Your Caesar Salad Needs Chickpea Croutons

And make sure you save that aquafaba, too.

In his first edition of Mad Genius Tips from home, Food & Wine Culinary Director-at-Large Justin Chapple walked viewers through a luscious, bacon-studded carbonara. Now, he's back with a quick riff on a Caesar salad that opts for fried chickpeas instead of classic croutons. Chickpea croutons! They come out light, airy, and crunchy, pairing perfectly with kale and a homemade tangy dressing. The whole thing is ready in 45 minutes—check out Justin's tips for making the dish below.

Get the Recipe: Kale Caesar with Fried Chickpeas

Get the Skillet Going

Justin starts by adding 1/4 inch of canola oil to a skillet—large, medium, whatever you have—and getting it hot. (You want a neutral oil here, he notes. Olive oil might burn.)

Prep the Chickpeas

In the meantime, Justin gets the chickpeas ready. The recipe calls for one can, which he drained in a sieve over a bowl for about 30 minutes so the chickpeas could get as dry as possible.

Speaking of Liquid…

The liquid in the chickpea can is called aquafaba, and you should save it. It can be used in place of egg whites in baking recipes, and also makes a mean vegan meringue.

Jostle ‘Em

Take the drained chickpeas and put them on a baking sheet or plate lined with paper towels. Then, jostle and shimmy them around (make sure not to lose any!) to get any lingering moisture off.

Don’t Know If the Oil’s Ready? Use Your Spoon

Take the end of a wooden spoon and insert it into your heating oil to check if it's ready. Once small bubbles start to form around the edge, it's good to go.

Fry Them Up

Carefully add the chickpeas to the hot oil and fry them over medium-high heat for three–five minutes, giving them a stir with a slotted spoon once they're in the pan. In the end, they should be browned and crispy—and you don't just have to use them for salad, either. Justin says the chickpeas would also make a delicious cocktail snack, seasoned with Old Bay or chili powder.

Jostle Again and Season

Turn off the stove and transfer the cooked chickpeas to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Jostle them one more time to remove excess oil, and season them before they cool with salt and pepper.

Make the Dressing

Next up is the tangy homemade Caesar dressing, which Justin says is "sort of traditional." (He omits the anchovies, since he doesn't have any on hand.) You start with 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, and add two teaspoons of Dijon mustard, grated garlic (one small clove, or 3/4 of a large one), and two tablespoons of lemon juice, whisking it all together. At this point, you'd add the anchovy paste or minced anchovies—you can even use Worcestershire sauce. Then, it's time to add the all-important Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese. Justin finely grates 1/4 cup fresh, but if you have pre-grated cheese, that absolutely works.

All that's left is adding kosher salt and a lot of black pepper, which is key to a good Caesar dressing, Justin says. Give everything another whisk until it's nice and smooth, and make sure to give it a taste first before you use.

Mix It All Up

You'll need the biggest mixing bowl you have for this recipe, since you're going to add 10 cups of greens. Justin uses kale in this case, but you can use whatever greens you have available. He likes to de-stem the kale, tear the leaves, and make sure it's nice and clean before storing in the fridge, where it will stay nice and crispy.

Add the kale to the bowl, followed by all of the dressing. Lift and fold over to toss it together—Justin calls it a "full body salad workout"—making sure the greens are coated. Then, add in the all of the chickpeas. It might look like a lot, but once you start eating, it won't be enough.

Get the Recipe: Kale Caesar with Fried Chickpeas

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