Swiss Chard Pesto Salad with Crispy Chickpeas

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It is amazing the difference between store bought pesto and home-made pesto. You can not compare the freshness that you taste. Not only does it take just moments to make. You can easily use whatever you have on hand. I love the traditional pesto with basil, but often times during the year, when I do not have basil on hand, I use whatever I have in the kitchen. Broccoli. Peas. Swiss Chard. Spinach. Kale. Oregano. Sage. Anything really. And even though pine nuts give a great distinct flavor to the pesto, more often than not, I use walnuts or almonds, which are an excellent substitute. I usually try to make a big batch and freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays, then storing individually. These make for great quick dinners when needed. And that is often.

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For this meal I made a big batch of quinoa, brown rice or pasta would work as well. Mixed with swiss chard pesto and topped with crispy chickpeas. Almost all ingredients below can be substituted with what you have on hand. Making pesto and crispy chickpeas is all about what taste good to you, below is just a basic guideline.

Swiss Chard Pesto:
1 bunch of swiss chard 
2 cloves of garlic (1-3 cloves, varies on taste)
1 small handful of raw pine nuts (walnuts work great too)
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (adding more per taste)
a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil (start with 2 and proceed until you reach desired consistency)
juice and zest from 1/2 lemon (this is optional)

Place garlic and pine nuts in food processer and blend. Add the swiss chard, salt, zest and lemon juice. With the processor running, slowly add olive oil. Add the parmesan cheese and continue to process. Taste and adjust.

Pesto can be kept in the fridge for several days or stored in the freezer. When freezing, add a small amount of olive oil on top before sealing.

Crispy Chickpeas: 
1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas, drained, patted dry
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (or whatever spice you preference. cumin works nicely too)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the chickpeas with olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt, ground pepper and smoked paprika. Spread on a baking sheet and roast on the top rack for 35 minutes until crisp. From time to time, roll them around on the tray.

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups cold water

Soak the quinoa for 5 minutes in the cooking pot. Drain the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, stirring the quinoa around. Transfer drained quinoa to the cooking pot and add 1 1/2 cups cold water and bring to a boil with the lid on. Turn down the heat to simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Remove quinoa from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes with the lid on. Fluff.