It may not seem like salad weather to everyone out there, with the sudden, aggressive return of sub-zero temperatures. The poor cherry trees are obviously trying to be on time with the pink blossoms, but winter's grim determination to keep a grip on us is thwarting their best efforts.
However, this may be when we need salad the most - especially those of us who recently returned from sunnier climes, and can hardly believe the rude shock of snow on the ground in March, for crying out loud. Best of all, this salad gives double value with the freshness of the spinach and the heartiness of the chickpeas, making it a good transitional salad/side dish for, oh say, a lovely achiote-rubbed pork tenderloin (which I failed to photograph, sorry).
This recipe was engineered by Palle, who has been researching traditional Yucatecan food since we returned from Mexico. Some tweaks and substitutions were necessary - for example, classically the salad would be made with chaya, an indigenous Mexican plant that is used for everything from stuffing chicken to being pureed into a sweet, lime-juice based cold beverage. Without access to chaya, he opted for baby spinach. I note that apparently chaya is toxic when raw, so I imagine that this recipe would be made with chaya leaves that had been simmered properly, first. Not under that restriction, we went with raw for the spinach.
Mexican Chickpea Salad
19 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup diced red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ teaspoon finely grated lime zest
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of cayenne (or other hot) pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups baby spinach leaves (or prepared chaya, if available)
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon finely grated lime zest
¼ teaspoon honey
In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas, cilantro and onion.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice and zest, cumin, cayenne, salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the chickpea mixture and toss to coat evenly.
In another small bowl, stir together the yogurt, lime juice and zest, and honey.
Serve the chickpea salad over a bed of spinach leaves. Top with a drizzle of the yogurt dressing.
I'm pleased to report that any leftovers can be mixed all together and are equally delicious the next day. Also worth noting, the yogurt dressing on its own would make a delicious veggie dip, or even as a drizzle for kebabs, or in a nice pita sandwich stuffed with grilled things.