The Mighty and Versatile Chickpea

Garbanzo. Bengal gram. Ceci. Shimbra. Hommes. Lahlabi. Chana. This is a mere sampling of the names used around the world for the little bean known in this country as the chickpea.


Chickpeas ready for seasoning. (Kim O'Donnel)

The chickpea is not as old as the ancient lentil, but it's not far behind, clocking in around 8000 BCE. Like the lentil, it was first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent, according to food historian Ken Albala, author of "Beans: A History," which he describes as modern-day eastern Turkey, northern Iraq and Syria.

The chickpea that most Americans are familiar with is called the kabuli, a larger, beige-colored variety common in the Mediterranean, but there's another called the desi, a smaller, darker variety that is more common in India, available in shades of red, green and black. I've yet to try these multi-colored gems and am eager to learn more about their flavor, texture and cooking times.

The chickpea figures into more global cuisines than you can count on both hands, including India, Ethiopia, Spain, northern Africa and throughout the Middle East.

This compact bean is a mighty source of nutrients. One cup of cooked chickpeas contains more than 12 grams of dietary fiber, which is roughly half of the daily recommended amount, plus 14 grams in protein. It's also a decent source of non-dairy calcium, a tidbit that makes me very happy.

Below, the recipe that many of you have been requesting. Because it allows for canned chickpeas, this is do-able on a weeknight, a fait accompli in just under an hour. There's been so much interest in chickpeas of late, so I invite you to share your tried-and-true favorites. The more parts of the world covered, the merrier.

Easy Chickpea Curry
Adapted from "From Curries to Kebabs" by Madhur Jaffrey

Ingredients
2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, thoroughly drained
About 8 ounces fresh tomato, roughly chopped
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Fresh hot green chilies of choice (I used 3 medium Thai chilies and result was more than a medium hot)
1 cup cilantro leaves and/or stems
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil of choice
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cardamon pods, smashed open with the side of a chef's knife
2 bay leaves
1 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 medium onion); it's also nice grated
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice

Method
Make spice paste:
In a blender or in the bowl of a food processor, add tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chilies, cilantro, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, 1 teaspoon of the salt, plus 5-6 tablespoons of water. Blend until smooth, pushing mixture from sides of bowl with a rubber spatula when necessary.

Pour oil into a wide, lidded pan and set over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaves and stir for 30 seconds. Add onions and potatoes. Cook until onion is lightly browned, about five minutes, turning heat down as necessary.

Stir in spice paste, making sure onion-potato mixture is thoroughly coated. Cover, reduce heat and cook for at least five minutes. Add chickpeas, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt plus 1 cup of water. Stir and bring up to a simmer. Return cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving to appreciate the flavors. Great by itself, with rice or with your favorite flat bread.

Makes 4-6 servings.

By Kim ODonnel |  April 18, 2008; 10:52 AM ET Beans and Legumes , Vegetarian/Vegan
Previous: Edible Poetry | Next: Meeting the Flourless Chocolate Cookie Fairy

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Oh, Kim, I can't say enough about chickpeas! One of my favorite early summer uses is to toss a drained, rinsed can of chickpeas into a batch of pasta with garlic scape pesto.

Posted by: 20009 | April 18, 2008 11:10 AM

I love chickpeas--I remember when I was quite young, my parents would have them warming in a fondue pot with a little salt at parties for nibbling. I always assumed they were a Jewish dish!

For people who belong to the "cilantro tastes like soap" school, could we substitute parseley leaves and stems? What about dill?

Thanks Kim!

Posted by: Bethesda Mom | April 18, 2008 11:40 AM

When I was in school at Northwestern the cafeteria served a chickpea rotini that was really good. One of the only meals I actually looked forward to -- most of the vegetarian choices were sub-par. Wish I had the recipe. It had a tomato-based sauce and some cheese, but not a lot.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2008 11:43 AM

Bethesda Mom, you most certainly can try parsley in lieu of cilantro, if you're looking for a sub. Let me know how it goes.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 18, 2008 11:47 AM

Kim, this looks delicious. I'm a frequent consumer of chickpeas and other beans and legumes, and one point has actually been bugging me for a while. I notice that the chickpeas I buy (from ethnic groceries and other places) are usually grown halfway around the globe in the Eastern hemisphere. Do you know if chickpeas are grown here in America? Any other locally grown beans you know of and might recommend (other than black eyed peas)?

