This Chickpea Salad Is Loaded with Vegetables and Topped with Fried Cheese Croutons

It's ready in just half an hour, too.

When you need to make dinner and you're short on time, pantry staples always come in handy. Case in point — this episode of Last-Minute Meals with Paola shows how to turn canned chickpeas into a flavorful meal that's ready in just 30 minutes. Pastry chef Paola Velez shares her recipe for Marinated Chickpea Salad with Radishes, Cucumber, and Queso de Freir, a riff on this recipe from former Food & Wine Test Kitchen Supervisor Marcia Kiesel. The recipe features a lemon-garlic and cumin dressing, fresh vegetables, and crispy, dreamy slices of fried cheese. It's easy to throw together on a weeknight, and would also be great for summer picnics and cookouts.

To make it at home, read on for Velez's method and follow along with the video above.

Marinate the Chickpeas

The base of this salad is the chickpeas. Start with the dressing: you can either crush cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice mill until they're finely ground, or skip the step and use already ground cumin. Either way, add the cumin to a large bowl and toss in the olive oil, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, and finely chopped garlic. The black peppercorns can also be either freshly crushed or pre-ground. Add them to the bowl as well and season the dressing with salt. Whisk the dressing together; then, add in the rinsed and drained chickpeas and stir so that they're evenly coated.

After you've mixed in the chickpeas, set them aside to marinate while you prep the remaining ingredients.

Prep the Vegetables

Next, gather your vegetables. Thinly slice the radishes — use an assortment of colors and varieties, if you can — and cut the cucumber first in half lengthwise, then crosswise into thin half-moons. The red onion should also be thinly sliced, and the flat-leaf parsley coarsely chopped.

Fry the Cheese

To fry the queso de freir slices, you'll need a large nonstick skillet and some canola oil. Heat the oil over medium-high, add the cheese slices, and give them about three minutes on each side, until they're golden, crispy, and irresistible. Make sure to transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate or sheet pan after cooking so excess oil can drain off.

Chickpea Salad with Fried Halloumi
Farrah Skeiky

Assemble and Serve

Once all of the cheese is fried, you can build your salad. Toss the sliced vegetables and chopped parsley with the marinated chickpeas, season the salad with salt and crushed red pepper to taste, and finally, top it with those dreamy slices of queso de freir. That's it — the only thing left to do is grabbing a fork (and maybe a knife, for the cheese) so you can enjoy your meal.

Looking for more last-minute meals? Check out this recipe for Quick-Brined Salmon with Lemon, Miso, and Sofrito.

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