We bonded over blogs online, and vicinity brought us together, but it was because of their dispositions that I enjoyed being with them, meeting after meeting. I am referring to a group of immensely talented, strong, independent women, who are also really fun to hang out with, and who I am happy to now call friends.
Food isn't always the focus of our conversations, but it is certainly wonderful to be able to discuss a certain cookbook, or a variation on a grandmother's recipe, or the source for an arcane ingredient.
So when I had them over for a casual lunch, the pressure was on. While on one hand I know they will politely eat anything I offer, I definitely wanted to make something that will win their approval.
As I mentally planned the menu, considering what was abundant in the market then and their dietary restrictions, one thing that I was very eager for them to try was this simple chickpeas and avocado salad. It was inspired by a side dish I ate at a lovely urban restaurant a long time ago. It was an explosion of flavors and textures, and it was one of those things that makes me wonder how something so simple can taste so voluptuous.
I tried to recreate it at home, and loved it as much as I had enjoyed it in the restaurant, and it quickly made its way into my regular repertoire. Of course I didn't have a recipe for it to begin with, so I had to go based on the quick analysis I had done of the main flavors - a bit of onion, lemon-oil vinaigrette, some finely chopped herbs, most likely parsley. The restaurant is firmly focused on seasonal, organic and local produce, and a few first rate ingredients had made all the difference.
The recipe is flexible, so adjust to suit your taste.
Chickpeas and Avocado Salad
1/3 cup of dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 firm ripe avocado
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/8th teaspoon red chili powder (or to taste)
salt to taste
2-3 Tablespoons of chopped cilantro (or parsley)
a bit of bold paprika (optional)
Soak the garbanzo beans for 6-10 hours in plenty of water. Drain the soaking water and cook the beans until tender. (I use about 4 times water by volume, and cook the beans in a pressure cooker with my usual 3 whistle regulation.) Drain the beans completely and let them cool.
To make the dressing, whisk the lemon juice and oil till they emulsify. Add the salt, chili powder, and whisk some more. Add the cilantro.
Chop the avocado into small bite size pieces.
In a large bowl, gently toss together the chickpeas, avocado, onion, and the dressing. Sprinkle a bit of paprika on top.
Here is an amped up version with mangoes and bell peppers.