I have been playing around with variations on seasoned, crispy chickpeas as a snack. Keen to avoid deep-frying them, I tried baking them several ways, at different temperatures for long and longer stretches of time. But it was ultimately a 10-minute sizzle in a skillet with olive oil that won me over as the preferred method.
This technique gives the legume a creamier interior while crisping the outside to an addictive crunch, and the quick cooking time means they could be made on a whim, a plus when it comes to snacks, and especially ones that are best eaten hot.
I experimented with seasoning for them as well, enjoying them with a sweet-spicy mix of brown sugar and chili powder, with smoked paprika and garlic, and with the Middle Eastern-accented version in this recipe: a mixture of cumin, coriander and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
When I first made these, as I munched away on them from the snack bowl, I couldn't help but think about how they had the essential elements of a falafel, and how good they would be as a protein-rich layer of crunch in a salad. So I built this salad around them. Its base is the crisp lettuce, tomato, cucumber and red onion that are often piled on top of a falafel sandwich, and it is dressed with the sandwich's classic lemon-tahini dressing. The aromatically spiced crispy chickpeas that are the salad's inspiration are tossed in at the end.
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Salad With Crispy Spiced Chickpeas and Tahini Dressing
3 tablespoons tahini, well stirred
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 hearts of romaine lettuce, shredded (about 7 cups)
1/2 English cucumber, quartered and sliced
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the dressing. Whisk the tahini, water and lemon juice together in a medium bowl, until creamy and well blended. Stir in the parsley, salt and black pepper.
For the salad: Toss the lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and red onion together in a large bowl.
Combine the cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper and salt in a small bowl.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then dry them as thoroughly as possible by placing them on top of a paper towel in a bowl and patting them dry with an additional paper towel. Discard any skins that fall off, but don't worry about getting them all.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chickpeas and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, shaking or stirring occasionally until they have crisped and become lightly browned. Stir in the spice mixture and toss to coat, then transfer the chickpeas to a plate.
Add the dressing to the salad and toss to incorporate, then toss in the chickpeas and serve.
Per serving: 220 calories, 9 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 210 mg sodium, 8 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar
Yield: 6 servings.