Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ode to the humble chickpea

The humble chickpea is one of my favorite foods. I love it for its simplicity and versatility. Many of my favorite dishes are centered around chickpeas. Recipes aside for a moment, I can throw chickpeas into anything, and I do. Pasta, salad, homemade veggie burger patties, soup, chili, you name it.

Of course, there's hummus. This recipe is very close to mine, but I garnish it with a puddle of olive oil and sesame seeds. I also experiment with different additions. My favorite hummus varieties are black bean hummus (1/2 chickpeas, 1/2 black beans) and roasted red pepper hummus (And how much better to use freshly roasted red peppers from the garden! I can't wait for the peppers to ripen!).

Then there's a close cousin of hummus, chickpea, mint, and parsley spread by Joy the Baker. This is delectable.

One day, I wanted to make some spinach and artichoke dip for a get together, but I don't eat dairy. So a faux spinach and artichoke dip was born, replacing the cheeses with mashed chickpeas and nutritional yeast. The result was delicious and surprisingly similar in taste. I left out the mayonnaise altogether, but perhaps next time I'll try a little Vegenaise (speaking of which, I once made my own vegan mayonnaise with this recipe and it was the weirdest, most amazing thing).

There's chickpea salad, the vegetarian relative of tuna salad or chicken salad. It can be made a variety of ways, all of which I find more than acceptable. The more chopped vegetables, the better. I like it on a bed of lettuce or as a sandwich spread.

A month or so ago, I finally got on top of my goal of learning to make Indian food, and started making my own chana masala. It's so simple, I can't believe I used to buy it already made because I believed it to be difficult.

And now, today, I added one new chickpea dish to my repertoire: espinacas con garbanzos. The fact that it has a Spanish name made it all the more appealing to me, perhaps for the same reasons chana masala once seemed difficult to make. It sounded exotic, mysterious. I liked saying the title, putting the knowledge acquired in five Spanish classes to some practical use. The fact that it called for spinach, which was waiting in the garden somewhat impatiently to be harvested, made it all the better. And the fact that I had the rest of the ingredients in my pantry already and had just cooked a large crock pot of chickpeas didn't hurt either (side note: crock pot is by far the easiest cooking method, and tastes a million times better than the canned ones!). I followed the recipe exactly, except used white vinegar rather than red wine vinegar (okay, I lied, I didn't have all of the ingredients). There might be a subtle difference with the other vinegar, but you won't hear any complaints from my tastebuds. This recipe was amazing! I served it over "fried bread" (toast made on the stove with olive oil) as suggested. I'm planning to make it again tomorrow with the rest of the pot of chickpeas. It was that good. Thanks, Smitten Kitchen! You never disappoint.

Do you have any other uses for chickpeas? I'm always looking for new inspiration!

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