Chickpea Salad Sandwich
By Dennis Linden
Here's a hearty and healthy sandwich that has the potential of replacing the iconic PB&J forever! Mark Smith, a member of Melissa's team of national retail representatives, located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, created this sandwich art. A dietary lifestyle change inspired the recipe:
"We have recently worked as a family to eat a more plant-based diet," explained Mark. "This recipe has become a favorite lunch for my family. Using a hearty whole-grain bread from a local bakery is not only delicious but substantial enough to eliminate snacking in the afternoons. Decreasing the urge to snack is not an easy task, especially since there are so many temptations during my store visits to retailers."
Chickpeas, also called Garbanzo beans, are high in fiber and protein as well as packed with several essential vitamins and minerals. The iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K in chickpeas all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength. The high fiber, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B-6 content all support heart health. That fiber also lowers the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease. Did you know the mineral selenium, which is not present in most fruits and vegetables, is in chickpeas? Selenium aids the enzymes of the liver to function properly, is known to detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body, and prevents inflammation.
Unfortunately, chickpeas have not exactly been a fast and convenient food to eat. The beans must be soaked in water for 10 to 12 hours before using — a process not conducive to spontaneous sandwich making! That is until Melissa's Peeled & Steamed Chickpeas came along. For Mark's recipe, it's just a matter of opening the package and following the directions. No soak/no stovetop necessary. Easy, peasy! And speaking of the PB&J, for Mark's delicious sandwich, you are aiming for the similar texture of very chunky peanut butter when smashing the chickpeas.
The rest of Mark's ingredients are typical sandwich flavor enhancers. Note: I prefer to crush the pine nuts before adding them to the spread to release their natural oils to add more flavor and because the nuts blend into the spread better. The suggested toppings for this sandwich are Mark's favorites, though he encourages subbing in your personal preferences. For the first tasting, I built the sandwich according to Mark's instructions. I served the remainder of the spread to a few friends as a dip with crackers and guacamole. There were no leftovers from that serving!
Mark Smith works with retailers in the Pennsylvania region on behalf of Melissa's for almost twenty years now. Chickpea salad sandwich is his second recipe submission to this blog (see Dec'16 in the Archives). Smith's role as a conduit between the company's procurement and sales staff in our Los Angeles corporate headquarters and retailers on the other side of the country shrinks that distance and has been key to forming long-term alliances. Smith supplies our eastern accounts with insight on current trends in food and gives them a heads-up on new items available. Smith also shares seasonal product opportunities that arise due to weather conditions and/or harvest circumstances.
"The business of fresh perishable produce is a dynamic, fast-paced industry that requires the sharing of information, insights and ideas quickly and effectively," Mark explained. "I work closely with local retail clients to help them better understand the seasonal opportunities that Melissa's can offer to their consumers. I find introducing new items and promotional programs help our customers achieve their business goals. Inspiring shoppers is both a rewarding and challenging part of my job; It is rewarding when a new item or promotion is a success at store level, and challenging because sometimes a retailer is hesitant to try new things as it is human nature to shy away from what they don't know. The amazing support of our team in California and our grower partners, who provide Melissa's with the highest quality produce, make that job much easier."
When not meeting with retailers to plan the next ad campaign or seasonal opportunities, Mark spends time with his family — a family of Panthers. That is, their daughter, Rachel, recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, and their son Ryan is in his junior year. The rest of the Smith household are canines – a Lab, Puggle and a 13-year-old rescue Westie Terrier. Mark enjoys playing golf with his son when they can both make the time. Ryan is still in college and somewhat dependent for another year of schooling, so I would think that enjoyment probably comes from winning those matches. If college has taught Ryan anything i.e. Rule #47: miss the putts until you graduate and are self-sufficient, son! Until then, enjoy this sandwich!
Yield: 3 sandwiches
2 pkgs Melissa’s Peeled & Steamed Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
¼ cup Melissa’s Pine Nuts, crushed
3½ TBSP Mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon or spicy mustard
1 TBSP Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave
1/3 cup Red onion, fine diced
2 Sweet Dill pickles, medium size, chopped small
Salt and Pepper to taste
6 Slices Hearty Whole Grain bread, lightly toasted
Suggested toppers:Romaine or Spinach leaves, tomatoes, radish and avocado.
Place chickpeas in a large bowl and mash to a chunky-smooth texture with a fork, potato masher or meat tenderizer mallet.
Add in pine nuts, mayo, mustard, agave, red onion, pickles, s & p, then mix well.
Toast bread, prepare other sandwich toppers. Spread even amounts of chickpea filling on three pieces of bread, layer with toppings then use remaining bread to complete sandwiches.