Sophie at the Stove: Chickpea and Avocado Salad

The Washingtonian's resident Brit shares her home-cooking adventures—and proves that there's more to English food than bangers and mash.

Sophie’s inexpensive salad whose simplicity reminds her of home. Photograph by John Wilwol

If I were a businessman (and it should be immediately apparent from my choice of career that I am not), one of the first things I’d do is import Sainsbury’s to the U.S. The British supermarket chain is probably the thing I miss most from home (hopefully my mom isn’t reading this), and it’s just about impossible to find anything here that even comes close. British pork-belly mini joints with apple-and-shallot stuffing? Done. Broccoli-and-Stilton quiche with a crunch cheddar crumb? Sold. Looking at the Web site now is enough to make my poor, Trader Joe’s-condemned self weep. What I wouldn’t give right now for a Gruyère-topped bap (a soft roll) or six.

The brilliant thing about British supermarket chains is that they put mini stores on almost every street corner, meaning organic arugula and Oyster Bay wine are just steps away no matter where you are. And it also means that pre-made lunch options are a cinch, whether you’re a fan of char-grilled vegetable couscous for £1.59 (about $2.50) or edamame-and-butter-bean salad for a mere £1.99 (about $3.15). Getting a wholesome lunch in England is an inexpensive cinch, even if you’re confronted with Cadbury’s chocolate at every checkout line. Getting lunch in DC? I don’t have a window in my office, but if I did I’d be looking out at a Staples, a Potbelly, and a Corner Bakery, none of which seem to be tempting me with the siren call of whole grains and exotic vegetables. Yes, there’s always my hometown import, Pret A Manger, but my monthly spending there is starting to rival my mortgage, and the staff give me the same kind of judgmental looks that bartenders give alcoholics.

So the obvious remedy is to make my own lunch. This salad is one of the easiest things to make, and it’s pretty inexpensive to boot. I’ve served it as an appetizer for four, or a lunch for two, garnished with arugula, spinach, or whatever else you have. The only snag is that if you leave it sitting around too long, the avocados turn an unappetizing shade of brown. But thanks to this handy Bon Appétit trick, I’ve learned that if you rinse them briefly with cold water once they’re sliced, you can keep them fresh-looking for at least 24 hours. I generally leave out oil because the avocados seem to be fatty enough, but it won’t hurt to add a tablespoon if you’d like.

Chickpea, Avocado, and Feta Salad
Serves 2 to 4

1 14-ounce can chickpeas or garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 avocado, peeled, sliced, rinsed in cold water, dried on a paper towel, and chopped roughly into 1-inch cubes
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the chickpeas, avocado, red onion, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix well with a spoon. Add the feta, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls or over salad greens, garnished with pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

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