This vegetable forward Mediterranean Chopped Salad with Feta has fresh herbal flavors of mint, parsley and dill. This crisp salad with Feta combines all the flavors of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Greek cuisines all in one. The salad dressing is a lemony, Sumac dressing bursting with flavor, and well the Italian black garbanzo beans? An added earthy dimension to this beautifully arranged salad. For the final touch, a sprinkle of Za’atar on top for good measure.
the flavors of the Mediterranean
The sunny Mediterranean is home to several coastal countries and a little farther East on the Mediterranean, you approach the entrance of Middle Eastern countries. This area of the world is a cradle of incredible flavors and a common legume is the Garbanzo or Chickpea. Not every country in this region uses this bean, but there is certainly significant amount.
The black varietal I used for this salad are Italian beans or Ceci Neri. Ceci Neri translates to ‘black chickpea’ from Italian to English. They are slightly firmer and smaller than the chickpeas we are accustomed to in the U.S. The overall flavor profile is a bit nuttier with an earthiness to them. I found these curious beans on the Rancho Gordo site where I buy Pinquito Beans for my Santa Maria Style Pinquito bean recipe. The flavors and texture of this Mediterranean Chopped Salad with Feta is heavy on the vegetables using the Black Garbanzos as an accent. But not to worry! You can use regular canned garbanzo beans, it will be delicious!
Garbanzo or Chickpea varieties
The most consumed legume in the world is in fact, the chickpea. Specifically the beige variety we all know and love. There are two main varieties, Desi and Kabuli. Both the size, density and texture are different between these two beans. The most common and familiar is Kabuli which is larger and beige in color with a creamy taste.
Chickpeas are related to soybeans, snap peas, peas and peanuts among many other legumes. I think chickpeas have proven to be also one of the most flexible of the legumes. From Falafel to crisped up for a snack, to stews, soups and salads and sides. And let’s not forget hummus? It’s a wonder bean for sure.
From there we branch off to the more exotic types like the Italian, Ceci Neri, the Kala Chana, dark with a slightly reddish hue, that are the popular choice for Indian dishes. Additionally chickpeas are also green, red and brown. And no one can dispute the nutritional powerhouse in a 1/2 cup serving: 143 calories with a little over 1 gram of fat, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
If you are cooking garbanzo beans for this Mediterranean Chopped Salad recipe, they take time to soak and then to cook. But, it’s a very worthwhile endeavor. If you just don’t have the time, feel free to used canned garbanzo beans like we recommend for my Kitchen Sink Bean Salad , they work beautifully as well.
So is it a garbanzo bean or a chickpea? It’s one and the same. Garbanzo is primarily used in Latin, Spanish speaking countries and Chickpea is the English derivative.
How to cook garbanzo or chickpeas from dry beans
If you opt to cook your chickpeas from dry, which I recommend if you have the time. It’s a labor of love, but I never realized how delicious they are freshly cooked. 1lb of dry garbanzo beans yields about 5 1/2 cups of cooked beans. I cook 8oz at a time as I find the quantity more manageable. This yields about 2 and a half-ish cups cooked.
Start by sorting the beans for any debris. Once the beans are sorted, rinse well for any dirt. Next place in a bowl, add the beans and cover with enough water plus about 1 inch above the beans. I like to soak overnight, it’s just easier. In the morning, rinse the beans and place in a pot with double the amount of water to bean ratio. I like to add a bay leaf, 2 garlic whole garlic cloves and a wedge of white onion. On the stove, on medium heat, allow to come to a full boil, then reduce heat so it’s a constant simmer. They take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to cook and sometimes a little more. I recommend checking the tenderness of the bean at the 1 1/2 hour mark. Simply remove one bean with a teaspoon, cool and taste.
Check them every 45 minutes or so to ensure the water has not completely evaporated. Add extra hot water if needed and return to a boil. In the last 20 minutes, add salt to taste.
Once they are cooked, drain, remove garlic, onion and bay leaf. Now they are ready for the Mediterranean Chopped Salad with Feta or however you choose to use them. Allow to completely cool before adding to the salad.
Cooking dry garbanzo beans or chickpeas in the slow cooker
This method I have used many times. I place 8 oz of cleaned, rinsed dried beans in the slow cooker and add 4 cups of water. Add the bay leaf, garlic and onion as you would for stove top. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Check the beans at the 6 hour mark for tenderness and allow to cook 1 to 2 hours more if needed. Add salt in the last hour of cooking. Allow to cool, rinse, drain and remove bay leaf, garlic and onion. Now they are ready for use.
What’s in the Chopped salad?
This Mediterranean Chopped Salad with Feta is filled with Persian cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, red bell pepper, scallions, black garbanzo beans, lemon zest, parsley, dill, mint and of course, briny Feta cheese. The game changer is the dressing with a lemon juice base, olive oil, garlic, cumin, cayenne, sumac, salt and pepper. It’s a veg heavy, carb light perfect entree, or side dish.
What is Sumac?
If you are seeing Sumac as an ingredient for the first time, it’s a powder derived from Sumac berries. This type of Sumac is commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine as a condiment much like we use pepper. It has a bright, lemony flavor and it is delightful on food. I love to use it in dressing and for marinades. And another favorite way of using it is on top of hummus.
How to serve Mediterranean Chopped Salad with Feta
In my opinion, the best way to enjoy this bright chopped salad is with a side of hummus and some flat bread like pita or lavash. But what is great about this salad is that it works well served as a vegetarian main entree, or along side lamb chops, any type of white fish, shrimp, chicken or steak. You can also serve on a bed of spinach, baby greens, or chopped romaine. Another serving idea is to add Quinoa for extra protein and texture.
Let me know how you like it as I’m currently obsessed with this salad!
Mediterranean Chopped Salad with Feta
- 1 stock pot if cooking chickpeas
- 1 bowl large
- 1 jar with tight fitting lid 8 oz
- 2 cup black garbanzo beans or canned garbanzo beans cooked to package directions or use canned, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup cucumber, diced Persian or English
- 2 cup baby tomatoes sliced in half
- 2 cup parsley leaves, chopped flat or curly
- 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
- 6 whole scallions or green onions, tops removed thinly sliced
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 2/3 cup Feta cheese crumbled
- 10 Mint leaves fresh, remove from stems
- 4 Dill sprigs fresh, remove leaves from stems
- 1 tbsp Za'atar for serving
- 1/4 cup lemon juice fresh squeezed
- 7 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 3 whole garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tsp cumin ground
- 1 tsp sumac ground
- 1/2 tsp salt kosher
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper ground
- 1/4 tsp black pepper ground
- In a jar with a lid, place all ingredients for Sumac dressing. Close tightly and shake until all ingredients all fully combined. Chill until salad is ready.
- Chop cucumber, red pepper, tomatoes, parsley and green onions. Place in bowl.
- Add drained, cooked chickpeas or canned, rinsed and drained to the bowl.
- Add Feta cheese, Lemon zest into the vegetable and bean mixture.
- Add half of the dressing and toss. Adjust amount of dressing, and add salt and pepper if needed. Toss gently until the chopped salad is fully coated.
- Chill for 10 minutes.
- Serve with additional Feta, herbs and top with a generous sprinkle of Za'atar.
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