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Chickpea state of mind

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Sometimes the food gods conspire to make you take notice of a certain ingredient.

On one recent night, some friends invited us over for dinner and made chana masala, an Indian chickpea stew layered with the flavors of onions, ginger, cumin, tomatoes, sweet spices and sour fruit – all of it butting up against that inimitable creamy-firm texture of the peas.

The next night I arrived in New York for a meeting and gathered with friends after dinner at a Spanish wine bar in Chelsea named El Quinto Pino. On the bar was a small cazuela dish filled with chef Alex Raij’s famous (and often imitated) creations: deep-fried chickpeas that had been liberally dusted with smoked Spanish paprika. As full as I was from dinner, I couldn’t keep myself from reaching into the dish for these peas. Their skins had opened in the fryer and hovered by the peas like the wings on the Golden Snitch of Harry Potter fame, giving a fleeting zip and crunch.

The next day’s meeting involved a lunch delivery from ‘Wichcraft – chef Tom Colicchio’s chain of sandwich shops. The sandwiches were good but the marinated chickpeas got everyone making those little “yum” sounds. They were slippery with olive oil, spackled with gobs of chopped parsley and tasted of a healthy hit of garlic.

“I love chickpeas, and I love making them,” I blurted out.

“Me, too,” came the chorus.

The thing about making chickpeas is this: You have to decide if you’re going to start with dried or (no shame) canned. There are many fine brands of canned or jarred chickpeas that are neither soft nor mushy, and there are bags of dried chickpeas that have sat on the shelf so long they will never tenderize to that point of yielding creaminess that your garbanzo-loving soul craves.

I highly recommend buying your dried chickpeas from a store that moves them, such as an Indian market, a health food shop or a Whole Foods Market. You can use the quick-soak method – bringing them to a boil in water for a minute, covering the pot and then letting them cool for an hour. But I find the overnight soak more reliable. I also like to add a spoonful of baking soda to soften the skins. (Some Indian cooks rub the cooked chickpeas in the palms of their hands to remove the skins entirely.)

Sure, I like the flavor of dried chickpeas better. But there are times (i.e., Monday-Friday) and situations that need only a can or two.

Certain recipes, as well, benefit from the can. If you’re thinking of reproducing Raij’s recipe – which I recommend – that can is your best friend.

Fried Chickpea Snack

(Adapted from a recipe by Alex Raij.)

Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes Serves: 8

  • About 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed, roasted and ground
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) chickpeas, drained

In a high-sided skillet or pot, heat about 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees. Place the paprika, salt and cumin in a large, rounded mixing bowl.

Drain the chickpeas and pat dry with paper towels. Add them to the oil and fry until brown on the outside and creamy on the inside, about 5 minutes.

Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels. Transfer to the bowl and season. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Tuscan Kale and Chickpea Stew

Hands on: 40 minutes Total time: Overnight Serves: 8

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 can (14 ounces) chopped tomatoes and their juice
  • 2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in 6 cups water and 1 teaspoon baking soda, drained
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 bunches Tuscan (lacinato) kale, stemmed, chopped and washed in a colander
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, add oil.

When oil shimmers, add the onion and cook until it turns translucent and just starts to brown. Add the garlic, paprika and about 1 teaspoon salt. Stir until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook another minute or two, until it starts to brown. Add the canned tomato with its juices, and stir well to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the chickpeas and broth. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes until chickpeas are slightly too firm. Add the chopped kale, stir, cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve.

We like to serve this dish with white rice, Greek yogurt and Sriracha sauce. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold after a night in the fridge.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

17 comments Add your comment

FoodFan

January 28th, 2013
10:49 am

I also love chickpeas – canned ones go great as the protein coponent of an easy weeknight veggie curry with a store-bought indian curry simmer sauce (chickpeas + as many vegetables as you have in your fridge/freezer!) Serve over brown or basmati rice it’s a quick 30 minute weeknight meal.

Lorenzo

January 28th, 2013
11:32 am

I don’t know. To my palate, chickpeas have a sort of starchy consistency and little flavor of their own. I’ll eat them in Indian dishes and pureed as hummus, but I think it’s more the spice or other ingredients that appeal to me than the chickpea itself.

OTP Eater

January 28th, 2013
12:55 pm

Chickpeas, tomatoes, onion, chili flake and saffron. Great recipe in Italy The Beautiful Cookbook. Sooo good with garden tomatoes!

Kar

January 28th, 2013
1:34 pm

I love them cooked with a little rosemary and then served cold in a salad. Cheap, high protein and lots of fibre.

Reds

January 28th, 2013
3:26 pm

I have just learned how much i love chickpeas.

Im a little perplexed though. My trainer told me that chickpeas were not a great source of protein (as in, if you’re going to eat hummus as a snack, eat it with turkey slices instead of veggies). But in looking at the protien amounts, it seems that it’s comparable to other types of beans.

Well. That makes me happy! I can start added chickpea meals into my meatless nights. :) Mmmm chickpeas.

deegee

January 28th, 2013
3:58 pm

I’m not a big fan of Indian food but I do love those curried chickpeas hot out of the crockpot. Costco sells a big jar of 4 bean salad that is chock full of chickpeas. Chickpeas is my new food fad.

Robert

January 28th, 2013
4:41 pm

Julie Sahni has some really nice Indian chickpea recipes. Of course, I always docter ‘em up a little. Cooking a batch tonight.

Colly

January 28th, 2013
5:22 pm

Mezza, a lovely Lebanese restaurant in the Oak Grove neighborhood of Decatur, makes a simple chickpea dish with tomatoes, olive oil and garlic that I dream about.

IntownWriter

January 28th, 2013
5:46 pm

I was first introduced to them when we moved to Tampa and I had garbanzo bean soup. OMG! I’ve loved them ever since. I can’t wait to try these recipes. Thanks, John!

janet

January 28th, 2013
8:39 pm

My grandmother made chicken – garbanzo soup. She was from Spain. I make it when friends are sick and they swear it cures all manner of flu and colds.
But for me, it is a reminder of my Grandma.

FM Fats

January 29th, 2013
9:22 am

Where can one find smoked Spanish paprika? Is it available at YDFM or does one need to go more gourmet?

jimmy

January 29th, 2013
2:37 pm

pressure cook dem suckas!

LizR

January 29th, 2013
5:16 pm

FM Fats – yes, you can find smoked paprika at YDFM. It is in a red/maroon can.

FM Fats

January 30th, 2013
9:08 am

Thank you, Liz! Looks like some fried chickpeas will be attending a Super Bowl party.

Marsh

January 30th, 2013
9:13 am

Turkish-style vegetables, a recipe John posted a few years ago, is still a staple in our house. Kale, chick peas, paprika, roasted red peppers, leeks. Pure heaven.

Gotta try them fried..sounds addictive.

John Kessler

January 30th, 2013
12:57 pm

Glad to hear it, Marsh!
Fried chickpeas will make an awesome Super Bowl snack, FMFats.

Colly

February 3rd, 2013
11:54 am

John, for the fried chickpeas, can I assume we are to add chickpeas to spice mixture before adding them to oil?