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Growing up, my family vacationed in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city and probably my favorite spot on the Mediterranean.
Alexandria’s busy streets are home to vendors and small food joints, many of which dedicated to the daily grub of falafel and fava beans, along with an extensive menu of filling “peasant” salads and sides. And that’s where the inspiration of today’s chickpea salad came frome–Alexandria.
This Mediterranean chickpea salad with za’atar and eggplant is a simple “poor man’s” dish of chickpeas, chopped vegetables, and fresh herbs, next to (or on top of) rounds of fried eggplant. Here’s another way to describe it: loaded fried eggplant, Mediterranean style!
I dressed the chickpea salad and fried eggplant with two of my favorite things: a generous sprinkle of Za’atar and a garlic-vinaigrette. If you like a little kick, feel free to add some cayenne or crushed red peppers.
This Mediterranean chickpea salad makes for a good starter to your meal. Because it is so filling, you can simply add chicken breast or fish to complete the meal. But, for a vegetarian dinner, my family regularly enjoys this chickpea salad with pita bread and other small plates like roasted red pepper hummus, baba ganoush, and of course, falafel.
A flavor-packed Mediterranean peasant salad with chickpeas, chopped vegetables and fried eggplant dressed in a light garlic vinaigrette! A step-by-step tutorial with photos follows this print-friendly recipe.
1 large eggplant, thinly sliced (no more than ¼ inch in thickness)
Canola oil for frying
1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
3 tbsp Za’atar, divided
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
½ English cucumber, diced
1 small red onion, sliced in ½ moons
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped dill
For the Garlic Vinaigrette:
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large lime, juice of
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
Place the sliced eggplant on a large tray and sprinkle generously with salt. Let it sit for 30 minutes, (The eggplant will “sweat out” its bitterness as it sits.)
Now line another large tray or baking sheet with a paper bag topped with paper towel and place it near the stove.
Pat the eggplant dry. Fill a large skillet about half way with canola oil. Heat on medium-high until the oil begins to gently bubble. Now fry the eggplant in the hot oil in batches (do this carefully and do not crowd the skillet). When the eggplant slices turn golden brown on one side, turn over and fry on the other side. Remove the eggplant slices with a slotted spatula and arrange them on the paper towel-lined tray to drain and cool. Once cooled, assemble the eggplant on a sided serving dish. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp of Za’atar.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, red onions, parsley and dill. Add the remaining Za’atar, and mix gently.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients. Drizzle 2 tbsp of the salad dressing over the fried eggplant; pour the remaining dressing over the chickpea salad and mix.
Add the chickpea salad to the serving dish with the fried eggplant. Serve with pita bread and other sides likehummus or baba ganoush.
Alternative to frying the eggplant: If you prefer, arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Drizzle generously with oil/olive oil, and roast for 20 mins or so in a 400 degrees F heated oven. Turn over half-way through.