Food & Drink Magazine

Rye Berry Salad with Salmon and Fresh Chickpeas

By Feedmedearly @feedmedearly
Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeasRye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas

I can name three foods that my kids unanimously adore: spaghetti, avocados, and chickpeas. Occasionally chicken will find its way onto the short list, although lately we've had poultry battles reminiscent of The Cold War. I finally had to ask what was going on because everyone was silently pushing their chicken around their plates. Apparently I make it too often.

I have a love/hate relationship with spaghetti. On the one hand, I'm Italian and feeding my kids noodles for dinner is part of my job description. On the other, it's a starch with little dietary value. Not the end of the world, an "absence of" is still better than foods that are "full of" [trans fats, preservatives, artificial colors, etc]. But I'd prefer to give them something that packs more nutritional heat.

Chickpeas are my hero food because although they look deceptively simple, they're still full of the good stuff, namely protein and fiber.

Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas
Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas

I'm making my kids sound pickier than they are - they do love many healthy foods. They like their tomatoes raw, their broccoli salted and their corn on the cob. Lauren starts most days with a slice of toast, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Carrots are a favorite snack. Runny eggs are religion.

But I'm talking here about that point in the Venn diagram where their loves collide. The foods for which they could conceivably drop their forks and duke it out over who gets the last scoop or bite or swipe.

When I was still working full-time away from home, we brought on a new babysitter to help out with Emma and the older kids after school. I mentioned the trifecta, and pointed Nadine in the direction of the avocados and the spaghetti packages.

"You see these things?" I said as I pulled out a can of chickpeas from the cabinet. "These are gold." I popped the lid, drained them into a colander, and gave them a quick rinse and dry before tossing them into a pan of hot oil. "They like 'em crispy and salty."

Cooking chickpeas is dead easy.

Or so I thought.

Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas
Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas

I came home from work one night to find our babysitter standing over the hot stove, sauté pan in one hand.

"How do these look?"

I peered over her shoulder.

"Nadine, they look like scabs."

They really did. They were dark and shriveled beyond recognition. Was that a nice way of telling someone that her food is overcooked? No, but even by her third week on the job we were like old chums.

Nadine loves to laugh and I could tell that she hadn't been teased enough in her life. My mediocre jokes would have her in hysterics. She'd laugh the kind of laugh where foot stomping, head shaking and air swatting were all, thrillingly, involved.

I had a feeling that she'd be into the scabs line. She was.

But I had another motive: I didn't want my kids to have to eat rocks for dinner. Even though they claimed to like eating rocks.

And now I have a third motive for treating chickpeas with respect. Have you ever laid eyes on a fresh one? They're stunning. Vivid green with an easy-peel shell that makes you want to spend the afternoon sitting on a milk crate with a cold beer in hand, popping chickpeas into a bucket. At least that's how my Chez Panisse back-of-the-house fantasy goes. I read in one of Alice's cookbooks that she and the prep cooks used to sit around shelling fava beans this way.

Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas
Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas

The nice thing about cookbooks is that you can recreate those fantasies in the home. Whether you're making Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon or David Chang's pork belly, with a few simple ingredients you're on your way to kitchen nirvana.

Last week I brought my three-year-old into my Alice Waters fantasy. With a cold beer and apple juice within arm's reach, we pulled up stools and sat at the kids' craft table, shelling chickpeas in preparation for this: a lox & bagel-inspired salad that uses local rye berries, smoked salmon, dill, thinly-sliced cucumbers and a few dollops of Neufchatel.

Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas
Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas

What do chickpeas have to do with all of these standard lox & bagel ingredients? Absolutely nothing. But they do taste like English peas...and English peas work with salmon....and cream....and lemon...and dill....and I did need a little boost of color. What else was I going to do with these beauties anyway? Let them wither and die while the other non-noteworthy ingredients stole this salad show? That's a lot of rhetorical questions in one paragraph.

Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas
Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas
Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas

Moving on.

This salad...is a good one. It's healthy and indulgent. Fresh, colorful, playful. And the most important benefit: it doesn't make your chickpeas into scabs. Bon appétit.

Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas
Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas

Rye berry salad with salmon and fresh chickpeas


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