I was first introduced to balela when a local retailer began selling it. I bought it once, devoured it quickly, and when I returned to buy it again, they were out and haven’t stocked it again since. At first I was upset because they stopped carrying it… I mean, how dare they get me hooked on something, only to take it away? But now I’m grateful, because it meant I had to get into the kitchen and come up with my own version.
If you’ve never had balela, then you are in for a treat. It is a Middle Eastern chickpea and black bean salad that is fresh, full of flavor and probably easier to make in your own kitchen than it is to get in the car and go buy it in the store.
I make no claims that my version is authentic—I just made it up based on the ingredients list on the back of the container the store bought version came in, and tweaked it based on my taste memories. I also add avocado to the dressing and as a topping which replaces the olive oil in the dressing, making it even creamier and making the dressing completely unprocessed. I also add avocado as a final salad topping, because, why not? Although it may not be authentic or traditional, it is delicious!
All that you have to do to make it is chop up some herbs and veggies, rinse and drain some beans, mix the salad ingredients together, blend all the dressing ingredients in a blender, then mix the dressing with the salad and finish it off by topping it with sliced California Avocados. It couldn’t be easier!
You can serve balela as a main dish or as a side salad. If you’re me, you whip up a batch, stick it in the fridge, and snack on it all day long until you realize that you’ve emptied the bowl. The salad can be made several hours ahead of time. Just be sure to add the sliced avocados right before serving!
California Avocado Balela Recipe
Makes 6 servings
For the salad:
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 (15.2-ounce) can black beans rinsed and drained
8 ounces grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
1/4 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/3 cup finely chopped mint
1 large, ripe California avocado, thinly sliced
For the dressing:
1 large, ripe California avocado
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Mix together all of the salad ingredients, except for the avocado, in a serving bowl
- Put all of the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to mix. Arrange the avocado slices on top of the salad, or divide the salad into individual bowls and top with avocado slices