Start soaking chickpeas: Garbanzos aren't just for hummus anymore

Not everyone flips out over black beans. Pinto beans don't typically ignite passions. Lima beans don't get much love.

But chickpeas are a different story.

Their popularity has surged. You're likely to find them anywhere, any time, and on any table. Fried. Braised. Slicked with oil for a simple salad. On the pages of the hottest cookbooks, including the beautiful books of chef Yotam Ottolenghi. There's even chickpea flour.

David Tanis wrote about chickpeas a few months ago in his City Kitchen column for the New York Times. The chickpea, he says, is consumed frequently in the Middle East, Italy, Spain and North Africa. He calls it humble, and though it is praised for its ubiquity and versatility, I think this bean has earned its bragging rights.

Chickpeas are having a moment, says Amelia Morris, a writer and food blogger at bonappetempt.com. Yes they are.

Using canned chickpeas is convenient, but working with dried beans will give you a different result. Cooked dried beans are much more plump and tender than any I've had from the can, and you don't have to worry about added salt. It does take some planning though, because of longer cooking times.

Two cups of dried chickpeas will yield more than enough for a batch of hummus, a salad, and fried chickpeas for a midday snack at work or cocktail hour at home. I soak them in the morning before I head out the door for work. By the time I get home, they're ready to be drained and cooked.

The aroma of simmering chickpeas has that alluring and savory quality that permeates the house, letting everyone know something really good is happening in the kitchen. The simmering chickpeas with the added celery, onion, garlic, and bay leaves will remind you of mom's kitchen. And my mom doesn't even cook garbanzos. Olive oil adds an irresistible silkiness to the broth, which can be used to add flavor when cooking grains or soup. The beans soak up the goodness of your herbs and vegetables, but definitely keep all your flavorings wrapped in a cheesecloth. Everything softens considerably, and you don't want slimy bits of onion clinging to the beans.

The chickpeas will taste as good as their aroma leads you to believe. You can eat them straight from the pot in a little pool of golden broth.

If you find yourself without a Dutch oven, it's time to get one. It is absolutely one of my favorite tools in the kitchen because it is so useful. It's essential for simmering a big pot of beans, and it's my secret for frying without fear.

The high walls of a Dutch oven catch oil that would potentially spatter everywhere, and the wide surface area allows enough room for food to crisp and brown. In this pot, frying chickpeas is a cinch.

I've seen recipes everywhere for roasted chickpeas, but frying them is much faster and more sensible in July. The crispy beans can take on many flavors, so play around with them. Smoky paprika is a go-to spice, but I also love a batch infused with lemon zest and thyme. Serve them in small bowls. You'll eat them like popcorn.

The Summer Chickpea Salad lives up to its name with cherry tomatoes, peaches and thin slices of cucumber. I often use couscous in this because it cooks so quickly, but feel free to use quinoa, farro, or any other grain of your choice. Try parsley instead of basil or mint. It's a well-rounded salad that plays up the bean's adaptability, and it will quickly brighten up a lunch break at work or satisfy your friends at a picnic in the park.

We'll hold off on the soups and other Spanish-inspired chickpea dishes with chorizo until fall. Then, we'll call them garbanzos. But whatever you call them, a pot of the beans should go into your menu rotation year-round.

In a recent column, Mark Bittman asked, "What can't be made with chickpeas?" The answer is: not a whole lot.

The chickpea belongs on your table. Start soaking a batch now.

Ileana Morales writes the In Our Kitchen column for the Taste section. It publishes on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. She also blogs at alittlesaffron.com.

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How to cook dried chickpeas

This recipe is easily halved, but if you're going to bother soaking and simmering a pot of beans then make it a big one. Seal leftovers in plastic bags and freeze them. You'll need a piece of cheesecloth.

2 cups dried chickpeas

4 tablespoons kosher salt

2 celery stalks, halved

1 medium onion, halved

Up to 16 garlic cloves, peeled

A few bay leaves

¼ cup olive oil

Soak chickpeas overnight or 12 hours in a Dutch oven or large pan with enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches.

Drain and rinse the beans. Place them back in the Dutch oven with enough fresh water to cover the beans by about 2 inches. Stir in the salt. Arrange the celery, onion, garlic, and bay leaves in the center of a square of cheesecloth. Tie the ends tightly and drop it into the pot. Add the olive oil.

Bring the pot to a boil. Cover with the lid but tilt it so air can escape. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until beans are cooked and tender, about 2 hours.

Beans can be kept in the refrigerator with their liquid for a few days. Extra beans can be stored in the freezer.

Makes about 6 cups.

Source: inspired by Amelia Morris via Bon Appétempt

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Hummus

Add more garlic or lemon if you feel like it. Canned chickpeas are fine, of course, but cooking your own dried beans takes this up a notch.

2 cups chickpeas, drained but liquid reserved

½ cup tahini, plus some of its oil

¼ cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tablespoon smoked paprika or ground cumin, plus more for garnish

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt

Black pepper

Pita or vegetables, for serving

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process to combine, adding more of the chickpea broth, a few tablespoons at a time, as needed to loosen up and smooth out the mixture.

Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Garnish with a few chickpeas, a drizzle of olive oil and a light sprinkle of paprika.

Serve immediately with pita wedges or vegetables for dipping.

Serves 8 to 10.

Source: Mark Bittman

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Crispy Chickpeas

This recipe seasons half with paprika and half with lemon and thyme but you can season them however you like.

Olive oil

2 cups canned (cooked) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Sea salt

¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

Zest of 1 lemon

A few big sprigs of thyme

Put about ½ inch olive oil in a Dutch oven or large wide skillet and heat over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, put drained chickpeas on paper towels to absorb as much moisture as possible.

When the oil is hot, use a strainer to carefully place half of the chickpeas in the oil. Fry until crispy and golden, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.

Use a strainer or slotted spoon to take the hot chickpeas from the pan. Put them on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up some of the oil before transferring them to a bowl to be seasoned with ¼ teaspoon salt and paprika.

Fry the rest of the chickpeas the same way but with sprigs of thyme in the oil. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 to 3.

Source: Ileana Morales

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Summer Chickpea Salad

To build on the flavor, I highly recommend using some of the chickpea broth to cook the grain of your choosing: quinoa, farro or couscous.

1 cup canned or cooked chickpeas

¾ cup cooked couscous

A third of a cucumber, sliced very thinly into half moons

¾ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 peach, diced

2 green onions or scallions, thinly sliced

A handful of fresh basil leaves

A few sprigs of mint

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt

Black pepper

2 minced shallots (optional)

A splash of sherry vinegar (optional)

In a large bowl, toss the chickpeas, couscous, cucumber, tomatoes, peach, and green onions. Tear the basil and mint and toss them into the salad.

In a jar, put the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, black pepper and shallots (if desired). Shake the jar to emulsify, and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss the salad and taste; add a splash of sherry vinegar if you'd like a bit more acidity.

Serves 2 to 3.

Source: Ileana Morales

Start soaking chickpeas: Garbanzos aren't just for hummus anymore 07/22/13 [Last modified: Monday, July 22, 2013 6:19pm]

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