Want a better bean salad? Add sumac. And a microwave.

We learned about adding sumac from Özlem Warren’s take on nohut piyazi, a cooling salad of chickpeas, tomatoes and onions frequently eaten in southern Turkey. It’s one of the country’s many piyaz salads, all of which start with some combination of vegetables with raw onions.

For Warren, author of “Özlem’s Turkish Table,” nohut piyazi was a familiar accompaniment to the meals of her childhood.

“My parents adored chickpeas, and I grew up having piyaz salad on the table for lunch,” she says. It offered a fresh counterpoint to her mother’s richly savory kofte.

This simple dish turns out to be a master class in bean salads. All too often, these salads are disappointingly bland or—worse—drowned in oily dressings. By contrast, nohut piyazi is light and bright, with a dressing that offers just enough richness to balance the zing of the lemon juice.

A piquant blend of tart sumac, fiery Aleppo pepper and earthy cumin can lift flavors further. “Tangy crushed sumac is a must for us in piyaz,” Warren says.

Another crucial—if not traditional—component? Your microwave.

We’ve found that beans of all kinds more readily absorb dressings when they’re heated. A brief stint in the microwave expands the beans; as they cool, they contract, soaking up seasonings to ensure maximum flavor. Once they reach room temperature, they can then be combined with the rest of the ingredients.

In Turkey, nohut piyazi often starts with dried chickpeas. In fact, the street vendors of southeastern Anatolia’s Adıyaman region (where this salad is particularly popular) frequently cook theirs in lamb broth. But using dried beans usually requires an overnight soak—and sometimes convenience trumps tradition: “When I am short of time, I use an organic, good-quality precooked can of chickpeas, and drain and rinse well,” Warren says.

We opted for canned chickpeas, too. And to coax better flavor out of them, our microwave method works wonders, quickly infusing the legumes with the salad’s bold, lemony dressing.

For the tomatoes, we took inspiration from Istanbul chef Musa Dağdeviren. While many recipes for nohut piyazi call for fresh tomatoes, Dağdeviren prefers jarred sun-dried tomatoes. We found that these worked especially well: Toothsome and umami-rich, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes add bold pops of concentrated sweet-tart flavor and texture. And they don’t dilute the dressing by shedding extra liquid into the salad.

The result is an easy, versatile dish that pairs equally well with a meaty main course or simple flatbread for a light lunch.