Thursday, February 1, 2007

Today's Lunch: Chickpea Salad

To be honest, I like this more than the tuna salad it's supposed to emulate -- and a number of omnivores who've tried the recipe agree -- but then again, tuna's one of those things you either like or you don't, and I think many people find chickpeas more palatable to begin with. Anyway. You can make a batch of this salad at the beginning of the week and keep it in the fridge for a few days to spread on a sandwich or scoop into a tupperware container later in the week when you're short on time.

This was one of the first vegan meals I made for myself, and while I'm pretty sure I got the recipe from PETA originally, I can't seem to find it on their website now. There are other mock-tuna recipes, but this one's more simple and I like it better.

All of the ingredient quantities are approximate; adjust the amounts to taste. As with most salads like this, the recipe is very forgiving. You need:

• a can of chick peas or the equivalent amount of the dried-and-cooked kind, drained
• 2-3 ribs of celery, chopped
• a stalk of green onion, finely chopped
• any other vegetables you might put in tuna salad, chopped: I do green pepper or cucumber if we have 'em
• 2-3 heaping tablespoons of vegan mayonnaise (see note about vegan mayonnaises, below, if you're unfamiliar)
• a splash or two of soy sauce
• a couple squirts from a slice of lemon (or a little shake of lemon juice if you use the bottled kind)
• salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, mash the chick peas with a potato masher or a sturdy fork until they get to a tuna-like consistency. Then toss in the veggies and stir to combine. Add the mayonnaise, soy sauce, and lemon juice and mix well; add salt (just a bit, since there's already soy sauce in there) and pepper. It tastes best if you chill it before serving, but it's not necessary.

This recipe works well for a couple reasons: the lemon and soy sauce give the chickpeas just enough of that tangy umami flavour to be reminiscent of tuna without the overpowering tuna smell, and vegan mayonnaises generally taste very close to the traditional kind, so it doesn't require a re-orienting of tastes to enjoy. And hey, veggies are veggies.

So for today's lunch, my husband got chickpea salad sandwiches on whole wheat bread, apple slices, some tortilla chips I made by cutting up a whole wheat tortilla and toasting it in the toaster oven, some guacamole to dip the chips in, and some peanuts to snack on. I can generally throw all this together in about half an hour, much less if the salad's already made.

And now, here's that Note About Vegan Mayonniase:

The Hellmann's and Miracle Whip of the vegan world are Vegenaise and Nayonnaise, respectively. Vegenaise is a little tangier (like traditional mayonnaise) and Nayonnaise is a little creamier (like Miracle Whip). They both have their pros and cons: Vegenaise has the better texture, but it has to be refrigerated, which means it's generally harder to come by and a bit more expensive. Nayonnaise has a bit of a gloppy texture (which goes away after you stir it or spread it on anything) but doesn't need to be refrigerated before you open it, which means it's easier for stores to carry. To wit: we can get Nayonnaise in the natural foods section of our local grocery store, but I have make a separate trip to the health food store to get Vegenaise. Also: neither are much healthier than traditional mayo in the fat-and-calories sense, so that's still something to watch out for.

If you happen to live in an area where neither Vegenaise nor Nayonnaise are available, you can order Vegenaise direct from the company here and the Nayonnaise online here (disclaimer: I have no experience ordering from shopnatural, they were just the first shop that google returned). If you've been cutting out egg products for whatever reason and you miss mayonnaise, these are definitely good to try -- they're some of the best vegan substitutions out there.

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