What to CookOn the Cheap

The $1.89 Lunch Our Editor-in-Chief Swears By

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I’m not one to go on about the power of The Universe, but certain things are clearly meant to be. Like meeting your best friend, or your true love—or a humble yet oddly compelling little sandwich. (Just me?)

I can’t with total confidence tell you how this sandwich came into my life (that Universe thing again). But I do remember a recipe mysteriously appearing on my desk at work a few years back: a single torn-out page from The Oz Family Kitchen cookbook, about a curried chickpea spread. Deeply acquainted with the Oz oeuvre I am not, but I’ve never met a chickpea I didn’t like. And so I thought, “I should probably try that sometime.”

A few weeks later, I did—and then again, and again, until I’d made it maybe a hundred times. Fast forward nearly three years, and I’m still making that sandwich.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

The reason is simple: I can’t get over how good it tastes, considering how easy it is to make. The way it comes together reminds me of what I like most about tuna fish or egg salad sandwiches: basic ingredients yielding a totally satisfying—and endlessly riffable—result. You combine chickpeas with tangy red wine vinegar and creamy mayo. Add celery’s crunch and a little zing from shallot, along with some earthy-sweet curry powder and turmeric, plus parsley for brightness, and boom: You’ve hit the savory-tasty-filling trifecta.

I didn’t start off making this sandwich because it was cheap, but along the way I realized how very cheap it is. Which I thought was pretty great—because life is expensive, and by life, I mean lunch. A pound of deli turkey can set me back $19.99 at the unapologetically bougie market in my neighborhood, and $10 equals an only-okay salad near my office. At least a couple of days a week, this sandwich makes for a better, thriftier option all the way around.

Here’s how the math works out on that $1.89 (numbers are based on my most recent grocery run, but they’ll obviously vary by store). There are some startup costs in the form of spices and such, which could be something to consider if you’re only planning to make this once...but you probably won’t only make this once.

$2.58 worth of canned chickpeas (2 cans @ $1.29 each)
20 cents’ worth of celery (1 bunch @ $2.99)
20 cents’ worth of shallot (a single wee one)
$1 worth of mayo ($4.99 for a 15 ounce jar)
15 cents’ worth of red wine vinegar ($5 per bottle)
30 cents’ worth of curry powder ($3.99 per jar)
30 cents’ worth of turmeric ($3.99 per jar)
50 cents’ worth of parsley (99 cents for a small bunch)
$2.32 worth of sliced fancy bread (a shocking $6.99 per loaf at my neighborhood market—but that’s a whole other story)

Total for four servings: $7.55...making the total cost per serving a pretty surprising and gratifying $1.89.

We Tried All the Canned Chickpeas So You Don't Have To
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We Tried All the Canned Chickpeas So You Don't Have To

The recipe calls for greens and tomato, but I'm just as likely to sprinkle on some salt and pepper and call it a day. More advanced types might zhush things up with grated carrot, pickled jalapenos, olives, and/or pepperoncini. The book suggests serving it in a pita, but I also like it open-faced on toast, with crackers, or plunked atop mixed greens. The chickpea spread keeps in the fridge for up to three days, so you have a few chances to experiment. My husband has gotten into it, too—we now bring matching sandwiches to work pretty regularly. (Aren’t we romantic?)

Last Sunday, I was (theoretically) gearing up to go to the grocery store but (really) dawdling around on Instagram, and our conversation meandered into “What should we have for dinner this week?”-territory. You know how it goes: Chicken sausage or chicken thighs? Tomatoey pasta or lemony pasta? Who has time to cook, and who’s working late? Should we just go out to eat instead?

When it came to lunch, at least, I didn’t even have to ask.

Curried Chickpea Sandwich

Curried Chickpea Sandwich

Suzanne D'Amato Suzanne D'Amato
Go To Recipe
Makes 4 sandwiches
  • Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup vegan or standard mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup greens (such as iceberg, romaine, or watercress), optional
  • 1 large ripe tomato, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice, optional
  • 4 whole wheat pitas, tops cut off, optional
Go to Recipe
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Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Not Sad Desk Lunch, Wellness