Warm Broccoli, Chickpea and Rice Salad. Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post/food styling by Gina Nistico for The Washington Post

It happened by accident, as some of the best kitchen discoveries do. And it started with yet another attempt to find a way to make a green vegetable appealing to our teenage son.

His relationship with vegetables isn’t exactly love/hate; it’s more should/doesn’t. He knows he should eat them, he just doesn’t love them, so it’s easy to skip in favor of, well, usually wings and fries. (Potatoes are one vegetable he can and does get behind, naturally.)

I used to think I could make just about any vegetable taste good to just about anybody, but I also used to believe that good things happen to good people. So naive. Now, a husband who picks every last pea from a curry and a son who views any “healthy” food with suspicion partner up to keep me humble.

Thank goodness for the accidents. This one happened when I was prepping some broccoli to go alongside the kid’s typical protein. He likes the flavor of lemon in desserts, so I decided to test how well it would go over in savory form, and made a punchy, garlicky, lemony vinaigrette. Who could resist? I was in a hurry (of course), so I whisked the dressing in a large bowl, and when the florets came out of the steamer, I tossed them right in the dressing.

Anybody who’s dressed a vinegary potato salad while the spuds are still warm knows what happened next: The broccoli, its cells open like pores during a steamy facial, absorbed the flavors of the dressing into every nook and cranny. The result went over like a charm, with the teenager – and husband – asking me to make broccoli that way pretty much every time since. I think the kid might have even, if only for a moment, realized that eating a green vegetable might actually be pleasurable if it’s cooked right.

Since then, I’ve been applying the technique to one of my other favorite warm salads: one based on grains and beans. I boil the rice in water and add chickpeas for the last few minutes to warm them up, too, and while they’re cooking I steam the broccoli over them. The flavors of the vinaigrette take just a few minutes to work their way in, and then I fold in something sweet/tart (dried cherries), something briny (olives), something crunchy (walnuts) and something grassy/herby (parsley). It’s more of a template than anything, with virtually all the elements – the type of grain, the type of bean, the starring vegetable and those add-ins – open to substitution.


The only nonnegotiable is the temperature. Dress it while everything is cold instead of warm, and you’ll miss the whole point.

I served the salad to my husband, who loved it, but I haven’t been brave enough to try it with the teenager yet. I don’t want to push my luck.

The broccoli, right out of the steamer, soaks up the flavorful dressing. Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post/food styling by Gina Nistico for The Washington Post

Warm Broccoli, Chickpea and Rice Salad

Total time: 30 minutes

Serves 4 (8 cups)

This salad gets its punchy flavor from a garlicky vinaigrette that the components soak up while they’re warm. This is really a template for any combination that you’d like of grains, vegetables, beans, nuts and dried fruit, so feel free to use what you have on hand rather than making a trip to the store.


Make ahead: The vinaigrette and the steamed rice and broccoli can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before combining. Make sure to reheat the rice and broccoli before tossing with the vinaigrette.

Storage notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days.


1 cup short-grain brown rice

4 cups water, plus more if needed

One (15-ounce) can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed


1 broccoli crown (12 ounces to 1 pound), trimmed and cut into florets

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons agave nectar

3 garlic cloves, pressed or finely grated


1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1/2 cup walnut halves, chopped

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1/2 cup pitted green olives, drained and chopped



In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the rice and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly to achieve a gentle boil and cook the rice until almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add the chickpeas. If you have a steamer insert that fits on the saucepan, attach it, add the broccoli, cover and cook until the broccoli is crisp-tender and the rice is tender, 3 to 4 minutes. (If you don’t have a steamer insert, continue cooking the rice and the chickpeas in the uncovered saucepan. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the broccoli with 1/4 cup of water and cook on HIGH until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes.)

Make the vinaigrette: While the rice is cooking, in a large bowl (big enough to fit the entire salad), whisk together the oil, lemon juice, mustard, agave, garlic, salt and pepper until emulsified.

When the rice and broccoli are cooked, transfer the broccoli while it’s hot to the vinaigrette and gently toss to coat. Drain the rice and chickpeas and transfer them while they’re hot to the bowl with the broccoli and vinaigrette. Gently toss to coat, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Stir in the walnuts, cherries, parsley and olives. Taste and season with more salt and/or pepper if needed. Serve warm.



Instead of broccoli, try cauliflower, broccolini, broccoli rabe, zucchini, or eggplant.

For lemon juice, substitute apple cider vinegar.

Instead of agave nectar, you can use honey (if you’re not vegan), or maple syrup.

Instead of chickpeas, white beans, pinto beans, or black beans work.

For brown rice, you can substitute farro, barley, or white rice.

Instead of walnuts, try almonds, cashews, or peanuts.

No dried cherries? Try raisins, currants, or dried apricots.

For the green olives, you can substitute black olives or 1/4 cup capers.

Nutritional facts per serving (2 cups)| Calories: 510; Fat: 19 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Carbohydrates: 75 g; Sodium: 631 mg; Cholesterol: 1 mg; Protein: 11 g; Fiber: 8 g; Sugar: 22 g

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