Friday, April 20, 2012

Warm Chickpea Salad

This past weekend my parents came into town, which is a rare treat. While I do love them to visit as often as possible, when it comes to travel I prefer to be the one making the journey to my hometown. But this was exciting, my Mom had been to visit a little over a year and a half ago but my Dad hadn’t come to visit since 2006 so we really did it up. AND… since this might be the last time they visited while I lived in my lovely Brooklyn neighborhood, I had planned for us to hit up one of the hotspot restaurants I still hadn’t had a chance to go to- Al Di La.
Now if you’ve lived in New York, and/or have ever looked at a must-go Brooklyn restaurant list Al Di La almost always makes the cut. Innovative and delicious, it’s been touted as some of the tastiest Italian food in the area. But I wasn’t sure if the hype was worth it… so I took my parents. The verdict: after a fairly long, albeit expected, wait as well as a mishap with their credit card machines (the machines weren't working the whole night- so we had to be cash prepared) we had some pretty darn delicious food. Would I go back? Absolutely! Would I go back on a weekly basis? Probably not- but on a random weeknight when the crowds should be somewhat thinned out and I’m looking for a good place to eat out in the hood this would be a top choice.
And one of the reasons it was such a top choice was a very humble seeming appetizer special- octopus with a warm chickpea salad. Nearly every nouveau and even traditional Italian place has some kind of octopus starter and so long as it’s cooked correctly it’s always delicious but it was the chickpea salad here that stole the show. Warm, slightly sautéed, somewhat melty chickpeas with tons of delicious herbs and some celery that provided the perfect crunch. It was delicious in its absolute simplicity… and I was determined to recreate it as soon as humanly possible… which turned out to be last night.
I chose cucumber over celery, and had some leftover avocado I needed to use up and thought it might add a unique texture. The avocado was ok, it didn’t really add or detract so when I make this again I wouldn’t go out of my way to use it. I sautéed up the chickpeas to give them a nice crunch and then added in some wine and chicken stock and let that reduce to help cook the all the way through and provide a creamier texture. I’d like to try this again without the liquid just to see how it would come out, but the way I made it was pretty darn delicious. I just added in some dried herbs and served over some peppery arugula and topped with a lemon roasted chicken thigh, but it was great on its own, as a light dinner or healthy side dish.

Warm Chickpea Salad
1 can of chickpeas- drained and dried on a paper towel
1 Tbl. Olive oil
½ onion- thinly sliced
1 garlic clove- minced
1 tsp. oregano
½ tsp. thyme
½ tsp. rosemary
½ Kirby cucumber- seeds removed and finely chopped
2 heaping Tbl dry white wine
1/4 c. chicken stock- vegetable stock would also work to make this meal vegetarian/vegan
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a sauté pan heat the olive oil. Add in the onion and cook until translucent. Add in the chickpeas. Stir frequently and let them brown up. Add in the garlic and all the herbs. Once well mixed and chickpeas are all well seared add in the wine. Let that cook off and then add in the chicken stock and let that reduce down as well.

2. Once the chicken stock is nearly all reduced add in the cucumber and toss the mixture. Taste for salt and pepper. Remove from heat and serve over a bed of arugula or other greens.

*iPhone 4S pics aren't bad, no? Bear with my slightly less professional pictures though as I have been procrastinating on getting a new card reader. B&H is usually my go-to and it's right around the corner from my work so I really have no excuse. But yeah.

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