Grilled Caesar salad with crispy chickpeas and tahini dressing
A childhood spent in America meant a lot of Caesar salads: the clean crunch of Cos lettuce, the serious hit of flavour from the garlic-kissed dressing, the burnished golden brown of a crouton. This Caesar is a bit different to the ones I ate growing up. The dressing is spiked with tahini, and instead of bread I use crispy chickpeas for croutons (which incidentally are great on their own as a snack or to eat with a few drinks). The lettuce is charred too, adding a pleasing smoky edge to it all, though you could make this just as successfully without griddling the lettuce if you like.
4 Little Gem lettuces
1 x 400g tin or 300g jar of chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
the zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
FOR THE CAESAR DRESSING
1⁄2 a clove of garlic
4 tablespoons light tahini
2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
the juice of 11⁄2 lemons
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
a scant dash of soy sauce or tamari
40g Parmesan (I use a vegetarian one)
a small bunch of parsley, leaves picked
Preheat the oven to 240oC/220oC fan/gas 9. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat.
While you’re waiting for the oven and griddle to come up to temperature, slice the Little Gems in half lengthways. Toss the chickpeas in a roasting tray with the rapeseed oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, then place in the centre of the hot oven for 25 minutes, shaking now and again, until you hear the chickpeas popping and they are blistering and crisp.
Meanwhile, griddle the Little Gem halves for a couple of minutes on each side until deep char marks form and they collapse a little. Lay the charred lettuces on a platter and leave to one side.
Next, make the dressing: finely grate the 1⁄2 clove of garlic into your food processor, then add all the other ingredients with 6 tablespoons of water, and blitz until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon/salt/pepper/soy to taste.
When the chickpeas have had their time, scatter over the lemon zest then put them on to kitchen paper to drain and crisp.
To serve, toss the charred lettuce in a few tablespoons of the dressing, then put it on to a platter, scatter the chickpeas over the lettuce and grate over the Parmesan. Serve with some more dressing, a good grind of black pepper and a few parsley leaves.
IMAGE: Ana Cuba