Last Saturday I pulled together a salad for a barbecue with bits and bites of ingredients I had on hand – and it turned out to be one of the best dishes I have enjoyed this year.
You’ve probably been in a similar situation before: committed to bringing a dish to a gathering yet totally uncomitted to going shopping for said dish. Having a well-stocked pantry and a garden that is starting to produce aids and abets the creative process. That was certainly the case for this Middle Eastern taco salad.
I started by listing the leftovers I had on hand: half an avocado, a bit of roast chicken, a quarter of a red onion, the end of a block of feta cheese. Lettuce and cucumber could be found in the garden, along with oodles of oregano and mint. Now I had a direction….Greece. But I wanted to go further East. I rummaged around and turned up a can of chickpeas, a bag of pita chips and whole cumin seed in the pantry. Now I was set to play.
If Middle Eastern taco salad sounds weird to you, I understand. It’s a bit of a leap, but it’s essentially everything I love to stuff into soft pita bread only in salad form. Over the summer I love to replace bread with lettuce whenever possible to lighten things up and this salad is kicking off that habit.
As far as the ‘taco’ part, well, this is my modern version of a traditional taco salad. Feta instead of cheddar, pita chips replacing tortilla chips, chickpeas in place of pinto beans. Trust me, it works. I was sitting next to one of the young cousins at our birthday barbecue celebration and she mused “This salad tastes like tacos”. So there you go. If the children are convinced, I’ve done my bit. (Three ladies also asked for the recipe, so it was a hit among the grown-ups too.)
At home I serve the salad build-your-own style, as my children are all about the toppings on the side. No tomato, extra cucumber, that sort of thing. As long as they are essentially eating salad for dinner, I’ll happily serve it up any which way. However, at the weekend family gathering, I tossed everything together in a enormous wooden bowl and garnished it with the feta and chickpeas. It was also glorious as one big mess. Your call.
This Middle Eastern Taco Salad with Roasted Chickpeas and Tangy Avocado Dressing is undoubtably our new favourite ‘dinner salad’; I’ll be trying it paired with lamb brochettes next. Perhaps for our upcoming Canada Day barbecue.
|Tangy Avocado Dressing|| |
- 1/2 ripe avocado
- 1/4 cup plain yogourt
- 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Combine in a blender ALL ingredients EXCEPT for the olive oil. Blend until smooth.
- Pour in the olive oil and blend one more time until it is incorporated.
- Transfer the dressing to a half-pint jar, top with a lid and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
|Cumin Roasted Chickpeas|| |
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Spread chickpeas on a paper towel or tea towel to remove excess liquid.
- In a small bowl, combine olive oil, cumin and salt. Add chickpeas and toss to coast evenly.
- Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30-35 minutes or until chickpeas are crunchy. Give the pan a little shake halfway through the roasting time to help ensure even browning.
- Remove from oven. Cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days
|Middle Eastern Taco Salad|| |
- 1 large head of leaf lettuce, washed
- 2 baby cucumbers
- 1/4 red onion
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 cooked chicken breast, chopped
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 3-4 sprigs each, oregano and mint, chopped
- 1 recipe Cumin Roasted Chickpeas (see above)
- 1 recipe Tangy Avocado Dressing (see above)
- 2 cups pita chips, slightly crushed
- Tear lettuce into a very large salad bowl. Thinly slice the cucumbers and red onion; add them to the bowl.
- Chop the tomatoes and add them to the salad, along with the chicken. Sprinkle the feta cheese and the chopped herbs over the top.
- Toss the salad together with the roasted chickpeas and the Tangy Avocado Dressing.
- Immediately before serving, add the crushed pita chips and serve.
What is your go-to salad to bring along to a summer gathering?