Chickpeas (Recipe: lemon onion hummus)
Updated February 2012.
Which came first, the famous Roman orator Cicero, or chickpeas?
According to some sources, chickpeas (Latin name cicer arietum) were named after a rather unattractive wart on Cicero's nose. Others say that Cicero, born with a less-than-perfect nose, was named after the oddly curled-up legume. Chickpeas are an ancient food, discovered in mesolithic layers in southern France and carbon-dated to approximately 6790 BC. Cicero's time was around 100 BC. Which came first?
A chickpea by any other name is a garbanzo bean (Spanish), ceci (Italian), grao-di-bico (Portuguese), gram (whole beans, in India), or channa (the Indian name for skinless, split chickpeas). By any name, it's one of the world's healthiest foods, providing hefty doses of dietary fiber that help lower cholesterol and blood sugar, and magnesium and folate that protect against heart disease.
However, health benefits alone do not earn chickpeas a place in The Perfect Pantry. Taste matters, and chickpeas have good taste — though for years I didn't think they tasted very good. I remember being served some kind of baked chickpea dish (something strange, maybe chickpea enchiladas....) at a dinner party years ago; the chickpeas were hard and dry inside. I pushed them around on my plate. Had there been a dog in the house, I surely would have been willing to share!
Keep dried chickpeas in your pantry if you want to make your own chickpea flour, the foundation of socca, those wonderful pancakes from Provence. Because the dried beans take forever to cook (far longer than other pulses), for everything else I recommend canned chickpeas. The difference in nutritional value is negligible, and the increased convenience more than compensates for the loss of a nutrient here and there.
Chickpeas travelled the world with traders from the mideast, and now are staples in the cuisines of Mediterranean countries in Europe and North Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Latin America. A major source of protein for vegetarians, and a boon to the diabetic diet, chickpeas are inexpensive and provide a lot of bulk for the buck.
Try chickpeas in soup and stews, in salads, as a side dish or main course, or in candy; just stay away from the enchilada idea.
Lemon onion hummus
Inspired by several recipes in Sally Sampson's Party Dips. Makes 4 cups.
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
2/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2/3 cup water
4 cups canned chickpeas, drained (reserve 1/4 cup liquid), and rinsed
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp light and fruity extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Paprika (optional, for garnish)
In a small sauté pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil, and add the sliced onion. Cook slowly, over low heat, until the onion is lightly caramelized, 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the garlic, lemon juice and tahini until a smooth paste. Add the water and chickpeas, and continue to process until mixture is almost fluffy. Add some of the reserved chickpea liquid, if necessary. Season with the cumin. Transfer to a bowl.
Stir in the onions and sour cream, and mix well. If desired, pour 2 Tbsp light and fruity olive oil over the top and swirl with a knife. Sprinkle with paprika.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Roasted chickpeas with garlic, cumin and paprika
Chickpea, quinoa and spinach salad with preserved lemon vinaigrette
Vegan butternut squash and chickpea stew
Roasted red pepper and garlic hummus crostini
Chickpeas with sausage and peppers
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Eggplant, potato and chickpea curry, from Andrea Meyers
Arugula chickpea salad with feta and balsamic-tahini vinaigrette, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Tangy lemon smashed chickpea salad, from Everybody Likes Sandwiches
Orzo salad with chickpeas, dill, feta and lemon, from Whipped
Crockpot chickpea stew with balsamic caramelized onions, from Cookin' Canuck