Posted by: Vienna | April 18, 2008 12:13 PM

Kim, This looks divine. Do you have a good, non-starchy substitute for the potato?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2008 12:14 PM

to the previous poster: I've tried peeled and sliced turnips in chickpea curry previously with delicious results

Posted by: Vienna | April 18, 2008 12:19 PM

Parsnips would work nicely here, as well. Or what about a sweet potato?
Vienna, great question about U.S.-grown chickpeas. They are grown here, albeit in small amounts compared to major producers such as India, Pakistan and Turkey. The chickpea likes hot and arid conditions. I know there's been chickpea movement in the Great Plains, like Nebraska, but I wonder what happens during those long winters. The only source I've ever seen carrying U.S. grown chickpeas is Rancho Gordo, in Napa (www.ranchogordo.com). Just checked and he doesn't have any avail. If anyone has gotten their hands on U.S. grown chickpeas, please speak up!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 18, 2008 12:31 PM

Hi Kim,
I'm excited to try this recipe this weekend. If I wanted to add some small strips of chicken, how would I go about doing so?

Posted by: Alexandria | April 18, 2008 12:48 PM

Looks like a great recipe and gives me a chance to use up some of the other spices in my kitchen cabinet. Thanks.

Posted by: Little Red | April 18, 2008 12:53 PM

Looks good. I'm always impressed by the prices people pay for commercial hummus when they could make a big batch of delicious stuff in 10 minutes in a food processor.

Posted by: Dave | April 18, 2008 1:21 PM

I have this issue with chickpeas- whenever I cook with them, the shells seem to come off the beans when they are cooking. Then I am left with all these sort of non-chewable skins floating around, which are pretty unappetizing and I always gag on them. Am I doing something wrong? I use canned chickpeas, fwiw.

Posted by: reston, va | April 18, 2008 1:43 PM

As far as US-grown chickpeas go, I can only speak to organic production. But I do know Kim is exactly right, it needs to be hot and dry where they grow. I've seen attempts at growing chickpeas in western Nebraska (the area once known as the Great American Desert, and, coincidently, the area where I grew up!), eastern Colorado, and eastern Montana. It definitely gets hot enough there for chickpeas to grow. The have a relatively long growing season, though, so theres a relatively short planting window. If there's a late winter, it would be hard to get the crop in in enough time to get a good crop off in the fall. This year was one of those late-winter years (my sister near Sidney NE had blizzard conditions only a week ago!). But chickpeas are getting interest in this region, because there's relatively few crops that grow well, and chickpeas are a nice addition to a long-term organic crop rotation.

Posted by: Organic Gal | April 18, 2008 1:47 PM

Now who has a good hummus recipe to share!?

Posted by: speaking of | April 18, 2008 1:52 PM

Here's a link to my piece on hummus from 2006

http://blog.washingtonpost.com/mighty-appetite/2006/08/a_plate_of_hummus_and_thou.html

and link to my go-to recipe for seven-minute hummus, which I learned from Lebanese-American home cook Nada Kattar:

http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A16920

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 18, 2008 2:00 PM

Thank you Kim!

My favorite chickpea recipe is a Mediterranean one. Saute onions in a decent splash of good olive oil until translucent, add a generous amount of garlic. Throw in three coarsely chopped tomatoes (canned works, but has less texture), about three cups of chickpeas (~2 if using cans), and some oregano; cook down until tomatoes are a bit saucy . Add a bunch of chopped spinach (chard works well instead) and let it wilt. Salt and pepper to taste, and toss with hot cooked whole wheat pasta--fusilli works well and traps the chunky sauce. Drizzle with lemon juice and top the whole thing off with a liberal amount of feta. This is yummy stuff and takes about 20 minutes from beginning to end.

