What tomato sandwiches were to Harriet the Spy, tuna salad was to me, and I ate it almost every day throughout grade school. Piled on whole-wheat, it was squishy and dependable, seeing me through the ups and downs of every cafeteria drama.
Tuna sandwiches are just as comforting to me now, especially during this pandemic. But, because tuna stocks are in constant danger of overfishing, and the flesh is high in mercury, I’ve cut down on my consumption.
Enter my new favorite lunch: chickpea salad sandwiches, made exactly like tuna salad, but with beans instead of fish. And if you swap in plant-based mayonnaise for the egg-full kind, it’s vegan, too.
Making it is a cinch. Pop open a can of chickpeas. A 15-ounce can is enough for two large sandwiches. (Home-cooked chickpeas will work just as well: Use a scant 2 cups.)
Drain and rinse the chickpeas, and put them in a bowl. You could save the chickpea liquid — that magical aquafaba — and make your own vegan mayo. While this neatly eliminates any kitchen waste, it also turns a simple lunch into more of a project. For my sandwich, I used Hellman’s.
Scoop about 3 to 4 tablespoons of your mayo of choice into the bowl with the chickpeas. Now add whatever you usually add to tuna salad. I like a chopped celery stalk, 2 tablespoons or so of chopped onion (or scallion or shallot), a scant teaspoon of mustard, and a drizzle of brine from the pickle jar (or the pickled jalapeño jar if I’m feeling spicy). If pickles aren’t your thing, a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime will give your salad a similar tangy kick.
You could season this with salt and loads of black pepper, and call it a day. But I like to stir in ¼ to ½ teaspoon paprika, either smoked or plain, to round it out. Other spices or spice blends work, too, like curry powder, cumin or chile powder, sprinkled in to taste.
Then, scoop the salad onto bread — toasted if you like, and with or without lettuce and tomato. It’s a cozy, satisfying, vegetarian lunch, whether it reminds you of your school days, or not.