Monday, February 9, 2009

Chickpeas, Ceci, Garbanzos!


This week, I finally made a point of cooking up a batch of dried chickpeas. I prepare a lot of different dried beans and lentils to use in various recipes, but for some reason, it never really occurred to me to cook chickpeas. Whenever I make minestrone or hummus, I always use the canned variety. But this week, the dried garbanzos caught my eye, and I picked up a bag to see for myself what I'd been missing.


First, let's take a quick look at what, exactly, chickpeas are. Called also garbanzo beans and, in Italy, ceci, chickpeas are legumes. Most common chickpeas are beige, but there are varieties that are black, green, red, and dark brown.



Consumption of chickpeas is believed to have originated in the Middle East some 7,000 years ago. Cultivation of chickpeas began in the Mediterranean Basin circa 3000 BC. Ancient Greeks liked their chickpeas every which way, including for dessert, and the Romans were known to roast chickpeas to munch on. Roman epicure Apicius had several recipes for chickpeas in his collection.



And what about the name? According to Webster's 10th, "chickpea" is an alteration of "chich pea," which is an alteration of the Middle English "chiche," which derives (somehow) from the Latin term Cicer arietinum.

This apparently means "small ram," and refers to the chickpea's shape, which someone at some point thought resembled the head of a ram. "Garbanzo"? That's supposedly derived from the Old Spanish. I wasn't able to find a reliable translation, but I think it may mean "tiny heinie." ("Heinie" coming from the Middle English "hinder," for "posterior.")I do not know what "ceci" means, literally, but I do know that it is pronounced "CHEH-chee." Now you know.


Healthwise, chickpeas ~ like most beans ~ are a good source of fiber. Coupled with a whole grain, they're a super source of complete protein. They're an excellent source of the trace mineral molybdenum, and they supply significant amounts of magnesium, manganese, iron, and folate. Low fat, high fiber, lots of nutriets: all these components combine to make chickpeas pretty heart-healthy and a great source of lean protein.


Let me just say, after having tasted the freshly cooked garbanzos, I don't think I'll ever go back to buying canned. The fresh-cooked chickpeas are a whole other animal (well, legume, technically) ~ sweet, nutty, almost buttery. The flavor is remarkable. I'm remarking on it! If you've never tried to cook your own chickpeas, I urge you to give it a shot. You'll be surprised at the difference, and I say this as someone who had no objections to the canned version.


So, what to do with a pound of dried chickpeas? Well, the night before you're planning to cook them, your routine should go something like this:


First, pour them into a colander and check for stones and other dreck. Seriously. Check. Especially for stones. The last time I cooked black beans I found two good-sized rocks in there.


Then, rinse the garbanzos under some cold running water. Dump them into a casserole dish or large bowl, cover with at least 2 inches of cool water, and place a lid on top. Let sit for at least 8 hours or overnight.


Later, when you're ready to cook, drain off the soaking water, place the garbanzo beans in a saucepan large enough to hold them and at least 2 inches of water covering them. (Do not add salt. Salt can make your beans ~ any kind of beans ~ tough. Salt them after you cook them.) Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.



When the chickpeas come to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Taste for doneness; the beans should be nice and tender. Some will have slipped their skins. Drain. {Note: If you're planning to make hummus with some of the chickpeas, be sure to reserve at least a cup of the cooking water. Store it in a covered container in the refrigerator.}

That's it! Now you have some delicious, tender, sweet and nutty chickpeas to use however you'd like. I tossed mine on a salad, and then I made hummus (stay tuned for that post). Enjoy!



Chickpea and Romaine Salad


  • 1 cup torn romaine lettuce, cleaned

  • 1/2 cup freshly cooked chickpeas

  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • Lemon wedge

  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Arrange lettuce on a chilled salad plate. Place chickpeas over lettuce and drizzle with olive oil. Squeeze lemon wedge over chickpeas. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

Recipe Note: To make this a complete protein, serve with piece of whole wheat pita bread or breadsticks.


Makes 1 serving


*Image of Apicius frontispiece courtesy of K-State Libraries online.
**Image of beige and green chickpeas courtesy of
Wikipedia.

12 comments:

  1. I grew up eating garbanzos (nahit - in Yiddish, according to my parents) by the handful as a snack. My dad would heat up a can in its juice, drain them and top with crushed black pepper. When I got married, we had the caterer prepare a bowlful of them at the reception.

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  2. I'm proud to say that we only used dried chickpeas in our household. I guess it must be because my husband is Turk and insist on using only the real deal!

    I'm bookmarking this!

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  3. We love garbanzo beans, we just used them in chili

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  4. I love chick peas and drizzled with EVOO what could be better!

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  5. Ooh I've never seen the green chickpeas before. I've tried black and it seems to have a much earthier flavor. Thanks for all the info!

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  6. How long do you generally store your cooked chickpeas? Just curious. I have about half of a 25-pound bag left, and while I make lots of hummus with them, I'd like to have them around for soups, salads, and pasta dishes. I prefer the taste of the freshly-cooked myself as well, but I miss the last-minute convenience of the canned variety! :-)

    Thanks for a great tutorial.

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  7. Rebecca: Great question! I keep them in the fridge for 3 days. If I want to store them longer, I lay them out on a small waxed-paper-lined sheet pan and freeze them, then pour them into resealable freezer storage bags. They'll keep for a couple of months that way.

    They thaw pretty quickly and you'll always have them on hand. I do this with kidney beans, navy beans, black beans, etc. too.

    Enjoy, and thanks for reading!!

    Best,
    Sandy

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  8. you are the shiz. thanks for this.

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  9. Just finished my chickpeas. They're perfect. thanks
    Pam

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  10. I'm Spanish and we usually eat chickpeas, I was really amazed when I found them in England with a label saying 'don't eat the product raw' Hahaha! It would be the same than for an English reading in a beer can 'open it before drinking' We have eaten lentils and beans and chickpeaks for ages, they are part of our traditional recipes. We do stews with them. Years ago, when Spain was a poor country, 40 or 50 years ago we still didn't have washing machines or even WC in many rural areas, and people eated delicious recipes that has been the same since the middle ages. They used a lot this alternative source of proteins because meat was expensive and poor people only could afford a small portion of 'tocino', animal fat, because the fat was cheaper, as the bones. So there are many spanish recipes in witch you boil the 'legumbres' (lentils, chickpeas, whatever) with a porcion of tocino, a ham bone and some vegetables. For doing a famous 'cocido' you have to boil during 8 hours, my mum still do it in the traditional way most of the times, but nowadays you can use a pressure cooker and ¡it takes only an hour to do it! only 15mins for lentils! obviously you have to soak them the night before. We also ate lentils cooked only with vegetables, without any meat, for those who doesn't want to eat meat, you only have to do a 'sofrito' (to fry) some cutted onion, red and green pepper, and tomato or any other vegetable you want. Then, in the presure cooker you can also add a potato, some rice, or carrots, that will contribute to thicken the 'caldo' (sorry, I don't know the Englis word for that, in French is 'bouillon')

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  11. I Make 2 lbs of chickpeas at least once every two weeks, I use a pressure cooker and they are ready in 12 mins after the pressure builds up, let them cool and store them in the refrigerator. they will last easily about a week , normally I finish them of before they go bad. We eat them plain, with a little salt, EVOO, or make salads specially during the summer, they go very well with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and olives.
    I also love to eat them with a little of the broth they are cooked in and some cut up Kimchi. Of course we make Hummus, which is super easy.

    I have made a morrocan Tagine with chicken, and a spanish stew. Chick peas are so versatile. I have even eaten them in an ommelette at breakfast.

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