What is chickpea, and what makes it different? | Crystal Lightner

What is chickpea, and what makes it different?

You cannot believe me unless you know someone who eats chickpeas, although I am fairly sure I know someone who does not. Chickpeas (or golden chickpeas) are available fresh in their raw state as well as canned. One of the most popular and culturally popular cereals in Europe, baked rice pudding, is a recipe in the USA specifically made with chickpeas.

“Chickpeas” is a loose term to describe a variety of legumes and their family of relatives called “ground beans”. Some are not legumes and have an added oil, such as lentils, that must be added to the chickpeas. For the purposes of this program we will use chickpeas as we often eat dried chickpeas in their raw state in winter.

The group we began the program with consisted of people who enjoyed making coq au vin (a French stew cooked with beans) and had never eaten chickpeas. The work of determining what was so special about chickpeas meant coming to terms with all we had seen others do with chickpeas and taking the time to explore how one of the most unusual and curious of the legumes could be prepared by someone not even familiar with the term “chickpea”.

As we learned more, we realized that there was an entire recipe book full of ways to use chickpeas and see where it led. We saw how chickpeas could be prepared for salads, soups, sauces, breads, stews, cakes, biscuits, tortillas, and in some manner all of these combinations are available.

We also learned that chickpeas are not a common ingredient in the US. There is a huge interest in kosher foods and cholent, a Jewish stew prepared from a mix of vegetables, broth, cheese, and meat. We wondered why cholent did not have chickpeas. Chickpeas are also a food tradition for Jews in Eastern Europe.

Chickpeas are a versatile and nutritious component of meals in many cultures, and some of the recipes I have written are intended for eating raw and as a breakfast or snack.

If you have been wanting to use up a great quality crop of chickpeas, think of chickpeas as well as quinoa. Although there are fewer than 100 grams (about 3-5 ounces) in a whole bunch of chickpeas, they provide enormous amounts of protein and fiber, and a modest amount of vitamin C and iron. We like to use the “rich” oil to flavor the stews with. There are two ways to prepare the chickpeas— to roast them on the stove or to boil them in water. You can even bake them (i.e. breading). Chickpeas cook very quickly and need constant stirring as their outer skins keep getting “baked in”.

I hope this section has been helpful to you as well. If you have a particular spice or sauce you really want to test, feel free to send them in.

This video shows you how to make chickpeas, as well as peas and lentils.

Anne Hennessy Diaconais

P.S. In this version:

Find a recipe for braised chickpeas

Watch the video making braised chickpeas

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