Balela, light of my life, fire of my belly. My obsession, my thriftiest recipe. Ba-lay-lah: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps across the curves of chickpeas and beans to tap, at two and three, on softness of a tomato and the crispness of an onion. Ba. Lay. Lah.
It can be plain, just plain in the morning, standing fresh and greenly adorned only by parsley. It’s delightful with mint, and better with both. It’s even still good with cilantro. But in my kitchen it is always Balela.
Did it have a precursor? It did, indeed it did. In point of fact, there might have been no Balela at all had I not stumbled, one weekend, on a certain plastic container. In a Trader Joe’s in the city. Oh when? About as a third as many weeks before I discovered it as my age is this year. You can always count on a food blogger for borrowed prose style and literary in-jokes.
Ladies and gentlemen of the food-blogging scene, exhibit number one is what the people, the strapped-for-cash, earnest, nobly-tasteful people, search for. Look at this exquisite tangle of of a salad.
1 15 oz can chickpeas
1/2 15 oz can black beans (you can do a whole can of beans, or even two cans of chickpeas; I tend to like my Balela more chickpea-heavy)
1 large tomato, chopped (or less, or more)
1/2 onion, chopped (I like Vidalia, but red would work as well)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, mint, parsley and mint, or cilantro
healthy glug of olive oil (don’t be shy!)
healthy glug of balsamic vinegar (no really, don’t be shy)
1 clove garlic, minced
sprinkling of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste