Last night, I accepted the invitation from some friends to take part in one of New York City’s great summertime traditions – listing to live music al fresco. The New York Philharmonic was doing its annual concert in Central Park (this event rotates through parks in the five boroughs). I mulled over what I could bring as my contribution to the evening’s picnic that would go along with the music. In general, I usually make something sweet.
Then, I realized the perfect dish for this kind of gathering was already right there under my nose. I had received a copy of Kathy Hester‘s The Great Vegan Bean Book and was supposed to participate in her blogger book tour a few weeks back, but life kind of intervened. I really wanted to bring something tasty and fresh to this picnic, something that didn’t take an incredible amount of prep time and a dish that would be cool and light in this oppressive heat we’ve been going through lately. Kathy’s Indian Chickpea Yogurt Salad seemed like the ideal solution.
To make this dish a bit more transportable and outdoor-dining friendly, I decided to mix the two main components, the vegetables and the dressing, separately. I drained the canned chickpeas and tossed them together with the cucumber, potato, and onion. The potatoes I used were red new potatoes, so I cooked a couple of larger ones to include in this salad. I also seeded the cucumbers so that the other ingredients wouldn’t get mushy from any extra liquid those might add. The ingredient list in the original recipe mentions the onion as optional, but I felt that the sharp crispness of a red onion would give a boost of flavor and texture to the dish. All of the ingredients should be cut so that they are roughly the same size as the chickpeas, with the exception of the onion, which should be chopped smaller than that.
I mixed the ingredients for the yogurt dressing together in a separate container. This would a. keep the salad from getting too soft and potentially slimy and b. allow the guests to combine the dressing and salad to their own tastes. To keep this dish completely vegan, and as I was curious about cooking with vegan yogurt, I used the coconut yogurt suggested in the recipe. For me, it added a slight sweetness and wasn’t as tangy as regular yogurt would have been, but it had a nice creamy consistency. I decided not to use the kala namak (a black, Indian salt), as I have a prohibition about buying one-use ingredients for my pantry. Instead, I used regular kosher salt. This, I added to taste, which I highly recommend doing.
The salad was a hit at the picnic as we all relaxed on the grass and took in the concert. It had a meaty bite from the chickpeas with a crisp crunch from the cucumbers and the onions. The dressing was cool and creamy with a backnote of heat and plenty of spice. The cilantro gave the salad an extra freshness and lift. It was the perfect summertime refresher and could sit alongside any kind of grilled meat or vegetables. This would be a great dish to serve alongside an Indian food feast at any time of year.
This cookbook has other fantastic recipes, too, all based upon the many uses for and dishes you can make with beans. It covers many different types and styles of these legumes. Instructions are also included throughout to accommodate the range and variety of vegan and vegetarian diets, so it is a great resource for those who would like to include this protein as part of their culinary staples. As a promotion for this book, I’ll also be giving away a copy of it on this website. I’ll post the giveaway later on this week.