Roasted Chickpeas and Sweet Potato Spinach Salad

My dear friend and business partner and I are teaching a class on vegetarian cooking, and for the class we wanted to share a recipe for roasted chickpeas. Roasted chickpeas are super easy to make and are a great snack all on their own. They are satisfying, crunchy, and they can be flavored a bunch of different ways.

Roasted chickpeas are a crowd pleaser, and great for kids, but we also wanted to find a way to incorporate them into another dish. My sister in law found this Melissa Clark recipe and made it for an outdoor BBQ the other weekend. I fell in love with this salad, and I knew that I had to put it into my salad repertoire ASAP. Yes, I'm posting two salad recipes in a row... but this salad is more of a meal than a salad. It's addictive and has one of the best dressings ever. It's one of those salads that really surprises you with how good it actually tastes.

I've adapted the recipe slightly to fit my own preferences. I'm using plain whole milk yogurt instead of Greek; I find it creamier and smoother. I also added a generous amount of za'atar to my dressing. Za'atar is a generic name for a family of Middle Eastern herbs, and it is also the name of a common spice mixture frequently used in the Middle East. The spice mix usually involves some combo of ground thyme, oregano, marjoram and sesame seeds. If you can't find za'atar you can substitute any type of herb (dried or fresh) that you like. Dill or parsley would be nice here. A mix of ground thyme and oregano would be good, too. You can also just omit the herbs entirely; the dressing is good with just the yogurt, oil, lemon juice and garlic. 

Roasted Chickpeas

2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 15 oz. can or from 1 cup dried chickpeas)
1-2 teaspoons of your favorite spice (paprika, cumin, coriander, chili powder, or a combo of any)
pinch of salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

If you are using canned chickpeas, start by rinsing and draining the the chickpeas.

If you are starting with dried chickpeas, soak them in cold water overnight or  for at least 8 hours. Drain them then add them to a pot, and fill the pot with water (at least 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of chickpeas). Let the chickpeas and water come up to a boil then simmer until the chickpeas are tender and fully cooked. Timing varies depending on the chickpea, but if they are presoaked the chickpeas should cook in about an hour and a half.

Spread the chickpeas in an even layer over clean kitchen towel or over paper towels. Pat the chickpeas dry. Transfer the dried chickpeas to a sheet pan and add the the spice, salt, pepper and oil to the chickpeas. Toss until the chickpeas are evenly coated in oil.

Roast the chickpeas for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.  If you are making these chickpeas for the salad recipe below, you can roast them at the same time that you roast the sweet potatoes.
In a small bowl or mason jar, combine the ingredients for the dressing. Whisk the ingredients together or shake the jar until they are fully incorporated. Add the dressing to the salad and lightly toss everything together until all of the ingredients are well coated. The salad can be dressed up to 1 hour before serving.

Roasted Chickpea and Sweet Potato Spinach Salad with Yogurt Dressing
Adapted from Melissa Clark of The New York Times
Serves 4-6

for the salad-
2 cups roasted chickpeas (see recipe above)
1½ lbs.  or 3-4 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1-inch pieces
drizzle of oil
salt and pepper, to taste
6-8 cups spinach
4-5 green onions, thinly sliced

for the dressing-
¾ cup plain whole milk yogurt (European-style)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
juice of ½ a lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon za’atar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Peel and cube the sweet potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Place the cubed sweet potato onto a baking sheet and drizzle with oil (about 2-3 tablespoons). Season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast the sweet potatoes for 25-30 minutes or until browned, tender and cooked through. The sweet potatoes can be made at the same time as you roast the chickpeas. Once cooked, allow the sweet potatoes to cool slightly.

Add the spinach to a large salad bowl. To the spinach add the cooled roasted chickpeas and sweet potatoes. Top with sliced green onion.

In a small bowl or mason jar, combine the ingredients for the dressing. Whisk the ingredients together or shake the jar until they are fully incorporated. Add the dressing to the salad and lightly toss everything together until all of the ingredients are well coated. The salad can be dressed up to 1 hour before serving.

Roasted Green Beans with Smokey Yogurt Tahini Sauce

I make and use tahini sauce A LOT. Tahini sauce comes from tahini paste, and tahini paste is made out of ground sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are full of magnesium and calcium, and other super good vitamins and minerals. My pantry is always stocked with back-up jars of tahini. Tahini on its own is a little bland, but with a few additional ingredients it's magic. I drizzle it on roasted eggplant, use it as a dressing on kale salads, and put it on whatever vegetable or protein that calls its name. It only takes a few minutes to make a good tahini sauce, and it adds so much flavor and goodness to whatever you're eating.

