Going through the list of ingredients in this recipe, it all seems pretty familiar: chickpeas, mint, feta, olives—standard stuff in a chickpea salad. Delicious, too. But nothing new. I almost passed it up, until I followed the recipe details to another page in Mark Peel's latest book, New Classic Family Dinners, where the instructions for a remarkable dressing lived.
The real story here is the cumin vinaigrette that's laced into every bite of this salad. It's a heady combination of toasted cumin seeds, black pepper, and oregano, all smashed together with garlic, good olive oil, and red wine vinegar. It's a little bit Mediterranean, a little bit Middle Eastern, and it does wondrous things to the chickpeas. This would be a stellar vegetarian meal atop a bed of baby spinach, or you could serve it with some simple seared lamb chops.
- For the cumin vinaigrette
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- For the chickpea salad
- 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced lengthwise
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon slivered mint leaves
- 1 ounce feta cheese, cubed
In small skillet, toast cumin and black pepper over medium-high heat until very fragrant. Transfer to mortar and pestle or spice grinder, allow to cool 5 minutes, then crush. Crumble in oregano.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet over medium heat until shimmering, then add garlic. Cook until beginning to soften, about 30 seconds, then add cumin and spices and cook for additional 30 seconds. Add vinegar and stir to combine, the whisk in remaining oil to create an emulsion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add chickpeas to skillet and simmer until cooked and soft, 5-10 minutes. Transfer to bowl and combine with remaining ingredients. Serve warm or at room temperature.