Recipe: Spring Chickpeas
Twice a month, Berkshire County native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out this year.
Okay I give in. Let’s talk about the weather.
This past weekend, I worked at the first Great Barrington farmers’ market of the year. Usually that first market is a cold, jump-up-and-down-to-stay-warm affair, but this market was hot and sunny, and market shoppers strolled through the parking lot (our new location just behind Main Street) in summer dresses and wide, floppy hats. And over and over, people asked for tomato plants.
This is my ninth season working for Indian Line Farm at the market. Over those years, I’ve learned at least a little bit about selling and planting tomato plants. And here in this part of the world, there is one rule we never break: Do not plant tomatoes before Memorial Day.
To eliminate any temptation, we don’t even bring tomato plants to the market until it’s time to plant them. This year, I spent most of the market reminding people of the rule.
Customers balked. They quoted the weather channel. They said the 10-day forecast never brought us below 80. And it was hard to argue. Because not only was it hot, it’s been hot. It’s hot like July, and, like the winter that came before, it already feels like this is the reality and it’s not going to change. What brought on the instant summer? Climate change? Random gulf streams? I think it’s more likely that our collective prayers that the winter would end hit the weather god with excessive force, and the weather god, in turn, answered in usual fashion, with a bit of irony mixed in.
Okay summer, I’m ready. It’s all cold salads and cocktails from here on out. But there’s no way I’m planting tomatoes. I don’t trust it.
On Friday, May 15, at I’ll be at Guido’s Fresh Marketplace from 1-3 p.m. to celebrate their truckload sale. It’s a pretty wonderful opportunity to stock up on all sorts of pantry staples at a huge discount (the sale runs all day Friday and Saturday), but I’ll be there with one of my very favorite cold salads, as well as copies of my book for signing and answers (hopefully!) to any cooking question you can throw at me. Come and say hello, but if you need that salad right now, you can make it at home between now and then.
Serves 4 to 6
I always try to have some variation on this chickpea salad in my fridge. It keeps for days, works great in lunch boxes, and satisfies any craving I have for something fresh and crunchy. It’s great on its own or as a side dish for a picnic or potluck. I especially love to scoop it into butter lettuce or endive leaves for a quick and beautiful lunch. Feel free to vary the vegetables according to what you have in your fridge or garden.
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion (about ½ small onion)
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
2 cups (or 1 can) chickpeas
2 small Persian cucumbers, diced
1 small fennel bulb, quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
5 radishes, diced
1 cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Freshly ground pepper
1. Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, and ½ teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. Add the garlic, red onion, and feta, gently tossing to coat in the dressing. Let it all marinate for 10 minutes.
2. Add the chickpeas, cucumbers, fennel, radishes, parsley, and several grinds of pepper to the bowl. Fold into the dressing, taking care not to crush the cheese and vegetables. Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper if needed.