Posted by: sava | April 18, 2008 2:01 PM

Organic Gal: Thanks so much for the extra info on the chickpea scenario in the great state of Nebraska. Really -- blizzard just last week? Please tell your sister we'll send daffodils.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 18, 2008 2:01 PM

I have to say, I love reading your posts. They are so informative I really learn a lot here. I just wanted to take the time to thank you for that. I never knew so much about the chickpea in my life, and that curry recipe sounds delicious.

Thanks again
Rachel
http://bakedblog.com

Posted by: Rachel | April 18, 2008 2:33 PM

Thank you so much Kim for all your wonderful recipes! I can't wait to try this one out. Your blog is the highlight of my day!
Sava, that recipe sounds wonderful! I will have to try that one too. :)

Posted by: Southern Gal | April 18, 2008 3:16 PM

Kim --

going back to the matzoh lasagna -- how about basil pesto? i've got tons of basil pesto in my freezer and it would save me a couple of steps.

Posted by: aaron | April 18, 2008 3:25 PM

Rachel, thanks so much for your warm thoughts.
Aaron, yes! Go for it! Just go easy on the oil for your basil pesto -- it could get runny. the arugula pesto is thicker. Just something to keep in mind.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 18, 2008 3:27 PM

Kim,
Thanks for the chickpea recipe. I've been waiting for it since the "roti" blog. I just want to take this opportunity to apologize to you for all the snide remarks/comments you recieved from my fellow Indians after you posted the "roti" blog.

I really enjoy reading your blogs. Keep up the good work, Kim.

Posted by: Germantown mom | April 18, 2008 4:15 PM

When making my own hummus, which is now world-famous (at least in my little world :oP) I actually do take the time to peel the skins off the chickpeas. It's a bit of a pain, and it's a huge sticky mess, but it's worth it. I just use a basic recipe of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lots of garlic, lots of lemon and some salt. Let your processor run for a few minutes and you'll get heavenly smooth hummus. I also like to drain a can of chickpeas, pat them dry, season them with either an italian herb mix and garlic, or curry powder, and bake them at 350 for an hour. You MUST stir them every 10 mins or they will burn. Add a few extra mins if you like them really crunchy.

FYI: Cicero, the name one of the greatest orators in Roman history, means chickpea. He wasn't particularly proud of that.

Posted by: Sorceress17 | April 18, 2008 6:16 PM

Kim and Organic Gal - thanks for all that info on US chickpeas! Sounds like I'll have to keep an eye out for them.

Posted by: Vienna | April 18, 2008 9:34 PM

Hello Kim! You wrote: "The chickpea that most Americans are familiar with is called the kabuli, a larger, beige-colored variety common in the Mediterranean, but there's another called the desi, a smaller, darker variety that is more common in India, available in shades of red, green and black". Word Kabuli is derived from word Kabul. What is "Chinese" in English to "China", "Kabuli" in Hindi to "Kabul" and "Deshi" to "Desh". The correct transliteration is "deshi". Desh means (own) country (as opposed to a foreign country). This is how we Hindi speakers distinguish "local" variety as opposed to a foreign origin variety. Like in "Deshi Ghee", "Deshi Daru (Alcohol)", etc. Of course there are other nuances of word but that will require a lot of verbiage to explain. Later may be. Another thing I wanted to write on was on what you wrote on color of deshi variety: "shades of red, green and black". Actually I will have to ask you to remove green from the color list. All chickpeas are sometimes green. They ripen and change color like peas are green and but when peas ripen they become yellow. Like young corn is barbecued we Indians too barbecue corn, and like you Americans eat young sugary peas we Indians also eat young green chickpeas lighly toasted and mixed with chopped uncooked onions and tomatoes with seasonings (salt, chillis, ginger etc). These green chickpeas are green-grocer (vegetable section) item, not a grocery item. They are perishable. HTH

Posted by: bakulesh | April 19, 2008 12:10 PM

Thanks Kim! This looks fantastic. I'm going to try dried chickpeas because I have a pressure cooker, but hopefully it should be just as good. I'm wondering if the chickpeas will hold up a little better if I used dried rather than canned

Posted by: Julie | April 19, 2008 4:53 PM

Kim! I saw your Roti blog and you are way off mark there. Roti's dough does not have yoghurt and salt. Anyways dont want to start third WW but you were way OFF MARK there. Real info is provided by those who dont do any chaploosi. Chaploosi is butter polish. Butter polish is flattery.

