There are just times in your life when you go on a salad kick. I’m on one of those right now, and truth be told, it’s the kickin’est salad kick I’ve ever been on. It’s lasted a few weeks now and shows no sign of letting up.
I guess I shouldn’t make it sound as though every day I make myself lunch and find myself looking down at my plate saying “Oh, look, salad again! I really can’t seem to get out of this rut.” In actuality, I’m making a conscious choice to eat salad every day. Part of it is a desire to get rid of some seminary squishiness which has found its way onto my body via hundreds of nights sitting like a lump for hours, memorizing flashcards or writing papers. Part of it is just because salad is awesome. But it is intentional. I’ve made it my new “thing” — and everyone should treat themselves to a new “thing” once in a while — to have salad once a day. I’ll tell you one thing, it makes figuring out what I’m going to eat on a given day so much easier.
It also forces me to think of new and cool things that would look good lounging on a bed of greens, because as much as I could eat a salad of spring greens, dried cherries, walnuts, goat cheese and a lemony vinaigrette EVERY SINGLE DAY, I just have to branch out. For myself. For posterity. So I won’t get bored. Well actually …………. no, it’s simply because I’ve eaten all the goat cheese and it’s all gone and I’m very sad about it. (Just being honest here… the only really valid reason not to eat goat cheese is that there is no goat cheese.)
So here, in the category of “salad topper / goat cheese replacement” is a pretty tasty idea … roasted chickpeas. It certainly is not original. I was inspired by Smitten Kitchen (which these days, with her cookbook on my shelf, I almost always am). Roasting chickpeas is a cool idea because you only ever eat chickpeas in hummus, right? When was the last time you ate a chickpea that wasn’t all pureed and tahini’d up? I know right? It’s always nice to see an ingredient in a different light … especially when it is almost always eaten the same way. Also, chickpeas take well to roasting. They get crisp on the outside while staying soft inside, and they pick up spices like little sponges. Crunchy ones. They’re sort of like bean croutons. Yeah, that has a definite ring to it …… not. (Although, Tom Haverford at least might go for this nomenclature.)
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas*
1 Tblsp olive oil
Coarse-ground salt and pepper
A dash each of cumin, garlic, and/or any other spices you prefer (Indian ones would be great)
A little fresh squeezed lemon juice (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drain and rinse chickpeas, and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Spread out on a pan. Add olive oil and toss to coat. Then add the salt, pepper and spices — as much as you like.
Roast for 10-15 minutes, turning the chickpeas once halfway through the cooking time, until crisp and golden. You’ll definitely need to taste-test them to tell if they’ve reached your preferred level of crispiness. But once they’re there …. well, you’ll just know. Remove from the oven and squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over them. Eat as a snack or toss ’em on a salad. Enjoy!
*Or garbanzo beans; both names refer to the same thing. I just prefer to say chickpeas, because if I say garbanzo beans, I can’t help but stretch it out so it sounds like “gaaarrrbaaaaaaannnnzooooo beeeeaaanzzzzz.” It’s just that kind of word. So, unless you enjoy being stared at in the grocery store, better to stick with “chickpeas.” It’s safer that way.
This post is for all you onion enthusiasts out there. Not for the ones who like their onions raw and crunchy and full of bite. But for those who like their onions caramelized and meltingly soft, sweeter than you could ever imagine an onion could be.
My friend Tessa and I have started a nerds’ cooking club … a club for total food nerds. Members: 2. Every few weeks she and I brainstorm an impossibly delicious recipe and gather ingredients. She comes over and we whip something up in my tiny apartment kitchen, then sit down and eat it, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, usually while planning what we want to make next time. This week, we were thinking about doing french onion soup but decided against it when I dreamed up this idea for a french-onion-soup-inspired panini. As it turned out, the panini didn’t end up tasting anything at all like french onion soup, but it just might be 1,000 times better.
The reasons why this panini is so delicious are many. One of the most significant reasons definitely has to be the goat cheese. Because one of the deep truths that governs our universe is that nothing made with goat cheese could ever be bad. The goat cheese redeems anything. But in this case, the sandwich is already good, and the goat cheese just takes it to a whole new level of awesome. Another great thing about this is the onions (of course!). Using a combination of sweet yellow and tangy red onions makes it much more interesting … plus red onions are insanely delicious caramelized.
Besides that, this panini has a lot of great contrasts. Crunchy bread and soft filling. Sweet onions and tangy cheese. And a drizzle of balsamic syrup that blends in just enough and stands out just enough. Also, it’s a really easy panini to make since it only has a few ingredients. Bread. Onions. Goat cheese. Balsamic vinegar. That’s about it.
Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Panini with Balsamic Drizzle (this will make about 4 sandwiches, but it depends on how much onion you put on each!)
Good sliced bread (We used French and foccaccia; use whatever you like)
A little butter
1 red onion
1 yellow onion
Olive oil, salt, & pepper
Balsamic vinegar (about 1/3 cup should be enough)
Plain goat cheese (chevre)
1. Thinly slice the onions and put them in a pan with olive oil, salt, & pepper. Cook over low to medium heat, turning/stirring from time to time, letting the onions slowly cook. Watch them so they don’t burn — but they should turn a beautiful golden-brown and soften while still holding their shape. The best way to know if they are done to perfection is to taste them! Just don’t eat the whole pan before you can get them onto a slice of bread. Be patient … it will be worth it. :)
2. Meanwhile, butter the outsides of the slices of bread. Preheat your panini press.
3. Also meanwhile, heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat with the lid off. All you are doing is getting it to simmer and evaporate so it will thicken. Once it’s reduced to about half, take it off the heat. Don’t let it get to the point of getting syrupy, because it thickens a lot once it cools. It may seem to runny when you take it off the heat, but once it cools it will be perfectly drizzle-able.
4. Spread a thick layer of goat cheese on one side of a slice of bread (the other side should be buttered). Top with a generous pile of caramelized onions and drizzle with balsamic syrup. Top with another slice of bread, buttered side out. Repeat to make 4 or so paninis. Cook on the panini press until browned and crisp. Enjoy!