I still remember the first tuna salad sandwich I ever ate. I was over at my aunt’s house, sitting at her kitchen table. I couldn’t have been more than four or five. She was making sandwiches for me and my cousin. I took a bite and was instantly taken with the creamy sandwich, soft white bread, and then the occasional crunch of garlicky dill pickle. When I got home that afternoon, I couldn’t wait to tell my mom about it.
“You ate what?” she said.
I was known as being a picky eater, and that sandwich fell outside of the range of what she thought I’d eat.
A few years after that, tuna salad sandwiches became one of the first things I ever learned how to “cook.” Just open a can, add a spoonful or two of mayo, the tiniest dollop of mustard perhaps, chopped dill pickle and celery, and then add my mom’s secret ingredient – celery seed – for a little celery explosion in your mouth. Stir and slather it between two slices of bread. It couldn’t get much easier. It was a lunch of pantry staples, which meant that even if there was nothing in the house to eat, there were probably ingredients for that.
It’s fitting then that chickpea salad sandwiches were one of my go-to’s when I first went vegan. I ate them almost daily. The process of making them is virtually the same as making tuna salad, with one obvious exception, of course – the fishes. Instead, homemade chickpeas or canned chickpeas that have been drained and rinsed are briefly thrown into a food processor and broken up once or twice. You don’t want it to become hummus. You want it to still have some of its form, just crumbly and in flakes. If there are a few whole chickpeas left in the mix, that’s fine.
Just like the tuna salad sandwiches of yore, I always have ingredients for chickpea salad. I pull out the vegan mayo and stone-ground mustard, jar of dill pickle slices, a stalk of celery, and a pinch of my mom’s secret ingredient. Then a sprinkling of fresh or dried dill amps up the pickled flavor. (If you prefer to make your own mayo, I like the tofu-cashew mayonnaise from Susan at FatFree Vegan.)
Some people add dulse flakes to their chickpea salad for an added ocean-y quality, but I never do. The one thing I didn’t care for with tuna salad was its fishiness, and so seaweed is one food I can’t get my mouth around. Even just the smell of it makes my stomach do a flip-flop.
Chickpea salad sandwiches are great when you’re late but need something quick to make on your way out the door, and it comes in handy when you lose power like I did a couple of weeks ago. A power line came crashing to the ground outside, leaving us without power for about 7 hours. So instead of using the food processor, I just quickly crushed the chickpeas with a fork instead. The texture is better with a food processor, but in a pinch, a fork will do. Sitting in the candlelight eating chickpea salad on crackers, it almost could have been romantic… but it would have been better with air conditioning.
Chickpea salad is terrific on a sandwich, served in dollops on top of crackers, rolled into a tortilla, wrapped into romaine leaves or endive, stuffed into a hollowed tomato, or eaten straight out of the bowl with a fork. And the great thing is, it can be tweaked to your tastes and preferences, no recipe necessary. It’s so easy, even a kid could do it.
That said, here is my favorite way to make it. Feel free to tweak it and make it your own!
Meredith at Kale Crusaders made a super cute illustration for chickpea salad a couple months ago. If you like chickpeas in snorkeling gear (and who doesn’t?), you should definitely check it out. And speaking of Meredith, she was kind enough to email me a file of the guac-kale-mole illustration she created based on my recipe. I had it printed yesterday on cardstock at a local printer, cut it down to 8 x 8, and framed it! It is so sweet! Now I just have to find the perfect spot for it…