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A $10-Dollar Meal For When You're Convinced You Have "Nothing" to Make

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You know that feeling when dinnertime is near, but you have no plan, and no time to trudge to the grocery store? Maybe you’re thinking, “Yeah, that is every night of my life lady—what’s your point?” Me too guys, me too. Let’s explore how to make a delicious meal when you thought you had nothing.

Chickpea Vegetable Bowl with Peanut Dressing
Chickpea Vegetable Bowl with Peanut Dressing

Today, we’re starting with chickpeas. If you want bang for your buck, buy them dried and boil them in large batches. Once cooked, they keep well in the fridge or freezer in their cooking liquid. Canned chickpeas also work, they just come at double or triple the cost (still an excellent value, just not uber-cheap). Use whichever form suits your values and lifestyle—one is not better than the other.

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Okay what’s next? We need some flavor and color and oh, what do we need to use up before it goes off? Vegetables! If you were making this salad in the summer, you might grab cucumbers and tomatoes, but it’s February so we’ve got red cabbage, carrots, scallions, and a very wilted bunch of cilantro. Let’s shred them for maximum flavor distribution.

Photo by Alpha Smoot

My go-to dressing here is a play on peanut sauce made from pantry staples. The base is peanut butter and a squirt of chile paste thinned out with lime juice and water. With the shredded carrots and cilantro, this was heading in a Vietnamese direction, so I added a squirt of fish sauce for fun. If you want a more truly peanut-saucey vibe you can add a dash of brown sugar or honey.

Play with the dressing: If you have a different kind of nut butter on hand, use that. You can use tahini instead of peanut butter, lemon instead of lime, and skip the chile sauce or add mustard or spices.

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This salad, which will cost you between $7 and $10 to put together, contains multitudes. So start exploring your own taste and pantry. Please share any changes you make in the comments.

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Chickpea Vegetable Bowl with Peanut Dressing

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Serves 4

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (or any nut or seed butter)
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or sambal oelek
  • 2 limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup of juice)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Water, as needed

For the salad:

  • 2 cups dried chickpeas (or two cans, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 small red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 large carrots, shredded or grated
  • 1/3 bunch scallions, chopped
  • cilantro, to taste (optional)
  • peanuts, chopped (optional)