The secret to a great chickpeas? Smash and char them. A little layering doesn’t hurt, either.
To create a boldly seasoned, complexly textured dish with pops of flavor throughout, we reach for three staple techniques from the Milk Street kitchen. Even better is that none is complicated or time consuming, nor do you need any special equipment. And though we’re applying them to a chickpea salad, the lessons work equally well with any similar recipe.
We start by partially smashing canned chickpeas, while also leaving some whole. This blend of crushed and whole chickpeas creates textural interest in the finished salad. It also releases more flavor. Finally, the crushed chickpeas have more surface area than whole ones, which promotes browning when we move to Lesson No. 2: charring.
After the chickpeas are partially smashed, we char them in a very hot skillet, much as we would a steak. This promotes caramelization, which intensifies flavor and adds smoky notes. It also creates additional texture. As with meat, don’t stir the chickpeas once you add them to the skillet. Motion cools the pan and delays or even inhibits browning.
The final lesson—layer your flavors. This technique allows you to maximize the impact of just a few ingredients. In this recipe, the scallions, spices and lemon are added in two doses, one cooked and one raw. This provides multiple flavors from each ingredient by treating them differently.
We also borrow a trick from pasta-making and drizzle on olive oil at the end to add a little richness to an otherwise lean dish. And we’re done. Every step and every ingredient more than earning its keep.