French Market Chickpea Salad

My toddler is apparently potty-trained now (yay!) which evidently also means he thinks he's grown (wtf). Yes, we've left old diaper ways behind, and it's a great feeling. Cancelling our Amazon subscription to diapers and wipes feels like money back in our pockets, and now the memory of Jack flailing and screaming at me in Midway airport, demanding to be reinstated in what turns out was a deeply beloved poopy diaper is really only a memory and not a potentially recurring nightmare. But apparently all other boundaries are also now up for review. When and what we eat for breakfast, how many shows we start and abruptly stop in the name of extending TV time, and, my personal favorite, protest farts. On this, a most heinous morning, toddler-wise, Google kindly salted my wounds by reminding me of more peaceful baby-times just two years ago. There we were on our back deck, a setting sun glinting between me and Baby Jack. A summer breeze probably tickling his chubby arms, a diaper on his dimpled butt, a smile on my face, and a quiche, a green salad, and a seemingly nondescript bowl of chickpeas on the table before us. 

I remember that day for a lot of reasons. It was the first time Jack ate quiche, and folks, he devoured it. It was one of the proudest moments of my motherhood to date, or, ever, at the rate we're going. It was also the last time he ate quiche or wanted anything related to eggs - quiched, scrambled, or otherwise. 

We had bought the quiche that morning from the farmer's market, at a stall run by a local French restaurant. We still stop there on Saturday mornings when we hit the market because they're wizards with any and all pastry: shattery, tender croissants for Jack, savory danishes for me, and perfect quiches, fruit pies, and cakes to take home. It's not cheap to source a whole breezy Saturday's meals from them, but it's occasionally worth it to optimize all the daylight you can get on a July day and get rewarded with a glass of very cold wine and, in my eyes, an absolute freaking dream dinner.

So back to that summer evening. I admit I threw together the salad at the last moment in the name of eating something green and upholding my budding reputation as Salad Mom, and it was probably utilitarian but very good (because there is nothing that shaved parm can't make right). But the chickpeas were another find from the same market stall, and maybe, probably, overlooked by some because chickpeas have this weird reputation now for being quotidian and boring? Or, like, easy? BUT Y'ALL. This is why I bought that salad, and why I buy or order any chickpea-based salad on any menu. Because if it's good, it's also probably easily replicable, and I will replicate it.

Sure enough, this chickpea salad was rustic, elemental, and once I figured out an approximate recipe, impossible to fuck up. It needs only a few ingredients, and even some of those are negotiable. If you don't have herbes de Provence, you can easily sub in whatever fresh chopped herbs you might have and, if you grow it, smash up a few tiny lavender buds. If you're not married to the French thing, you could take this eastward and do a sort of Mediterranean vibe, with smoked paprika, cumin, and garlic, or use up that jar of Ras el Hanout you've been sitting on for longer than you're supposed to keep spices (hello, it's me). The only things you really, truly need are cooked chickpeas, little olives, olive oil, and salt and pepper. 

I'm doubly glad to have this recipe this week as we get ready for a good old-fashioned Midwest lake vacation with my family. The salad travels exceptionally well and adores the companionship of sandwiches or a pile of raw vegetables, so I'll likely make some to keep in the cooler as a roadside lunch option (or a way to pass the time whenever Jack calls for a potty break). It's also easily scalable and can bask outside for a while, so it's an inexpensive way to feed a crowd at whatever summer things are still on your calendar.


French Market Chickpea Salad - inspired by Suzette's Creperie

Serves 4

  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 small shallot, minced

  • 2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence, or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs of your choice (parsley, tarragon, and/or basil would all be nice here)

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups cooked at home, drained and rinsed)

  • 1/2 cup pitted Niçoise olives

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Add the shallots and let them sit in the vinegar mixture for 3 minutes. (This achieves, more or less, a really subtle pickling effect which tames the shallot’s bite. It also turns the shallots into messengers of sweet-tart flavor instead of limiting that flavor to just the dressing.)

Add the herbs, olive oil, and salt and pepper to the mixture and whisk until emulsified. Check and adjust seasoning. Add the chickpeas and olives and toss to combine. Check seasoning once more and serve.

This is a make-ahead dream and tastes even better after a night in the fridge. Leftovers will keep well refrigerated for up to 1 week. It also doubles or triples (or quadruples!) like a champ.

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