This week's CSA came with some lovely bright string beans. They were beautiful to look at, and tasted particularly fresh and beany, but their skins were a little tougher than normal. Generally, I prefer string beans that are small and delicate; the French call them haricot verts. I knew roasting the beans would soften and caramelize these tough guys, and so into the oven at high heat they went.

Roasted green beans are very good on their own, with some salt and pepper and maybe a squeeze of lemon... but roasted green beans with tahini sauce take these legumes to another level.

This version of tahini sauce includes yogurt for creaminess and tang, smoked paprika for smokiness and interest, sumac for complexity of flavor (optional), and lemon juice because lemon juice is everything to tahini.

Roasted Green Beans with Smokey Yogurt Tahini Sauce
Serves 4

for the beans:
1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed
olive oil
salt and pepper
sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

for the sauce:
3 tablespoons tahini paste
2 tablespoons yogurt (I prefer plain whole milk, but any plain yogurt works, even Greek)
juice of half a lemon
2-3 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika 
1/2 teaspoon sumac (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425°F/215°C

Wash, dry and trim the ends off of your green beans. Lay the green beans onto a baking sheet. Drizzle them with a few tablespoons of good olive oil. Toss the beans with your hands until they are coated with the oil. If they don't seem coated enough, add a little more oil. Season the beans with salt and pepper.

Bake the beans in the oven for 15-25 minutes (roasting time will depend on the beans and your oven), or until they are golden browned and softened. Ten minutes into baking, take the beans out and shake them around a bit so that they brown evenly.  

While the beans are baking, make your tahini sauce. In a bowl, add your tahini paste, yogurt and lemon juice. The acid from the lemon juice will counterintuitively cause the tahini sauce to thicken and become unwieldy. This is where the warm water comes in. Add warm water, a tablespoon at a time, until you have thinned the sauce to your liking. If you over-water your sauce, just add a little more tahini and yogurt. No one will be mad at having extra sauce lying about. Once the sauce is thick or thin enough, add the olive oil. Season your sauce with smoked paprika (so nice and smokey!), sumac (it adds a lemony earthy flavor), fresh parsley, and salt and pepper. With all sauces and vinaigrettes, the balance of flavors depends entirely on your ingredients, and ingredients differ - from the juiciness and tartness of a lemon, to the smokiness of paprika - so taste, taste, taste, and adjust everything to your liking. Any extra sauce will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days. 

To complete the dish, drizzle the beans with the sauce, sprinkle everything with sesame seeds and serve hot or  at room temp with extra sauce on the side. Extra sauce is always a good thing. Enjoy!

Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

Appetizers and desserts are the best parts of every meal? Right?

I remember hearing Rayanne's mom saying so on My So Called Life, and it alway stuck (at 1:27 in the clip below).

Let's throw "snacks" into the apps/desserts/best-things-to-eat category.

I'm always attracted to foods that are crunchy, spicy, or smoky.  I also prefer those things to be homemade, and not totally unhealthy.

This is a quick, easy, protein-rich snack.  It's best to eat these guys soon after you make them.  They lose their crunchiness after a few hours.

I like smoky flavors like cumin and smoked paprika, but you can try any spice combo you think you would like.

This recipe makes a small batch, but you could easily double it and adjust the spices accordingly.

Roasted Spiced Chickpeas
Serves 2-3 as a snack

1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
2 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon chipotle powder (or chili powder could be good, too)
pinch of salt (optional, doesn't really need it as the chickpeas are seasoned in the can)

Preheat the oven to 400°F, with a rack placed in the center of the oven.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.

Rinse and drain your chickpeas. Lay them out on a towel, or paper towels, and pat them dry.
In a bowl, add your dried chickpeas, olive oil, and spices.  Toss the chickpeas in the oils and spices so that each one is well coated with the mixture.

Transfer the chickpeas to your lined baking sheet and place in the oven for 25-40 minutes (it depends on the chickpeas and your oven), until they are crunchy and browned.  Keep an eye on these guys, they can go from crunchy to burnt pretty quickly.

Serve and eat!