Cooking with chickpeas: How to use them, elevate them, and keep them interesting | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Cooking with chickpeas: How to use them, elevate them, and keep them interesting

Shelf-Stable: Investigating the best way to use pantry staples during quarantine

click to enlarge Bon Appetit’s Warm Chickpea Bowls with Lemony Yogurt - CP PHOTO: ABBIE ADAMS
CP photo: Abbie Adams
Bon Appetit’s Warm Chickpea Bowls with Lemony Yogurt
CP illustration: Abbie Adams
The pandemic has changed many aspects of daily life for people, including how and what we eat. While restaurants are still open for takeout, we have turned to the contents of our pantries and cupboards asking, “What should I make today?” You might have an entire family to cook three meals for a day. You might be surviving entirely on stress-induced hourly snacks. The kitchen might be an escape, a chance to try out all of those multi-day food projects you’ve been wanting to try; or, it might be a place of dread, the dark corners of your refrigerator and sad, crusty condiment bottles leaving you uninspired. These days, the fewer trips to the grocery store, the better. Which is why Pittsburgh City Paper is investigating the best way to use pantry staples. How to use them, how to elevate them, how to keep them interesting.
click to enlarge Mazza plater from Khalil’s - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Mazza plater from Khalil’s


click to enlarge Aquafaba - CP PHOTO: ABBIE ADAMS
CP photo: Abbie Adams
Chickpeas, also know as garbanzo beans, gram, Egyptian peas, chana, or chole, are one of the world’s oldest legumes. There are several varieties: desi chana looks most like the original legume, small and dark; kabuli chana are what you mostly find in American grocery stores, the larger, pale-colored bean with a smooth coat. Chickpeas are pulses, meaning they are edible, dry seeds, although you can also eat young, fresh, green chickpeas.

People have been eating chickpeas forever — 7,500-year-old remains were found in Turkey where they most likely originated. They are common in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines, but while the chickpea has a rich, long heritage, it wasn’t until the 2010s that chickpea flour became mainstream in the U.S. (part health food/part gluten-free trends). Aquafaba (the liquid that comes in the can or results from cooking chickpeas) was only discovered to be useful as an egg substitute in 2014. 

An Instagram survey of friends showed that roasting until crispy is by far the most popular way to eat them. One person seasoned them with salt, pepper, and paprika, while another used a combination of salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast. Menu ideas included roasting them alongside cauliflower, mixing them into shakshuka, mixing them with green chili salsa, heated spices, and adding feta, or stuffing them in sweet potatoes with goat cheese, fried kale, and topping it all off with a drizzle of honey. Another recommended making chana masala (a saucy tomato chickpea Indian dish). Suggested hummus flavors included beet, roasted red pepper, and chocolate.

click to enlarge Roasted chickpeas and cauliflower - CP PHOTO: ABBIE ADAMS
CP photo: Abbie Adams
Roasted chickpeas and cauliflower
I called Dalel Khalil, co-owner of Khalil’s, to talk about chickpeas. Khalil explained that soaking dried chickpeas overnight results in a more flavorful and superior tasting bean, however the process is time-consuming. When she reaches for canned chickpeas, Khalil doesn’t stick to a particular brand but instead looks for something without added salt and preservatives and makes sure to give everything a good rinse before using.

“To be honest, the best and simplest dish brings out the flavor in the chickpea but doesn’t overpower it,” she said. She described a simple Mediterranean salad to me, saying that for a 99¢ can of chickpeas and a few other ingredients, you can create a healthy meal that has protein and nutrients. “Instead of stress eating and grabbing chocolate and potato chips, this will fill you up. Psychologically, you don’t succumb to the virus, and you still feel healthy.”

Khalil offered additional suggestions on eating chickpeas during this time. “This is village food. In Damascus, 10 years ago, for $1.25 we shared breakfast food that was mostly made of chickpeas. It is a cheap way to survive … [and has] sustained people for centuries through the worst possible experiences, ” she shared. “Food feeds our body, and this time when everything is shut down — our whole world stopped — it is a great time look at food and chickpeas … Our lives are so fast and it came to a screeching halt, and so this is a great time to stop and reflect on what we have.”

Mediterranean (Syrian) Chickpea Salad by Dalel Khalil

• 2 cans, chickpeas — drained and rinsed
1/4 cup parsley — washed and cut, finely
• 3/4 cup grape or cherry tomatoes — chopped in halves
• 1/8 cup small red onion — chopped finely (adjust amount according to desired taste)
• 10 Kalamata Olives — pitted and split in halves
• 1/3 cup feta cheese (optional)
• 1/4 cup Sito's Mediterranean Salad Dressing & Marinade (shaken well)

Mix all ingredients together, along with dressing, except feta cheese. (NOTE: Add feta cheese last, so it does not get too mushy, and mix well.)

Chill for a half-hour and serve.

Alternative dressing: If you don't have Sito's Mediterranean Salad Dressing, combine the following ingredients and mix well. Then mix into salad.

• 4 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil
• 1 TBSP. lemon juice
• 1 small garlic clove, crushed finely
• Pinch of sea salt, to taste

Garnish with fresh mint leaves and enjoy!

Suggested recipes:

Crisped Chickpeas with Herbs and Garlic Yogurt from Smitten Kitchen
Mediterranean Chickpea and Chicken Soup from The Kitchn
Chickpea Pizza Crust
Carrot Salad with Tahini and Crisped Chickpeas from Smitten Kitchen
Mediterranean Chickpea Stew with Spinach and Feta from A Saucy Kitchen
Warm Chickpea Bowls with Lemony Yogurt from Bon Appetit

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