Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Versatility of the Chickpea

Chickpeas and garbanzo beans are one of the same and is a very versatile legume. One of the most popular and widely used in the Middle East is the Chickpea. In Spanish cooking they are referred to as garbanzo beans
and in Italian cooking they are called ceci beans.
The chickpea originated in the Middle East about 7500 years ago. It was first cultivated about 3,000 BC and was popular among ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians. It was not until the 16th Century that the chickpea was brought to other parts of the world by Spanish explorers. Nutty and buttery chickpeas come in a variety of colors green, black, brown, red and the most commonly known are the beige chickpea. There are two types of chickpeas Desi and Kabali. Desi have smaller darker seeds and a rough coat. Kabali is a larger, lighter colored bean with a smooth coat.
You can use chickpeas in so many ways but there is no comparison to fresh chickpeas. If you see them at the grocery store (such as Whole Foods) they are around $1.99 lb. they have a green shell on the outside that is easy to open and pop out one chickpea. They may take a while to shell but much less time consuming than the Fava bean. They are a brilliant green in color and I just blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water. Drain and toss lightly with olive oil
and sea salt or add and brighten any cous-cous, pasta, green salads, chicken dish... It will be the topic of conversation at the table. There is truly no comparison to the dried or canned chickpeas we are so used to having. The dried and canned have their part too. They are great cooked and ground into a paste for hummus or roasted and spiced and eaten as a snack. Chick pea flour also called gram flour or Besan. This is great for making flat breads, falafel, lightly coating fish before frying or fermented and made into an alcoholic beverage similar to Sake.
When I was on my honeymoon we went to old Nice,France because my mom told me I had to try Socca. We wondered through the Fleur de Marche (amazing outdoor antique market)in Nice and wondered down some narrow streets until we stumbled upon the famous Socca stand. Socca is made with none other that Chickpea flour, olive oil, water and salt. It is basically a chickpea flour crepe. Nutty, buttery and fabulous. The French love to have a dry glass of white wine with their Socca. It was an amazing food memory I will never forget. It just made me think how one ingredient can be used in so many different ways and in so many countries. Lastly, chickpeas are a great source of protein and fiber and help reduce cholesterol.
Who couldn't love the Chickpea!

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