This recipe for Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Feta combines fiber-rich chickpeas (also know as Garbonzo beans, with fresh veggies and creamy salty Feta cheese. Eat it as a side dish, or put it on some lettuce and call it lunch.
The making of Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Feta
As the summer months approach, we all look forward to more outdoor time. More picnics. More grilling. Easy simple delicious food that can be made in the cool of the morning and served with easy dinner fares such as Grilled Rack of Lamb with Spinach Artichoke Pesto or a Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Sundried Tomato Tamponade, or even just a hamburger. And while my Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato or Lindy's Family Potato Salad are great choices, I'm always looking for something new, interesting, tasty, easy, healthy, can sit out in the air for a while sides. And this recipe for Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Feta certainly fits that bill.
Filled with fiber-rich garbanzo beans (chickpeas), fresh veggies, and a bright dressing, it's a perfect side for most summer food, and pretty great the rest of the year as well.
INGREDIENTS, VARIATIONS, AND SUBSTITUTIONS
What you need to make this easy Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Feta
- Chickpeas - Also known as Garbonzo Beans. These can either be canned or cooked fresh. I'll tell you more about how to cook them fresh later in the post, but canned is so convenient. These days most canned beans are not canned in cans using BPA which had been proven to contribute to certain cancers, such as breast cancer. So look at your can and make sure it is BHT-free. If not, cook fresh. Don't like Chickpeas? Cannellini beans will work in their place.
- Cucumber - If using a standard common slicing cucumber, I recommend you both peel and seed it as these may be unpleasant to eat without taking this extra step. I used Persian cucumbers which are smaller, thinner-skinned, and slightly sweeter so they did not require me to peel them. English hothouse cucumbers can be left with skin and seeds as well, although I prefer them seeded.
- Cherry Tomatoes - Or grape tomatoes are best in this dish, however, you could dice a large tomato.
- Red Onion - A sweet onion, such as Vidella, Walla-Walla, or Maui, could be used, but I prefer red for both look and taste.
- Feta Cheese - Feta is a Greek brined curd white cheese made from sheep's milk or from a mixture of sheep and goat's milk. Its flavor is tangy and salty, ranging from mild to sharp. I always buy a brick of cheese rather than pre-crumbled. But either will work. I don't think there is a proper substitute for Feta. If you don't like feta cheese, I would just omit it.
- Fresh Herbs - Parsley and mint are great in this dish. You could also add some fresh dill and/or minced oregano or marjoram.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Preferably Greek olive oil. Greek olive oil tends to be green and packs a strong flavor and aroma. But of course, any GOOD quality Italian or Spanish olive oil will work.
- Fresh Lemon Juice or Red Wine Vinegar - I find I prefer lemon juice, but red wine vinegar is also delcious. I wouldn't use a strong balsamic nor an apple cider vinegar here as the flavors are too strong and distinct.
- Salt and freshly ground pepper - Of course.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Putting this salad together is super easy.
- Cook and chill your chickpeas, or open your can of garbanzo beans and drain them. Dump into a bowl.
- Determine whether or not your want to peel and seed your cucumber. Then peel and remove seeds and dice, or just dice the cucumber into a medium dice. Put them in the bowl.
- Cut your cherry or grape tomatoes in half. Add to bowl. If using a large tomato, cut in half and then gently squeeze to remove some of the seeds and a bit of the juice so it doesn't dilute the dressing. Add to the bowl.
- Mince your chosen herbs. Add to the bowl.
- Give it all a nice sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper, then give it a stir.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, or red wine vinegar until well emulsified. Pour into the bowl and gently mix.
- Add your crumbled feta, gently mix until incorporated. Be careful not to mix too vigorously or you will have feta cottage cheese, you want larger pieces.
- Cover with plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can marinate overnight if desired. Remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving - about 1 hour.
HOW TO STORE LEFTOVERS
Any leftover salad can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 days. While the salad would not be spoiled after that time, it would show signs of age in the tomatoes, and fresh herbs. Any more time and the taste will be affected.
Chickpea - Garbanzo Bean What is the difference?
The only difference is what they are called, depending on where you are. Or what cuisine you are making. Chickpea comes from the Latin word cicer, referring to the plant family of legumes, Fabaceae. It is also known by its popular Spanish-derived name, the garbanzo bean.
Although the use of the word "Hummus" has become synonymous with any dip that uses any type of legume, the actual Arabic translation for chickpea is hummus. Therefore, any puree made from other than chickpeas is not really hummus at all, it's simply a vegetable puree. True Hummus can only be made from chickpeas.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHICKPEAS?
Chickpeas are low in both fat and calories while being high in protein and fiber. They are a great protein source for those on a plant-based diet.
Providing both vitamins and minerals, chickpeas also help decrease the risk of heart disease while promoting healthy digestion.
A WORD OF CAUTION: Chickpeas are a part of the legume family, so they are related to kidney, lima, and black beans as well as peanuts which, BTW, is why those with peanut or nut allergies might want to steer clear.
HOW TO COOK DRIED CHICKPEAS
Rinse the chickpeas, transfer them to a large pot, and add enough water to submerge all the beans. Cover the pot and let soak for at least three hours (or overnight) on your countertop. Toss the water, rinse, then add three cups of water for every one cup of dry chickpeas. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes or until the beans reach your preferred tenderness. You want them slightly firm so they hold up in the salad, so do not overcook them. Drain any excess water. For this recipe, chill before proceeding with the salad.
WANT MORE HEALTHY SIDE SALADS?
Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Feta
- 1 15 ½-ounce can garbanzo beans drained and rinsed or 2 cups fresh cooked chickpeas (garbanzo)
- 1 cup peeled seeded, diced cucumber (if using hothouse English or Persian cucumber, no need to peel or seed)
- 1- pint cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes halved - about 1 cup
- ¼ cup diced or thinly sliced red onion
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley - or to taste
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
- ⅓ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- ⅛ cup fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar
- ½ to 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Combine the chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, parsley, mint, and any other optional herbs in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar, season with salt and pepper. Pour enough dressing on the salad to coat well. (You may not need all the dressing.) Gently stir in the crumbled feta. Taste and adjust seasonings. Chill for at least 1 hour; stir and serve.