickpeas well, give ’em a little shake to get rid of more water, and spread them out evenly on a large baking sheet – taking care to avoid too many of the chickpeas touching one another.
- You can rub your chickpeas very sparingly with olive oil and sprinkle them lightly with salt prior to baking, but this isn’t absolutely necessary. Dry roasting also works well.
- Put the tray in the oven, bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 190°C (375°F) and let bake for a further 15 minutes, until they are a deep golden colour*.
- While still hot, thinly coat the chickpeas in olive oil so any seasoning you choose to sprinkle on them will stick. Sprinkle from high above for better distribution, and roll the chickpeas around to ensure even coating. Start with a small amount, taste a chickpea, and adjust your seasoning (you can always add more, but you can’t take any away). Personally, I find salt, garlic powder and smoked chipotle to be an absolutely delicious (and uncomplicated) combination.
*oven temperatures can vary quite a bit, but keeping an ear out for your chickpeas will help you determine whether the temperature is right — if a few chickpeas occasionally pop here and there, you’re okay. if they start exploding all over the place, turn the heat down!
how to make a creamy salad dressing
I’ve never made a creamy dressing the same way twice (depends on what I have on hand + what I’m in the mood for), so please take this “recipe” more as a guide than as a strict instruction. The process is fairly unfussy and makes enough for two people sharing a big salad – for me, that means about half a cup of dressing.
- 1 pink shallot (or half a small red onion)
- part of a lemon – for its juice, but you can use some zest too
- 1 garlic clove or ½ tsp garlic powder
- honey or other sweetener (optional)
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
- 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- fresh tender herbs like chives, parsley or dill
- ¼ cup Parmesan (optional)
- freshly cracked black pepper
- Thinly slice the shallot or onion. Add to a small bowl or mug.
- Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice, about 2-3 teaspoons. It’s hard to say how much lemon you’ll need for this amount, but it’s definitely less than half a lemon.
- Season with salt and stir.
- Mince in a clove of garlic or add in the garlic powder. If you want to mellow the raw garlic a bit, you can add a very small amount of honey or white sugar (although if you’re a bit of a garlic monster, you have my permission to double the garlic powder or omit the honey).
- Add the mustard. You can put a full teaspoon if you’re a big Dijon fan, or omit it entirely if it makes your nose pucker.
- Dollop in the mayonnaise and pour in the olive oil. Give everything a stir.
- Use enough herbs to get about 2 teaspoons’ worth of each once finely chopped. Finely chop and add to the recipient.
- If you’re fine with eating Parmesan – it is unfortunately not suitable for vegetarians – I recommend grating some in for that quintessential Caesar flavour.
- Season with a bit more salt and black pepper (heavy on the pepper). Taste and adjust to your liking, either adding more of the ingredients above or giving it your own special twist with something entirely different.
tip: the best way to taste a salad dressing is to do it the same way you’d eat it — with salad. So take a leaf of lettuce and dip it into your dressing to see whether or not it floats your boat.
Put your clean lettuce leaves and other salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour over some dressing, and toss if you like, adding more dressing as needed, and tossing in between each addition. Top with the crispy chickpeas. Finish with Parmesan if you like it, perhaps an extra squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil, some more fresh herbs, a last pinch of flaky sea salt and a few final turns of freshly cracked black pepper. Tadaaaa! That’s it.
If, like me, you are more of a visual learner, feel free to watch me make the spring Caesar-ish salad here and a more summery one here.
Don’t limit yourself in the lettuce department! Here, you’ll basically want anything that 1) will give a good crunch and 2) you enjoy:
- ✓ iceberg lettuce / green cabbage = light and crisp
- ✕ arugula (rocket) = too floppy
- ✓ kale = crunch city
- ✕ spinach = too supple
- ✓ romaine / cos lettuce = this is the classic!
- ✕ mâche / lamb’s lettuce = too delicate
- ✓ little gem lettuce = kinda like Romaine, but a little sweeter
A good rule of thumb is too look for something sturdy, ruffled or curly (i.e. texture!). The following probably shouldn’t be used as your main leafy material, but make can play a strong supporting role: sturdy microgreens, endive/chicory, pea shoots, radicchio and cress – just to name a few.