Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

This chickpea salad features roasted red bell peppers, toasted pita, cucumbers, walnuts, raisins and capers with a spicy, herby, bold dressing.


Charmoula (or chermoula) is the star of this chickpea salad. According to NPR:

“Born in Morocco, chermoula is a blend of spices like coriander and cumin along with fresh chilies, giving it a rich herby and spicy taste. Olive oil turns the combo into a paste.”

“There is no one recipe for charmoula,” says Paula Wolfert in The Food of Morocco. The recipe I found on Bon Appetit doesn’t include coriander (except in its leaf form, cilantro), but I suppose you could substitute coriander seeds for the fennel seeds, or just add them to the recipe. You could also increase the heat factor by adding more red pepper. I plan to play around with the ingredients in future versions.

You can use charmoula as a marinade and rub for chicken, pork, lamb, beef, fish (as you’ll see in the photo below and my recipe for Moroccan-Style Striped Bass), pasta, potatoes, and roasted vegetables like eggplant, winter squash and cauliflower.

Moroccan-Style Chickpea Salad

Moroccan-Style Chickpea Salad | Grabbing the Gusto

Moroccan-Style Chickpea Salad

You’ll need a spice or coffee grinder (or mortar and pestle), an immersion or regular blender (or small food processor), sealable bag, and large bowl.

You can save time by starting the prep on these ingredients first: roast the red bell peppers and toast the flatbread and walnuts.

The first set of ingredients below makes enough charmoula for this chickpea salad and Moroccan-Style Striped Bass with Charmoula, about 3/4 cup. If you only wish to make enough charmoula for the salad, skip down to the second set of ingredients.

Yield about 3/4 cup.

  • 1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns or 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Yield about 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons.

  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole white peppercorns or 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Combine fennel seeds, rosemary, cumin seeds, red pepper and white pepper in a spice or coffee grinder (or mortar and pestle) and process until finely ground. Transfer to a blender (or small food processor).

Add parsley, cilantro, mint, lemon juice and garlic to the blender. With blender running, gradually add the oil and blend until a coarse puree forms. Season to taste with salt.

Make ahead: You can make the charmoula 1 day ahead. Refrigerate in a covered bowl. Let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.

  • 2 large red bell peppers, sliced into three or four large pieces, stem and seeds removed
  • 2 flatbreads (such as pita bread)
  • 15-1/2-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup diced seeded cucumber
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Char bell peppers over gas flame, in broiler or toaster oven until the pieces are blackened. Transfer to sealable bag. Seal the bag and let it sit for 15 minutes. Peel skin off peppers and chop.

Toast flatbreads directly over gas flame, in broiler or toaster oven until crisp and charred in spots on both sides. When cool enough to handle, tear into bite-size pieces.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place peppers, torn bread pieces, chickpeas, cucumber, walnuts, raisins and capers in large bowl. Add 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons charmoula—that’s half the first set of ingredients or the entire second set of ingredients. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Original recipe: Marinated Sturgeon with Moroccan Chickpea Salad, Bon Appetit

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