Spinach Salad with Crispy Chickpea Croutons

P1011881.jpg
 Missing croutons on your gluten free diet? Try crunchy roasted and spiced chickpeas, as I did in this Middle Eastern salad packed with quick pickled red onion, dates, and toasty almonds. 

This past week, I've been on a kick cooking from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, Jerusalem. The storytelling and history behind each dish is fascinating, the pictures are stunning and every recipe I've made has been incredible. Well, except for the carrot salad...but I don't really like carrot salad so I'll take the blame for that one.

Since all of the dishes are as beautiful as they are tasty, I'll probably end up sharing a few of my adaptions. If you don't like Middle Eastern food, you may want to check back in a few weeks. This salad was one of the first things that caught my eye when I first got the book. In one simple salad recipe, they manage to combine crunchy, creamy, spicy, sweet, tart, rich and fresh.

The one big change I made was to use chickpea croutons instead of pita bread. Have you ever made roasted chickpeas before? If not, move this to the top of your to do list! Roasting cooked chickpeas dries them out into crispy little bites that brings out their nutty flavor. I make them at least twice a month, usually as a nutritious, borderline addictive snack. Once you've made them, you'l find all kinds of other uses!

  • Use crispy roasted chickpeas to add texture to a pureed soup. Try smoked paprika chickpeas over a creamy, roasted butternut squash soup.
  • Toss with chopped toasted almonds and golden raisins for a savory trail mix
  • Garnish simply steamed vegetables
  • Mix chickpeas roasted with coconut oil, cinnamon and cocoa powder with popcorn then drizzle with honey for a sweet and salty treat
  • Use chickpeas instead of croutons, like in this recipe
I can not emphasize enough how simple these are to make. I've tried a ton of different recipes, and while some have turned out not quite as crispy as I'd like, it's impossible to mess these up. Here's how you do it:
1. Drain 1 can of chickpeas. Pat really dry using a paper towel. It's important to get them as dry as possible so they'll crisp. As you're drying them with a paper towel, rub them vigorously back and forth to loosen the skin. Pick away loose skin, but unless you enjoy tedious tasks, don't worry if some still have the skin on.
2. Toss chickpeas with a teaspoon of oil and your choice of spices and salt.
3. Place in a 400 degree oven and roast for 20 minutes. Using a spatula, toss the chickpeas around and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and let cool. They'll crisp even further as they cool. If you don't eat them all immediately, cover and store at room temperature after they've cooled completely. They'll loose a little crisp after a day or two, but still delicious!
The best part is playing with different spices and flavoring ingredients. Here are some of my favorites:
Cumin/coriander
Curry/thyme/ginger
Coconut oil/cinnamon/almond butter
Smoked paprika
Sesame oil/sriracha/garlic
Garlic/crushed red pepper
Harissa
With a good mix of protein from the nuts and chickpeas, high fiber carbs from the dates and chickpeas and fat from the olive oil and nuts, this salad is perfect for a satisfying, yet light lunch. You can prepare it in advance by substituting sturdy chopped kale for spinach. Just store the chickpea croutons separate, unless you don't mind them getting soft. Sumac is a lemony scented herb common in Middle Eastern cuisine. If you can't find it at your grocery store, check a Middle Eastern specialty store or you can order it inexpensively online. I love to add it to hummus for a lemony zing or sprinkle it over sliced avocado and crackers for a snack. You could also substitute za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend that includes sumac as a base, since it's a little easier to find than sumac by itself.
Spinach Salad with Crispy Chickpea Croutons
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Serves 4
To bulk up the meal, feel free to add shredded, cooked organic chicken or feta cheese. Adapted from [url href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1607743949/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1607743949&linkCode=as2&tag=anavada-20&linkId=P4KQLSCDFBX7WJUS" rel="nofollow"]Jerusalem. [/url]
Ingredients
  • 1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons [url href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000QNQZM8/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000QNQZM8&linkCode=as2&tag=anavada-20&linkId=H4V5CI5ENCDPRE5X" rel="nofollow"]sumac[/url] or [url href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0063J1RCM/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0063J1RCM&linkCode=as2&tag=anavada-20&linkId=C3C3KBDYIE6AJEE4" rel="nofollow"]za'atar[/url]
  • 1/2 teaspoon mild chili flakes or powder
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
  • 5 ounces baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Pat chickpeas dry with a paper towel, rubbing vigorously to loosen skin. Pick away any skins that come loose. Toss the chickpeas with 1 teaspoon olive oil, cumin, and salt. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast 20 minutes. Toss with a spatula and roast an additional 15 minutes until crunchy. After roasting, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  3. While chickpeas are cooking, toss red onion with vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside to marinate 20 minutes.
  4. Toss almonds with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Toast in a small skillet or in the toaster oven, until fragrant and golden. Remove from heat, toss with sumac and chili. Set aside.
  5. Place spinach leaves in a large bowl. Toss with chickpeas, red onion, almonds, and dates. Drizzle in remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and lemon juice.