I do not want to apologize to you for all the snide remarks/comments you recieved from my fellow Indians after you posted the "roti" blog. Because they were telling truth. Who says there are more varieties roti than "you can count on both hands"? There is only one Roti.

Posted by: bakulesh | April 19, 2008 6:33 PM

Hello reston, va.

If your chickpea skins are non-chewable to the extent that you could gag on them then how the chickpea themselves are? Are they chewable?

Anyways watch this video on you tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDWfDUi108U. What the chef says in the video is that undercooked chickpeas will not cook fast if added to gravy because gravy is acidic.

Trick is to have chickpeas cooked separately to right amount of softness by boiling in plain or salted water or pressure cooking. Like you cook pasta separately and then mix in sauce or add them to sauce.

Posted by: bakulesh | April 19, 2008 6:59 PM

Re: my last comment. The YouTube link is not correctly formatted by blogging software of washingtonpost.com. Try following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDWfDUi108U

Posted by: bakulesh | April 19, 2008 7:46 PM

I can't wait to try Kim's recipe. It looks deelish. Thanks, Kim. As for hummus, there is a great recipe in Peter Berley's book on simple vegetarian food. The secret is toasted walnuts added to the mix of chickpeas, olive oil, and spices.

Posted by: Massachusetts fan | April 19, 2008 7:47 PM

Yow! This was SPICY! -- but in a good way! I am getting more and more used to eating hot/spicy foods, and to me this was spicy hot but I could eat it. (But also, I didn't put in the chile peppers, but did put in everything else.) It had great flavor. I would maybe serve it with some sour cream to help with the heat.

Posted by: chrishpl | April 20, 2008 11:00 PM

Thanks for the recipe! Using canned chickpeas is going to make this an easy weeknight dinner. My favorite way of eating chickpeas is in a salad. Boring, but true. It adds a nice texture change and a nutrient punch.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | April 21, 2008 11:19 AM

There are too many things to say about chickpeas, so I'll just talk about chickpea broth. It's wonderful! My fiance's vegan, and from the beginning I wanted us to eat together (though not always exactly the same thing). I generally don't like meat substitutes, we go more for dishes that simply don't involve meat, but cooking dried chickpeas more or less as Deborah Madison says to in her Vegetables cookbook makes a wonderful broth that I happily use instead of chicken stock.

Posted by: Suz | April 23, 2008 1:29 AM

Bakulesh, your informative comments are definitely worth reading, but I did want to point out that Kim did NOT say that there are more types of roti than you can count on both hands. What she said, and i quote, was "there are more types of Indian bread than you can count on both hands". And that is true. There are many wonderful Indian breads out there, and I am sure you probably have good authentic recipes for several of them at least.

Posted by: Lyra | April 23, 2008 12:58 PM

Years ago, the summer of 1962 to be exact, I was a grocery bagger after my freshman year at Stetson University. There was an ethnic section in this Jitney Jungle store in Panama City, Florida. I was intrigued by some of the foods. I remember a can called "Ceci(sp) Garbanzos." It seemed like the label was in Spanish. I never did try them since I was in the picky eater stage of my life then. If this is what you are referring they have been around in this country for a long time, relatively speaking. I'm into trying new dishes now; it sounds like they would be candidates for a pressure cooker or crock pot, perhaps both. I'll have to give them a try. Thanks for the recipes. I stumbled across this blog by accident.

Posted by: Bill J | April 27, 2008 8:02 PM

Hi Kim:

Just want to report that I made the chickpea curry last night--substituting parsley for cilantro, a sweet potato for the white potato, and using ground cardomon because I didn't have cardomon pods. Also, because the results were going to be processed, and because I haven't found any good tomatoes this early in the season, I substituted a can of diced tomatoes for the fresh ones (omitting the first amount of water), and one hot cherry pepper for the greater quantities and hotness of other peppers (my family is not into hot stuff).

