Garbanzo, Garbanzo, Garbanzo

Chickpeas were not a staple in Northern Italy, where beans and legumes tended to be of the white variety.  New traditions are made with every generation, however, and when I now think of chickpeas, I think of my son who had his first chickpeas when he was two.  Great Jones, the New York City burger joint around the corner from where we lived, happened to serve the best green salads with chickpeas. Finn gobbled up this salad, loving every bite, and while he liked the flavor and consistency of the beans, I suspect his particular childhood memory was cemented when he proudly added a funny new word to his vocabulary: garbanzo, garbanzo, garbanzo…
 
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are mild, nutty-tasting legumes. They’re the main ingredient of hummus, a staple in Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern, and no stranger to the salad bar. They’re great for vegetarians (and meat eaters too!) as one cup packs fiber (11 grams), protein (12 grams) and 18 percent of the iron you’ll need in a day.
 
Dried and canned chickpeas are widely available. If you are using the dried variety, purchase them at a supermarket with high turnover as older beans that have been on the shelf for too long will take more time to cook. We love the convenience of canned chickpeas and unlike canned vegetables, there is little difference in the nutritional value between canned garbanzo beans and those you cook yourself. If you are buying in cans, look for reduced-sodium option, and rinse and drain any canned chickpeas before using. And, if you are concerned about the BPA in can liners (an issue we are just now grappling with ourselves) consider buying cooked chickpeas in glass jars when they are available.
 
When pureed, chickpeas turn smooth and buttery, so they’re ideal in dips and sauces. Open a can into the blender, add some olive oil, fresh herbs, lemon and garlic, and make your own hummus!  Or, use the pureed chickpeas to enhance and thicken other dishes. We have a friend who blends them into her kids’ pasta sauces to pack a powerful protein punch.
 
Because chickpeas hold their shape well when cooked, they also make a terrific addition to stews or soups. Toss some in a salad, or mix with rice or couscous for a fast, healthy lunch. If you’re looking for a Middle Eastern inspired dish, add garbanzo beans to penne mixed with olive oil, feta cheese and fresh oregano, or cook them in tomato paste, curry spices and chopped walnuts, and serve this dahl-type dish with brown rice.
 
And if you’re having a few friends over, but forgot to buy some cheese, a can of chickpeas rinsed, lightly mashed, mixed with parsley, lemon, olive oil and garlic, and baked in the oven for 20 minutes, makes a fancy dip for crackers or bread.  Try it sometime.  We bet it’ll be a big hit. How you bring chickpeas into your meals, whole, mashed or pureed, doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that you do.  Come and cook with us!

Hummus Guacamole or Humole! (Cooking chickpeas from scratch.)
Moroccan Harira Chickpea Lamb Stew
Chickpea Stirfry
Mediterranean Chickpea Burgers

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