Chickpeas are something I never thought much about. They did not appear on the table in my childhood home, and somehow all these years cooking I didn’t run into them. But yesterday I planned to cook a New York Times recipe for Crispy Lamb Meatballs with Chickpeas and Eggplant. At first, I thought I’d just leave the chickpeas out, but a friend encouraged me to include them. So when I ordered groceries over the weekend, I ordered chickpeas, expecting canned. They were dried, and there began my education.
Dried chickpeas, like various dried beans, must be soaked before cooking. You can use that trick of adding a tsp. of baking soda to the water if you want, but the main thing is to soak them overnight in lots of water, because the expand a great deal during soaking. You can hurry the process up with an Insta-pot or pressure cooker, but I went for the old-fashioned method.
In the morning, I drained and rinsed them, covered generously with fresh cold water (at least two inches above the top of the peas) and brought it to a boil. Then instructions said simmer for one to two hours. I hate undercooked beans, so I went for two hours and discovered that with a lid slightly askew on the pot and the heat set at medium low, my hot plate holds a nice simmer. After two hours, they were cooked—and, to my surprise, tasty.
Then the day went awry (see my blog, https://www.blogger.com) and I ended up not making the dish. So there I was with a pound of cooked chickpeas. First thing I learned: they freeze beautifully. Second thing, there are lots of things to do with them—put them in the food processor with tahini and seasonings and make homemade hummus (so much better), scatter them in salad, put them in soups and stews, use them for a vegetarian curry, make fritters or patties out of them, use in place of tuna in a salad, put them in scrambled eggs. The internet is alive with recipes and suggestions.
My favorite: roast chickpeas for a snack instead of chips. Take a pound of cooked chickpeas (or canned) and toss with olive oil (1 tsp.—too much oil will make them soggy) and 1/4 tsp. of salt, pepper, and the seasoning of your choice—anything from chile powder to thyme and rosemary. For even coating, put the ingredients in a large baggie and shake well. Put them in a cold oven and roast at 425o for 20-30 minutes or until crisp. The chickpeas will lose their crispness as they cool, so serve them as soon as they cool enough to handle. Even after they lose their heat and soften, they’re still tasty.
Chickpeas are a staple for vegetarians and vegans for good reason. They’re plentiful, cheap, low fat, and full of nutrients—the fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals we all need. Studies show they may help control blood pressure, improve digestion, and prevent anything from diabetes to cancer. On a diet? These are great because they give you a feeling of having eaten without adding calories.
As for the Keurig, I’ve been using it to brew my single cup of tea for years. In fact, I’m on my second machine. But my conscience has increasingly bothered me—K-cups contribute an enormous amount to our burgeoning landfills and are a disaster for the environment. Besides, I never ever took mine apart and cleaned it with a vinegar solution as you’re supposed to do at least every six months.
So when my Keurig bit the dust this week, making only an eighth of a cup each time, I sent it to Goodwill, where they will refurbish. I’m making my tea with an electric teakettle but still exploring various options. If I settle on the teakettle, I’ll get an infuser—no sense adding that daily teabag to my footprint. I tried to tell one of my daughters not to use a plastic straw, and she said dismissively, “What difference does one straw make?’ That’s just it—it’s not one straw but the millions (literally) that are discarded daily. I figure the same is true of tea bags.