Friday, March 13, 2009

Chickpeas and Other Beans: Three Go-To Recipes

Truth be told, I went to the store today to fetch ingredients for my Curried Lentil Soup. Along the way, it seems I was sidetracked by the fresh scents of Spring introduced to my nose by the wind. By the time I arrived at the store, I had forgotten all about my wintery soup and instead concocted other beanie plans.

Lugging home several cans of chickpeas, I instead made a fantastic batch of Homemade Hummus, Oven Roasted Chickpeas, and a 6-Bean Mixed Salad. Admittedly, I am not exactly a culinary wonder kid, but these are all great staple recipes using ingredients both easily found in your pantry and refrigerator. Everyone needs a large repertoire of those.

1) Homemade Hummus:
1- 15 oz. can of Chickpeas
2- small cloves of Garlic
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 Lemon, juiced
Salt to taste

Step 1: Rinse chickpeas thoroughly.

Step 2: Put all ingredients in a blender, and blend, stopping every once in awhile to scrape down the sides. I found that I had to mix as well in order to achieve a smooth consistency.

Step 3: Blend to preferred consistency--stopping at a slightly chunkier mixture for a drip, and continuing onto a creamier result for a spread. Add olive oil and/or more lemon juice in order to achieve the creamy consistency.

I would highly recommend on starting with 1 clove of garlic, unless you are a garlic lover like me. The garlic can be a little overpowering. This is definitely not the hummus to bring to the office or to serve on a date. Also, make sure to go easy on the salt if using canned chickpeas.

Hummus purists will note that I omitted Tahini. I find that with a good helping of lemon juice there's really no need for it. And with the refreshing zing of the lemon, the naturally buttery taste of the naked chickpea is able to shine through. I also throw in a little lemon zest for good measure.

2) Oven Roasted Chickpeas with Cracked Pepper
1- 15 oz. can of Chickpeas
Liberal amount of freshly Cracked Pepper, to taste
Small dusting of Garlic Powder, to taste
No salt if using canned Chickpeas, but salt to taste if using dried variety

Step 1: Pre-Heat the oven to 425.
Step 2: Having drained and rinsed the chickpeas thoroughly, pat dry with clean kitchen towel. A little dampness is good, as it will help the pepper stick.
Step 3: Lay the chickpeas out on a cookie sheet, pepper to taste. Add garlic powder to taste.
Step 4: Roast chickpeas from 30 to 38 minutes, turning them over every 10 minutes or so.
Step 5: Turn off heat and let roasted chickpeas sit for about 10 more minutes.

With my oven, I roast the chickpeas closer to 30 minutes. I find that, at that point, they have started to blacken at the edges, are very crispy on the outside but still a little tender on the inside. It's preferable to let cool before serving, but, if you're like me, feel free to eat them right off the pan like popcorn.

Personally, I love this mix. The pepper stings my lips slightly, and the garlic is nothing more than a light flavor in the background. You can use paprika, curry, chili pepper powder, or anything else that suits your fancy--go wild and let your imagination soar.

And one last warning, eat these consciously. If you're not careful, you can look down and realize that you just ate an entire can of chickpeas.

3) 6-Bean Mixed Salad
1- 15 oz. can Mixed Beans of choice (any choice of bean will do from lentils to kidney beans)
3- Roma Tomatoes
1- Cucumber
2- Stalks of Green Onions
Olive Oil and Vinegar to taste
Cumin to taste
Freshly Cracked Pepper to taste
No salt for canned beans

Step 1: Drain and rinse beans thoroughly.

Step 2: Chop all ingredients and combine in large bowl.

Step 3: Toss with Olive Oil, Vinegar, and liberal amounts of Cumin and Pepper.

Anything can be done with this base--add avocado when in season, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm. Anything goes really, combining anything and everything that is in season. The key is always the cumin. Cumin, as it turns out, is the perfect accoutrement to beans, as taught to me by my best friend whose bean salad remains unrivaled to this day. It took me forever to figure out the difference between our recipes.

Light, refreshing, and satisfying, the salad can be eaten alone, as a side dish, or served on a bed of lettuce. I, honestly, live on this during the summer months.

Blame spring fever on what happened here this afternoon.

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