The power of chickpeas
It’s that time of year when I’ve about used up last fall’s winter squash in my basement and all of last summer’s vegetables from my freezer and I’m looking for meal planning inspiration from my pantry. As I await the first spring radishes and lettuces, I’m leaning more on dried and canned beans to balance my diet.
In his book How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger recommends eating three servings of beans (such as chickpeas or garbanzo beans) per day. He cites evidence that eating a cup of chickpeas every day for three months slows the resting heart rate the same amount as exercising 250 hours on a treadmill. This is significant because a 10 beat per minute increase in resting heart rate is associated with a 10 to 20 percent increase of risk of premature death. Another study found that adding two servings of chickpeas per day cut cholesterol levels so much that many participants moved below the range for which statin drugs are typically prescribed. Yet another study found that the inclusion of five cups of chickpeas a week had the same effect in reducing the risk of prediabetes as cutting 500 calories a day out of the diet. With all this in mind, I’m trying to find interesting ways to utilize chickpeas in my recipes.
Chickpeas can be purchased dry, canned or ground into flour. Unlike many vegetables that lose significant nutritional content when put into a can, chickpeas do not lose nutritional value. Chickpea flour is gluten-free and can be used as an alternative to all-purpose flour for thickening sauces and making pizza-like flatbreads.
Dry chickpeas need to be rehydrated before cooking. I like to soak them overnight and then simmer them for around two hours. In a pinch, you can put the beans in a large pot, cover with several inches of water and bring to a boil for five minutes, then take the pot off of the heat and let the beans sit in the water. After one hour the beans will be ready to cook. Dry chickpeas will triple in size when cooked, so one cup of dry will make three cups of cooked. I always make hummus from dry chickpeas.
Canned chickpeas, after draining and drying, can be roasted and seasoned to enjoy as a snack or as a crouton substitute in salads. Canned chickpeas are a nutritious addition to soups and stews. Look for low-sodium varieties; if a low-sodium option is not available, drain and rinse the chickpeas before adding.
Farinata is a chickpea flour pizza-like flatbread from Italy’s Mediterranean coast. Like pizza, farinata has a crispy crust strewn with toppings. But the chickpea flour used to make it is not only delicious, it’s substantially more nutritious than pizza made with wheat dough. And the batter can (and actually should) be made ahead of time, making for perfect summer lunches or snacks for out-of-school kids. Chickpea flour (sometimes labeled as besan) can be found in the ethnic sections of some groceries, as well as at Food Fantasies and Little World Market.
Recipe using dry chickpeas
Note: Chana masala is both the name of this stew and one of the spices used.
• 3 cups dried chickpeas, picked over, washed, soaked overnight and drained
• 1 medium red onion, minced
• 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
• 1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
• 2 Serrano chilies, stems removed and diced, optional
• 1 tablespoon cumin seeds (or powder)
• 1 tablespoon ground coriander
• 1 tablespoon garam masala*
• 1 tablespoon chana masala*
• 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
• 10 cups boiling water
• Cilantro (for garnishing)
*Chana masala and garam masala can be found in Asian grocery stores or on amazon.com.
Add all ingredients except the cilantro to the boiling water in a 5-quart slow cooker.
Cook on the high setting for at least 7 hours.
Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with brown rice or quinoa.
Recipe using canned chickpeas
• 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
• 2-4 teaspoons of either curry powder, garam masala, ground cumin, smoked paprika or chili powder
Place oven rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse and thoroughly drain canned chickpeas. Dry between 2 towels.
Toss chickpeas with olive oil and salt and spread on a baking sheet.
Roast for 20-30 minutes. Stir or shake pan every 10 minutes until chickpeas are golden and crispy on the outside.
While still warm, sprinkle with spices.
Recipe using stone-ground chickpea flour
• 1 cup chickpea flour
• 2 cup cold water
• 1 ½ teaspoon. kosher or sea salt
• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
• Fresh Herbs: rosemary, sage, marjoram, oregano, winter savory; singly or in combination
• Thinly sliced garlic
• Roasted pepper strips
• Sautéed onion
• Pitted olives
• Freshly cracked black peppercorns
• Anchovy fillets
• Fresh tomato, seeded and sliced
• Cheeses: grated parmesan or crumbled blue cheese
Put the water in a large bowl and whisk in the chickpea flour in a thin stream. Whisk in the salt and 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Cover and let stand at least 30 minutes (several hours or overnight is even better; refrigerate the batter in that case).
Preheat the oven to 465 degrees. Prepare the toppings of your choice. The toppings should not be thickly heaped onto the batter, but lightly scattered across the surface.
Preheat a 10-12 inch skillet in the oven for about 10 minutes. Stir the batter gently to incorporate any bubbles that may have formed.
Remove the hot pan from the oven and pour in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour in half the batter, tilting the pan to cover the bottom surface evenly. Quickly scatter a few of the toppings over the surface of the batter and return the pan to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Slide the farinata onto a large plate or cutting board and cut into strips or wedges. Serve immediately. Return the pan to the oven to reheat for a few minutes and then repeat with the remaining batter. This can be made in smaller (or larger) skillets. Adjust the baking time as needed.
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