It’s been a week. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you why? I’m sure your stress levels are also high and your spirits low. But hey, we’re surviving even if we’re not necessarily thriving. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve leaned on comfort food quite a lot this past week. I submit my previous post for Chili Fries as evidence of this. So, as this emotionally draining week drew to a close, I actually found myself craving a salad. And I’m pleased to say, this Chickpea Pita Salad with Sweet and Sour Date Vinaigrette was exactly what my overwrought nervous system wanted and needed.
I’m not really a salad person. I’m not an anti-salad person either, by any means. I just rarely find myself excited about one. Well, unless they’re noodle-based. But that’s kind of a whole different experience. So I was a little shocked to find myself fantasizing about crisp vegetables. Usually, my daydreams are incredibly carb-centric. But rather than question it, I chased my craving and this chickpea salad was the result.
To be fair, this salad is fairly cheese and pita chip heavy. So yeah, I’m not sure “clean eating” is a term that can be applied to this bowl. I am, however, confident that it is delicious. This Chickpea Pita Salad borrows from one of my all-time favorite salads – fattoush. I always order the fattoush when I visit my favorite Lebanese restaurant Tabule. Fattoush is a Levantine dish consisting of mixed greens, fresh veg, fried pieces of pita (khubz), and a tangy sumac dressing. Fattoush is a member of the fattat family, a collection of dishes centered around the use of stale flatbread.
My Chickpea Pita Salad shares pita chips, chunky pieces of cucumber, and a sumac-kissed vinaigrette with the much-beloved fattoush but that is where the similarities end. Today’s salad is missing leafy greens of any kind. I’m going to say something controversial, I don’t really like lettuce-heavy salads. They go limp in seconds, so you can’t store leftovers. And leafy greens are a pain to wash and take forever to dry. My hatred of salad spinners is well-documented at this point.
Now, I do realize the need for leafy greens and some salads are nothing without them. The classic Caesar salad springs to mind. But when I can and where it makes sense to, I nix the leafy greens and double down on chunky pieces of veg instead. So in this chickpea number, you won’t find a leaf of spinach or a heart of romaine. You’ll find matchsticks of radish, chunks of cucumber, sliced sugar snap peas, and, of course, vinaigrette absorbing chickpeas.
When I build a salad, I of course focus on making a somewhat healthy dish. But I never want to deprive any of my mealtimes of a little joy. The joy in this Chickpea Pita Salad comes in the form of crisp baked pita chips, shards of crumbled salty feta, and pickled shallot petals. These elements cover all the bases – salty, sharp, and crisp. And pro-tip: Mix some of the pita chips in with the dressed salad, so they get heavy with the vinaigrette, and reserve a few for sprinkling on top just before serving for crunch. It will give you everything a pita chip can offer.
Now, let’s talk about the vinaigrette because quite frankly I could write a sonnet about it. This sweet and sour date vinaigrette delivers exactly what it promises, sweetness with a sharp vinegary tang. It all starts with some dates and some boiling water to soften them up. Once the dates have soaked for 15 minutes, check them for pits even if the bag says “unpitted”. I’ve nearly broken a tooth and my food processor on date pits in the past, so it pays to play it safe.
From there, the dates take a short trip in a food processor alongside some garlic. Then there’s a bit of oil and vinegar alchemy to form an emulsion. The vinegar does double duty as a pickling agent for the shallots and souring agent in the vinaigrette. Then, of course, you have to add a solid teaspoon of that tangy sumac because it’s just the right thing to do.
Once the dressing is done, toss your veg and chickpeas with the creamy concoction and finish the salad with dill, mint, and those pickled shallot petals. If you’re not into the pickled shallot petals, I get it, they’re a little large if you’re not a complete pickle fanatic. So feel free to finely slice your shallots instead. They will still bring their telltale hit of sour.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Chickpea Pita Salad with Sweet and Sour Date Vinaigrette. Salty, sweet, tangy, and crunchy, this salad covers all the bases.
Chickpea Pita Salad with Sweet and Sour Date Vinaigrette
- 1 Large baking sheet
- 1 Food Processor
- 3 shallots peeled, halved and layers separated
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 lemon juiced
- 5 medjool dates
- 3 pieces pita bread cut into cubes
- ¼ + 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp kosher salt divided
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1 (540 ml, 18 fl oz.) can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 Persian cucumbers quartered and chopped
- 6-7 radishes julienned
- 227g (8oz) sugar snap peas chopped
- 150g (5oz) feta crumbled
- 2 tbsp fresh dill finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh mint finely chopped
- Place the shallots in a small bowl. Cover with the vinegar and the lemon juice. Set the shallots aside to pickle at room temperature for 3 hours.3 shallots, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, 1 lemon
- When the shallots are nearly finished pickling, preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set it aside. Place the dates in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them sit for 15 minutes.5 medjool dates
- While the dates are soaking, place the pita in a large bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/2 a teaspoon of the salt, and the crushed red pepper flakes. Toss the pita with your hands to ensure it’s evenly coated.3 pieces pita bread, ¼ + 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt, ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- Transfer the dressed pita to the baking sheet and place it in the oven. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until the pita is golden. Take the pita out of the oven and set it aside to cool.
- Drain the dates and place them in a large food processor. ** Add the garlic and the remaining olive oil. Turn on the food processor and blitz until a paste forms.5 medjool dates, ¼ + 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves garlic
- Drain the pickled shallots, reserving the pickling liquid. With the food processor set to low, stream in the pickling liquid and blitz until you have a creamy vinaigrette. Pour the dressing into a small bowl and whisk in the remaining salt and the sumac. Chill until ready to serve.1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp sumac
- Place the chickpeas, cucumber, radish, sugar snap peas, feta, dill, mint, and half of the pita chips in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Transfer the salad to a platter and garnish with the pickled shallots, the remaining pita chips, additional fresh dill and mint leaves, and a sprinkling of sumac. Serve immediately.1 (540 ml, 18 fl oz.) can chickpeas, 2 Persian cucumbers, 6-7 radishes, 227g (8oz) sugar snap peas, 150g (5oz) feta, 2 tbsp fresh dill, 2 tbsp fresh mint