Curry was great! I served it over brown rice and even my non-adventurous, picky eaters ate it!! I've always been intimidated from making a "real" curry as opposed to just putting curry powder into something, and even with my substitutions, this smelled like the real deal.

Thanks so much for this and all the great recipes you've shared!!!

Posted by: Bethesda Mom | April 28, 2008 9:59 AM

I am from the Philippines and we use chickpeas as an ingredients in some of our dishes. We also cook chickpeas as a sweeten desert. We cook it in sugar syrup and to add a sweet smell, add pandan leaves in the syrup,

Posted by: Flora Celebrado | May 1, 2008 11:07 AM

kim, I love your column but never wrote to you before.I am so happy to see blogs and recipies for chhole on this site. Chhole is the other indian punjabi version name for chickpeas. Punjab is one of the states in India. We grew up with chhole as one of the special occassion food in our house. Every sunday we used to look forward for this wonderful curry that ma used to make. It goes well with roti,parantha,bhatura(other indian freshly made breads every day ) or basmati rice.So many mouth watering recipes for chickpeas. You can use it with hash brown patties with sweat and sour tamarind chutney. It is delicious, thanks. Take care.

Posted by: Suman | May 1, 2008 11:32 AM

For the posters who wondered about chickpea skins -- The first time I read Marcella Hazan's chickpea soup recipe, and saw that she encouraged the cook to skin each individual chickpea after cooking, but before pureeing, I wondered just what was going on. I tried it and the resulting soup was really smooth and elegant. I also have a couple of Lebanese cookbooks that ask the cook to rub the cooked chickpeas together to loosen the skins and then rinse them off before mashing the chickpeas into hummous. I grew up in Ohio in the 1950's, when the mid-west wasn't exactly the center of chickpea cuisine, and never knew you even _could_ peel them. The peels are perfectly edible, but it seems that in cuisines where they're eaten a lot, peeling them is a nice refinement.

Posted by: Judy | May 1, 2008 11:51 AM

this is really great if you throw a bunch of spinach in too and let it cook down/wilt.

Posted by: Rebecca | May 1, 2008 12:22 PM

This looks great! My favorite summer use for chickpeas is in a Waldorf-esque salad: chickpeas, a couple teaspoons of minced onion, some diced celery and green apple, and halved red grapes in a honey mustard-greek yogurt dressing with a splash of lemon juice. Great with grilled chicken or on its own.

Posted by: katie | May 2, 2008 11:24 AM

I diagnosed as diabetic last year, and chickpeas have become a staple for me now. I always liked them, but now they feature in many meals. I love them as lunch! Chop one large fresh tomato, 1/2 a telegraph or continential cucumber (the long skinny one - don't know what it's called in the US), 1 small to medium red onion. Put all into a deep bowl. Add 1 can of drained and rinsed chickpeas. Dress with a sprinkle of onion powder (not salt), a couple of tbsps of extra virgin olive oil, and the juice of lemon. Salt and white pepper to taste. Serves two for a low-carb, high fibre and protein, delicious, nutritious lunch. If I'm serving as a main evening meal, I add strips of fried haloumi! Again, low on the carbs.

Posted by: Nicola | May 3, 2008 8:28 PM

I diagnosed as diabetic last year, and chickpeas have become a staple for me now. I always liked them, but now they feature in many meals. I love them as lunch!

Chop one large fresh tomato, 1/2 a telegraph or continential cucumber (the long skinny one - don't know what it's called in the US), 1 small to medium red onion. Put all into a deep bowl.

Add 1 can of drained and rinsed chickpeas. Dress with a sprinkle of onion powder (not salt), a couple of tbsps of extra virgin olive oil, and the juice of lemon. Salt and white pepper to taste.

If you have some flat leaf (Italian) parsley, or even some fresh basil, add that as well - up to the whole bunch, so you've used these greens much like salad leaves.

So easy - 10 minutes prep time, tops. Serves two for a low-carb, high fibre and protein, delicious, nutritious lunch.

If I'm serving as a main evening meal, I add strips of fried haloumi! Again, low on the carbs.

Posted by: Nicola | May 3, 2008 8:31 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company