Love is warm, spicy chickpeas | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Love is warm, spicy chickpeas

We shared everything and managed to do so with relative grace

My most memorable college years were spent living in a tiny apartment in Oakland with four other women whom I adored. We shared everything and managed to do so with relative grace. This was most notable in our galley-style kitchen: just 5 feet long and 3 feet deep, in which two or three of us would regularly cook at the same time. This chickpea dish was born out of the vegetarianism and poverty of those college years, and now in adulthood, it is still as comforting and delicious as ever. Note: All the spices in this recipe are added to taste. I spend a lot of time standing over the pan, almost burning my fingers on frying chickpeas, tasting and adjusting. Feel free to experiment with your own spice combinations as well. 


  • 1 15½-ounce can chickpeas
  • ½ large yellow onion, finely diced
  • garlic, minced (as much you want, but please use at least 2 cloves)
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • a healthy amount of oil/butter (I like to use ghee because of the high smoke point.)
  • black pepper
  • red-pepper flakes
  • cayenne pepper
  • cumin
  • smoked paprika
  • chili powder
  • oregano
  • salt
  • optional: a perfectly ripe, sliced avocado or a fried egg (leave that yolk runny!)


Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Set aside. Dice the onion and red pepper. Mince the garlic. Set aside. Warm a pan over medium heat with about 2 tablespoons butter or oil of your choice. (I like to use my cast-iron pan for this dish.) When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for about 2 minutes, until they start to soften. Add the red pepper and garlic, and cook for another minute or so. Start adding your spices to the vegetables now so they have time to open up their flavor into the oil. After another 30 seconds, add the chickpeas and stir everything together. Continue cooking and adjusting spices, until the chickpeas start to crack open and get slightly crispy on the outside. Fry an egg or slice an avocado to top the dish, and serve immediately while still piping hot.

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