“Does anyone here have any dietary restrictions?” has become a normal question in my life. It comes up almost every time I eat with friends, either at a restaurant or at someone’s house. More often than not there’s at least one person at the table who is vegetarian or vegan. But a few weeks ago I found myself out to dinner with a dozen friends and when the inevitable question was asked, no one answered. Everyone looked around in surprise. A few jokes were made and a couple of us giggled and then the moment passed. We got down ordering a variety of dishes, a number of which ended up being vegetarian. Just because.
Eating and making vegetarian meals is more of a difficulty for me that you would expect given that I was a vegetarian from the time I was 15 up until about six years ago. To be honest, ‘vegetarian’ is a bit of a misnomer for how I ate then anyway. What vegetables I did eat were mostly covered in ranch dressing or came in the form of pasta sauce. It’s only since I began eating meat again that I’ve learned how to cook vegetarian meals that aren’t entirely based on refined carbohydrates.
This particular vegetarian dish came out of a recipe for a fancy tuna salad in this book. It’s the kind of tuna salad that is more like an actual salad than a spread for a sandwich and the recipe included a vegetarian alternative using whole chickpeas. From that suggestion I reasoned that similar ingredients could easily make a fish free, and thus office friendly, tuna sandwich and now I can’t see myself going back to canned tuna. Fair warning though, this tastes weirdly similar to real tuna fish salad, probably owing to the (lack of) flavor of canned tuna and the addition of celery salt, something Jeffrey introduced me to and that is now vital to any “tuna sandwich” – fish or no.
Chickpea “Tuna” Salad
1 can chickpeas (14 oz), rinsed and drained
1/4 cup mayonaise (veganaise would make this a vegan sandwich filling too)
1 tsp celery salt (or mix equal parts kosher salt and ground celery seed)
Up to ¼ cup finely diced crunchy or salty vegetables (pickles, carrots, cucumber, capers, bell pepper, red onion, etc)
MASH the chickpeas in a large bowl using a fork or potato masher until most of them have been broken up and there are only a few whole chickpeas left. For a smoother texture you can mash them all into almost a paste.
ADD mayo, celery salt, and diced vegetables to the mashed chickpeas and stir to combine. When it’s thoroughly mixed you can spread it on a sandwich, add some to a salad, or put it in the fridge for up to a week and use it to bulk up (or create) a last minute meal.