I try not to be the kind of person who tells you a dish you've made is missing something. But also, that big salad you're about to dive into definitely needs pita chips. Let's back up: When it comes to summer dinners — whether I'm having people over or it's just me — come dinnertime, I gravitate towards simple meals that show off summer produce. I'm talking toasts, cold noodles, dips, salads. And when I go salad, there's only one non-negotiable part: adding chips. Pita chips, specifically.
I understand there might be skeptics about this addition, but hear me out. Obviously, you know about croutons in salad. And perhaps you're familiar with Tuscan panzanella, stale torn bread and tomatoes soaked in oil and vinegar; or fattoush, the Levantine salad of greens, vegetables, and toasted or fried flatbread — this crispy-carb-tossed-in-tangy-dressing is the vibe we're going for. Like croutons, pita chips add a welcome crunch to salad, but their flat shape also makes them something of a scooping device, excellent for making sure every last bite of cucumber or feta gets into your mouth, not left clinging to the side of the bowl.
I'd be remiss not to mention that while produce is an important part of any salad, pita chips add heft to your meal in a way a bowl of vegetables simply cannot — if you've ever gone to bed hungry after eating salad for dinner, this is probably why. Since my goal with recipes is to spend less, legumes are a natural solution for bulking it up, and while I do include chickpeas in my Pita Chip Dinner Salad, a tender bean offers no exciting crunch. Toasted nuts then come to mind, but it remains a fact that nuts are wildly pricey. Case in point: chips.
Now, you can head to the store, buy a bag of pita chips, and go hog wild, but here's a secret: Not only is making your own pita chips incredibly simple, they arguably taste better and are significantly cheaper than the packaged version. All you have to do is rip up a pita (or three, as is the case with this recipe) into bite-sized pieces, douse them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake at 350ºF for about 15 minutes. Presto! (I must note that you can — and should — do the same thing with torn bread for make-your-own croutons, if you aren't already.)
Of course, once you've actually done the deed, the countdown to sogginess officially begins. There is a sweet spot that bread salads occupy, where the carb has just started to absorb the dressing, but hasn't become so leaden with liquid that it turns to mush, and that's between 10 and 20 minutes after dressing. So be sure to wait before tossing the chips into your salad until it's just dinnertime.
Feel free to get busy with pita chips in any salad you like (Caesar! Wedge! Niçoise!) but allow me to suggest starting with this peach and plum-based number, because no one knows how to show off like a piece of stone fruit in late August.
Prep time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 35 minutes
- 1 cup (heaping) dry chickpeas (or two 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
- 3 (7- or 8-inch) pitas, split in half and torn into 1-inch pieces
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large shallot
- 1 large lemon
- 1 small garlic clove, grated
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoons ground sumac
- 1 to 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves and all stems, chopped (about 1 cup, packed)
- 1 cup (packed) mint leaves
- 2 ripe yellow peaches, sliced into wedges
- 2 ripe red or black plums, sliced into wedges
- 1/2 green cucumber, halved and sliced on the bias; or ½ bunch of red radishes, thinly sliced (or half the amount of each)
- Flaky sea salt, for serving
- If using dry chickpeas, pick through and rinse the beans. Soak in water for 1 hour at room temperature (or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator). Drain, then place the beans in a medium saucepan filled an inch from the brim with very well-salted water and a hefty glug of olive oil. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then reduce the heat to medium-low and partially cover the pot. Cook, checking every 40 minutes or so to replace water that evaporates, until the chickpeas are creamy all the way through, 1 1/2 to 3 hours depending on the beans and soaking time. Let cool, then drain (save the stock in the freezer and use anywhere you'd use vegetable broth). If making in advance, store the chickpeas in their broth in an airtight container, in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week.
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Spread the torn pita on a sheet pan, drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss. Bake, tossing halfway through, until deeply golden brown and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Halve the shallot through the root end and peel; mince one of the halves and add it to a large bowl. Slice half of the lemon into rounds, remove the seeds, then very finely chop (yes, pith, peel and all!) and add to the bowl with the minced shallot. Slice the remaining lemon half into wedges and transfer to a little plate. Add the grated garlic, 1/2 teaspoon sumac, and 1 teaspoon honey. Whisk to combine, then whisk in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Thinly slice the other half of the shallot. Finely chop the parsley stems and very roughly chop the leaves. Add the sliced shallot, all of the chopped parsley stems, all but a handful of the chopped parsley leaves, and all but a handful of the mint to the bowl with the dressing.
- Add the sliced peaches, plums, chickpeas, cucumbers and/or radishes, and all but a big handful of the pita chips to the bowl. Toss and season with more salt and pepper to taste. If you'd prefer it a tad sweeter, add the remaining teaspoon of honey; if you'd prefer it a tad more tart, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon sumac.
- Transfer the salad to a large serving platter. Top with reserved pita chips, mint leaves, and parsley leaves. Sprinkle with flaky salt, more pepper, and olive oil. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges for juicing over the salad.