Caesar Salad with Smoky Chickpea Croutons Caesar Salad with Smoky Chickpea CroutonsI have a love-hate relationship with the world of ‘healthy eating’ online. I love reading blogs that inspire me with healthy recipes, and new ingredient ideas. As someone who gets excited on Friday night about her trip to the farmers market on Saturday morning (J makes fun of me endlessly about this), I’m a big believer in the “whole food” approach to eating – that is, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins that are consumed as close to their original state as possible. That’s the love part.

Caesar Salad with Smoky Chickpea Croutons Caesar Salad with Smoky Chickpea Croutons

The negative part comes in when we start talking about science, and the general disregard I’ve noticed for science in the “healthy eating” part of the internet. For example: I am not about to tell you that genetic modification is great for our biodiversity, but until I see hard evidence that GMOs are bad for our health, I’m not willing to jump on the anti-GMO bandwagon. I hear a lot about “natural” foods, but I’m still unclear about what foods are considered “natural” and what are not, and I think a lot of it is precarious. There’s tons of stuff about superfoods (from berries to mushrooms), but I have yet to see any evidence that many of them have true “super powers.” And don’t even get me started on the “cancer curing” types. Finally, there’s the fact that none of them can seem to agree, and yet have no problem making proclamations about food: dairy is great/dairy is terrible for you. Eat a plant based diet/vegan diets have too many carbs. Drink fruit and vegetable juice/juice has too many sugars. No wonder people have a hard time figuring out what is healthy with all this chaos!

So what do I do? I’ve tended to develop this pretty strong filter for all that stuff. Instead, I just do my own thing. I try to have as few ‘packaged’ foods in our pantry as possible (while recognizing that some are really great, like canned chickpeas and tomatoes). I cook and bake from scratch as much as possible (while also recognizing that I will never make my own croissants, because here and here). And I try to buy food that is locally grown/produced, whenever possible  – either at the farmers market, the normal grocery store, or at a local shop. These are the things I can do to at least have a sense of what is going into our bodies. Oh and of course we have sour cream and onion ruffles every so often too because, you only live once.

Now that I’m done ranting, here is a pretty healthy usual dinner in our house – homemade caesar salad. We usually eat it with some kind of additional protein (grilled chicken, soft boiled eggs), but it gets an extra boost of protein with these crispy and smoky chickpea “croutons”  – a nice alternative to sourdough croutons. The recipe for the dressing is adapted from my brother’s recipe, and is super garlicky, the way a good caesar dressing should be, with the nice earthiness from the anchovies and Worchestire, and the zing of lemon.

Caesar Salad with Smoky Chickpea CroutonsCaesar Salad with Smoky Chickpea Croutons

Dave’s caesar salad with Michelle’s smoky chickpea “croutons”
Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main (with some grilled chicken, boiled eggs etc on top)

Soundtrack: The Thermals – Live

Notes: Technically this is my brother’s salad, so I fully credited him in the title, but I had made some adjustments to his original recipe (increasing the lemon juice, decreasing the olive oil). I make the dressing right in the wooden bowl, and add the greens to that, but if you prefer you can do it in a small bowl and pour it on top after.

Caesar dressing
1 egg yolk (coddled if you like, or raw)
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
A splash of worcestershire sauce
A splash of tabasco
Juice of half a lemon
1 -2 garlic cloves, minced/pressed
2 anchovies, minced/pressed
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Add the yolk to the bowl, then add the lemon juice, worcestershire, and tabasco and whisk. Add the dijon, garlic and anchovies, whisk again. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking the whole time. Adjust to your taste (more lemon juice, more olive oil), and season with ground pepper.

Chickpea “croutons”
1 cup of canned chickpeas, rinsed
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, wrap chickpeas in a dishtowel and rub well until very dry, and the skins have come off. Discard skins.

In a bowl, toss the chickpeas with olive oil, paprika and chili powder.  Pour chickpeas onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 35 minutes (until they appear firm, browned, and crisp), tossing 2-3 times during baking. Sprinkle with sea salt while still warm. Let cool completely.

Salad
5-6 cups of greens of your choice (I used kale, swiss chard and red leaf)
Freshly grated Parmesan
Smoky chickpea “croutons”

Add the greens to the dressing, mix thoroughly. Top with grated parm and croutons and enjoy!