Sunday, February 26, 2017

Chickpeas: What Are They and How Do I Use Them?

Dried Chickpeas
I first heard the word “chickpeas” when I asked somebody what hummus was?  Growing up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, I didn’t encounter a wide variety of Middle Eastern food until I moved to Manhattan and had dinner at Cedars of Lebanon.  That restaurant is now closed, but I’ve never forgotten the sampler plate I ordered.

I had no idea what I was eating, although I liked it all.  When the waiter told me that the tan, creamy spread was hummus, I asked him what was in it.  He said, “Chickpeas.” 

Since then, I’ve learned that chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, have been around for several thousand years.  Almost every culture uses them in soups, salads, stews and dips like hummus.  Some people even like to roast and salt them and eat them as snacks.  Ever wonder what falafel is?  It’s a deep-fried patty made of ground chickpeas and spices.

Because chickpeas are heavy in protein, they are a welcome addition to a vegetarian diet.  They’re also high in fiber, low in fat and inexpensive.  What’s not to like? 

Chickpeas are available cooked in cans and dried in bags or loose in bins.

Chickpea Salad (adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe that appeared in The Guardian) – serves 4-6 as a side salad 
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
1 teaspoon mustard seeds 
1 teaspoon curry powder 
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
4 tablespoons olive oil – divided use 
1 large onion, thinly sliced 
1 small cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets 
1 15-ounce can chickpeas or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed 
1 large or 2 small ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks 
1 5-ounce bag fresh spinach or arugula 
2 limes cut into quarters 
Combine the coriander, mustard seeds, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes and salt in a small bowl. 
Begin heating 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the spice mixture and stir until the spices dissolve and the mustard seeds sizzle.  Add the sliced onion and continue cooking and stirring until the onion softens, about 5-7 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside. 
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same frying pan, add the cauliflower florets and stir-fry until the florets begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the spiced onion mixture and chickpeas and heat through, stirring well to combine the ingredients.  
Remove from the heat and add the mango pieces and spinach or arugula.  Transfer to a large salad bowl and toss.  Serve with sections of lime, to be squeezed over the top if desired.
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