Vegetarian Chickpea “Tuna” Salad

Here is what I miss: I miss the cheap sausage-egg-cheese bagels I ate every day for lunch when I worked in Queens. I miss free shift meals at my fast casual restaurant job, beer cheese and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup and pork shoulder tacos. I miss Friday night dinners with friends at our favorite neighborhood spots. I miss picking up a slice of pizza on my way home. When I did feel like cooking, I miss walking three blocks to the grocery store for only the ingredients I needed–I’m not a great grocery shopper or meal prepper, but that was never really a problem before.

I’m not trying to say that I only eat out. In New York, they say you can get food at any time of day that’s good, cheap, or fast–the catch is that you’re allowed to pick two of those three categories. I keep my kitchen stocked with the basics–bread, peanut butter, pasta–but for the times I wasn’t home, I was mastering the categories on that list.

I genuinely love food and I’ve never been a picky eater. When I started working in restaurants when I was 21, I became obsessed with learning about different types of cuisine, how they were prepared, how the best ingredients made all the difference, and I loved trying different restaurants. But I still never quite learned to cook at home.

Like many of us right now, I had big dreams of using this time in quarantine to learn to cook. But that’s easier said than done when even a trip to the grocery store is an obstacle right now (a lot of the ones in New York won’t even let you in without gloves and a mask). I know I’m not going to learn to roast a duck overnight or whatever. But I still miss those delicious, easy meals that I’d become so accustomed to having within reach.

This recipe–a vegan take on tuna salad that subs mashed chickpeas for the tuna–proved to be the perfect place to start. I already had most of the ingredients, you can taste as you go, and it lasts for a week in the fridge, all good components for a beginner cook. I left out the dill and the celery because I didn’t have any, and used scallions for the onions because I like them better. I also used regular old mayo because I didn’t have the vegan kind. Finally, I mashed the chickpeas with a cocktail muddler, which was way more effective than a fork and feels worth mentioning for the ingenuity alone. In the end, it turned out even better than I’d hoped.

This chickpea salad spread was delicious on white bread with some baby greens and potato chips on the side. Later in the week, I ate it on a pita with a thin layer of mayo. Chickpeas are quickly becoming a staple of this quarantine, and I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I make this recipe.

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