Family nights, sweaty loud pubs with friends and elaborate midnight snacks; wherever there are nachos, loved ones, laughter and great memories fall not far behind. Nachos invite a mild sense of adventure, a willingness to forget the determination to follow a diet or be healthy, an agreement to not order the thing you wanted for yourself and instead share and interact and make tough decisions like, should I take the pile with all the cheese, scoop as much guacamole as I like and dip the sour cream into the salsa. Patience is invoked when you request more salsa (as is always required), attempt to resist but fail, and end up eating everything before the dependably inefficient waiter finally delivers.
Despite their nostalgic associations, I have had too many greasy, sloppy, soggy and way too salty nachos over the years to really think of them as something desirable to eat or cook anymore. I have not ordered them on my own or made them at home in years. What I love and crave more recently are simple corn tortilla chips served with a fresh, home-made salsa and guacamole. I originally set out to make this recipe as a salad but realized as I was shopping for the ingredients that I just wanted to eat what I was putting together in my head, scooped onto some tortilla chips.
This dish was inspired by a salad that I used to order from a cafe in the lab building that I once worked in. The cafe was one of those places that you loved to hate. It was great because one did not have to leave the building to find food. It was also great because everything was pretty healthy, made fresh and did not taste too bad. It was awful because the prices were ridiculous, the staff was uninspired and slow, the line-up at lunch was out the door and they ran out of the good stuff way too quickly. If you ate lunch at 2 pm, as I often did, there was not much to choose from.
It must have been on one of those days that I found myself with a small Styrofoam bowl filled with a black bean and tomato salad. It resembled the dish I made here today but seemed more like black beans mixed with jarred salsa and chopped peppers. It was not a bad salad, and I thought that, if warm, it would be a great taco filling.
It must have been two years since I wanted to try my own version before I actually got around to making this recipe today. I always knew exactly how I would make it, and not surprisingly it turned out exactly as I thought it would. I would say my version is just a little bit nicer. With fresh corn, heirloom peppers and avocado added, warmed by the freshly cooked black chickpeas this is something I would definitely make again, perhaps for a pot-luck.
Smoky, spicy black chickpea, corn and pepper salsa
1/2 cup dried black chickpeas or black beans
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of crushed/minced garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 tsp smoky paprika
1/2 tsp paprika
pinch of chili flakes
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp honey or other sweetener
1 cup chopped pepper (red, green, yellow or other)
1 cup fresh corn kernels
2 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper finely chopped
Handful fresh cilantro (~1/2 cup)
1 avocado, firm-soft
1. Soak chickpeas for 24 hours in water, in the fridge. Change water once.
2. Bring a pot of water to boil and boil chickpeas for 30 minutes. Drain.
3. Meanwhile, peel tomatoes. First, cut a cross in the bottom of the tomato skin, place in a pot of boiling water for one minute and then submerge in ice water. The skins should now come off very easily.
4. In a shallow pot, heat 1 tbsp oil and cook garlic and onions for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Meanwhile, chop tomatoes, keeping juice and add to the cooking garlic and onions.
6. Into the tomatoes, stir in 1 cup of water, chickpeas, sea salt, smoky and regular paprika, chili flakes, chili powder, cinnamon and sweetener.
7. Bring to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes until most of the juices have reduced and the chickpeas are tender. Note that once cooled, the remaining juices will thicken slightly.
8. While the tomatoes and chickpeas are simmering, chop the remaining vegetables (peppers, corn, green onion, jalapeño and cilantro) and mix in a bowl with the juice from one lime.
9. When the chickpea mix is done, let it cool about 5 minutes and then stir into the corn mixture. Season with sea salt if desired.
10. Lastly, stir in avocado (if very soft, stir in gently) and serve immediately with tortilla chips (or eat as a salad).