Tomato, Bocconcini and Chickpea Salad

This delicious (AND EASY) recipe is a variation on one from my friend Al. 

We first met eleven years ago whilst working at an ill-fated resort in Muskoka.  I was still in high school at the time, and it was a peculiar life stage where I thought the only permissible fragrance was patchouli, malls were only for the most despicable brand of Bourgeoisie, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the best show ever written, ever forever.  We’ve both changed and developed over time, but our friendship has held strong and we put in the effort to see each other several times a year, despite the 450 km distance between us.  Al is one of those women who is a steadfast and loyal friend, a ridiculously patient listener, and a creative industrious soul.  She is spirited, beautiful, wildly intelligent, funny as hell, independent, and she has the kind of perfect hair that would almost make you hate her if she wasn’t quite so awesome.  I swear, the girl looks better with a hangover and 4 hours of sleep than I do after 4 hours of primping and fussing….dim lighting included.  It’s depressing, but such are the hazards, you know, when you have fabulous friends.

One time when I had taken the trip up north to see her, she had made this salad, or at least a close proximity.  It was based on a recipe she found in Canadian Living, and I don’t feel bad for forgetting exactly what she put in and what ratios, for the following reasons:

  • Her husband had been showing me a ‘sampling’ of his homemade wines earlier in the night.  And, well, you can’t just LEAVE A BOTTLE once the cork comes out, can you?!
  • The salad is very forgiving and it’s almost impossible to screw it up.
  • I distinctly remember Al telling me that she does variations too, depending on her mood and what happens to be in the fridge. 

That was about two years ago I think, and since then this has become one of the go-to recipes that I can always rely on.  I love bringing it to potlucks and buffets because it always gets eaten with great gusto.  Also:  it takes no time to make and leftovers are awesome for lunch the next day.  This simple salad is so much more than the sum of it’s parts.  You may think that you wouldn’t cross the road for this salad, but after you try it I swear you’ll be a convert.  Unless you hate tomatoes or chickpeas, of course, in which case you probably should have stopped reading a little while ago…..

Tomato, Bocconcini and Chickpea Salad

Preparation time:  10 minutes, max

Serves:  6 as a side dish

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 tub (500 ml) pearl or mini bocconcini balls *
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1 handful of fresh basil**
  • 1 lemon (juice only)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small to medium clove garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

*  If you can’t find these listed as ‘pearl’, ‘baby’ or ‘mini’ and all you have are large bocconcini balls, well you just make do.  Chop them up to whatever size you like. 

**  Yes, fresh basil is essential to this recipe.  If you have driven 30 miles and visited 5 grocery stores and you still can’t find fresh basil, then I suppose that you would have no other alternative but to use dried basil.  However, if this is the case, please refer to your creation as “Fake and Faulty Tomato, Bocconcini and Chickpea Salad”.

Grab a nice big bowl and squeeze in your lemon juice.
You know I love my rasp.  I do.  I just can’t help it.  One day this love affair will culminate in a post which is simply an ode to my rasp, I’m sure.  If you have a rasp, this is the time to get it out for your garlic.  If you don’t, press a clove of garlic into the bowl.  If you have neither a garlic press OR a rasp (sigh) then mince it up as fine as possible until it’s almost like a paste.  You don’t want chunks of garlic in here, it will overpower the other flavours.
Drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil.
Don’t feel that it’s necessary to do a thorough whisk on this, although you’re welcome to if you feel the yen.  Eventually it will all get tossed and combine.  Next:  Into the bowl goes your can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed, of course) and your tub of adorable baby bocconcini balls (also drained since they’re packed in water).
I have already started munching at this point, I’ll admit.  Chickpeas!  Bocconcini!!  MUNCH, MUNCH, MUNCH!!!!!  For your tomatoes, if you get wee cherry or grape tomatoes (like a Santa Sweet) from the store they will all be the same size and then you don’t need to worry about this next step.  I picked mine from the vines I have on the balcony, so they’re all different sizes depending on which plant they’re from…..also, I have a mix of yellow and red here because that’s what was growing, but just whatever you can find is A-OK.  Anyway, you want all of the tomatoes to be roughly the same size, so if you have some that are quite generously large for a cherry tomato, cut them in half.
When the tomatoes are prepped, into the bowl they go!
Roughly chop the basil.  If you want to do a chiffonade, the ribbons of green will be gorgeous curled around the tumescence of the neighboring ingredients, but a rough chop is also fine.  And yes, I just referred to tomatoes as ‘tumescent’.  Judge me if you want, but there is a reason that they used to be considered an aphrodisiac…..
Toss this all together quite thoroughly.  You want to make sure that the dressing gets fully incorporated and that all the garlic isn’t just trapped on the bottom of the bowl.  Oh, even the thought of that makes me sad.  Finally, sprinkle with pine nuts and you’re done!  I would normally toast the pine-nuts as this gives them a much richer, deeper, nuttier and buttery flavor.  But….somehow for this salad, I like the creamy dense contrast of having them raw.
And a close-up, just for posterity….

I’m in love with a salad, all over again.

Music to cook to: She’s a Lady by Tom Jones……and also Night Swimming by REM in honour of our resort days….

  • Alison

    Words cannot describe how I feel when I read this! You’re amazing! Thank you. And 11 years later, Buffy is STILL the best show written, ever. Much love, al

  • Nanco

    Here’s to our quickly approaching reunion and an even sooner 30th birthday!
    Buffy forever.

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  • louise


    This is a very good recipe – thank-you.

    My basil was organic— very organic – there was a plump light green worm on one leaf and the eggs it had laid on the other – Certified Organic—LIVE VERSION!!!!!

  • Tina

    Louise – I’m so glad that you liked the recipe!! I could (and do) eat buckets of this salad.

    Your comment on the ‘organic basil’ made me howl. I used to get so horrified about these things, and my Dad would always joke, “But it’s EXTRA PROTEIN!” Hey, at least you know it’s fresh 😉

  • louise

    Well I think the worm was still sleepy from being in the confines of the fridge-and I DID NOT squish it before laying it to rest in the garbage – maybe I should have thrown him over the balcony into someone else’s garden—- for a second beginning- and I suddenly realised – a minute ago while thinking of this salad – that I forgot the pine nuts – sheesh! I will put them in the left-overs tonite..

  • Caroline

    I really enjoy your website and your great photos. You have nice utensils too! (Love the chef’s knife). Thanks for your detailed italian recipes :0)

    • Tina

      Caroline, thank you so much for stopping by our site!!! I’m glad you like it! I’ve been glutting Mike full of East Asian dishes lately, so it’s likely that more Italian foods will be making an appearance in the New Year.
      Take care!!

  • Lauren

    I am so making this for lunch tomorrow!

  • http://.com Dumbbell

    i just love to munch italian foods because of italian spices and juicy sauces!