Chickpea and lentil salad sandwich: two thumbs up from Centre 507

Romano, Marisa June 2016 Chickpea lentil salad sandwich
Chickpea and lentil salad sandwiches are a hit at Centre 507.

By Marisa Romano

Tucked in behind the back wall of the sanctuary of Centretown United Church at 507 Bank Street, just north of the Queensway, is an adult drop-in centre: Centre 507. It has been operating since 1983, helping anyone who seeks a safe, friendly and supportive environment to overcome life’s challenges, from temporary job loss to homelessness and addiction.

Centre 507 works in partnership with several Ottawa health agencies and institutions, and with the support of many individuals, small businesses and organizations, to offer a variety of health and recreational programs to the 80 to 165 people who visit the centre daily. Executive director Richard LeBlanc, a few paid staff and many dedicated volunteers, some of who are Glebe residents, run the centre.

I first met Richard at the Centre’s annual fundraising dinner last fall and inquired about volunteering opportunities. My primary interest, I disclosed, was to increase the usage of pulses, the dry seeds of legumes, in the centre’s kitchen and help Pulse Canada ( with its food security project. This project, to be launched later this year, aims to boost the nutritional value of frugal meals offered by soup and community kitchens by providing guidance on the use of dry legumes. Shortly after my initial encounter with Richard, I stepped into the kitchen of Centre 507, started “talking pulses” and obtained full support from Kitty Galt, the brains behind meal organization at Centre 507.

The surprisingly small kitchen hidden in the back corner of the spacious dining area produces hundreds of bowls of steaming hearty soups, nutritious salads and, on Sundays, a nourishing breakfast which includes cereals, boiled eggs and a choice of sandwiches. The food is provided by the Ottawa Food Bank, or is purchased by the Centre with city funding or donated by small businesses or churches, including some located in the Glebe. All food donations are appreciated by both cooks and diners, and are added to the wholesome soups or are offered as extra treats at mealtime.

The kitchen introduced a new item to the Sunday menu, a chickpea and lentil salad sandwich in late November, with Kitty’s full support. Based on a recipe that won first prize in a national competition launched by last year (, the revised formula replaces some of the ingredients of the original mix to match the options available in a community kitchen setting.

Romano, Marisa June 2016 Chickpea lentil salad sandwich sandwich sampling at 507
The author hands out small “taste” sandwiches

The other volunteers gathered, eager to taste the intriguing combination when one gray Sunday in late November I arrived at Centre 507 with a big bowl of the mix and crackers. They dipped in the crackers, licked their fingers, smiled and nodded in approval. Patrons sampled the mix on sandwiches while in line by the kitchen window. Some encouraged the sceptical to taste: “This is good! … And so good for you!” And some thanked the kitchen crew for offering a refreshing alternative to the bologna, tuna and cheese staples. By clean-up time, all the sandwiches were gone. The chickpea lentil salad sandwich had received two thumbs up from Centre 507 staff and patrons.  Since then, this recipe has made its appearance on the Centre’s menu several times.

Chickpea and lentil salad sandwich recipe

1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup cooked red lentils (*)
¼ cup celery, finely chopped
¼ cup carrot, grated
¼ green pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup red onions, finely chopped
2 medium dill pickles, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp mayonnaise
Salt and pepper, to taste

Lightly mash chickpeas with a fork. Add the lentils, finely chopped vegetables, mayo, salt, pepper, and mix thoroughly.

Blend about 1/3 of the mixture and mix thoroughly to even out the texture.

NOTE: Chilling for a couple of hours before serving helps the flavours to blend.

Serve this salad with crackers for a quick healthy snack, as an appetizer (add chili powder for some buzz), or in sandwiches with a leaf of lettuce.

(*) Approx. 1/4 cup dry red lentils (split) = 1/2 cup cooked. Rinse 1/4 cup dry red lentils (split), and cook in 1/2 cup of unsalted water for 5-10 minutes (until lentils are just tender.)

As always, Centre 507 welcomes donations of dry or canned beans, lentils, chickpeas and dry peas that provide the basis for the many wholesome soups that simmer daily on the stove of the small kitchen. Donations can be dropped off during regular hours of operation.

Marisa Romano is a Glebe resident and former scientist working with Pulse Canada to spread the word about pulses, the dry seeds of legumes, the superfood of the future, during this International Year of Pulses.

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