Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Amazing Chick Pea

While chickpeas might not be the sexiest food stuff around they have a lot going for them along with a long history. Chickpeas are high in protein and one of the earliest cultivated vegetables. 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East. For those of us you look for protien from alternative sources the chickpea is perfect consting of nearly %25 protien and almost no fat.

Over 8 million tons of chickpeas are harvested anually with three quarters of the yield taken from various Asian nations. Most chickpeas are processed. They are either dried, canned, or ground into a flour. I've used fresh raw chickpeas a few times. Pinching each pea from it's single lonely pod is a finger numbing job in and of it self. Fortunatly the resulting pea is unique from it's processed cousins. Fresh chickpeas cook and eat much like other green peas, have a light fresh flavor and lack any hint of starch.

Hummus, or hummous--chickpeas mashed to a paste with lemon juice, olive oil, and sesame paste--is widely eaten in the Middle East as a sauce and dip for bread. Mashed cooked chickpeas are formed into small flat cakes and fried for falafel, a popular Israeli snack. In southern Europe, chickpeas are a common ingredient in soups, salads, and stews. A kind of meal or flour is also made from chickpeas. Canned chickpeas can be fried to a light crisp consistancy.

I've stumbled upon some nice flavor pairing with chickpeas recently and wanted to share. By no means are they unique, but sometimes we need to be reminded of what's good.

Curried Chickpeas with Spinach and Tomato.

2 onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 tblsp oil

1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp corriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 cloves
3 green cardamon pods

1 cup water or chicken stock
1 8 oz can chicpeas, drained
1 cup fresh tomato, rough chopped but small
4 oz spinach

Carmalize onion in oil until very dark, this should take about 20 min. on low-med. heat. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add all the spices and stir into mixture, once fragrant add water and chickpeas. Cook this mixture for half an hour, season with salt and pepper. Search out and remove cloves and cardamon. Add the tomato and spinach right before serving. The spinach should hold some texture, and the raw tomato/acid flavor is what we want.

This curry has no heat, but is inviting some cayenne to the party. I turned an old batch into new with the addition of sweet corn. While nice on it's own, this makes a great summer side dish to grilled meat, specifily lamb.


eugenie said...

I enjoyed your write-up about chickpeas. The picture, especially brought fond memories of my childhood, growing in the Mediterranean area. As kids we would get our Moms to buy us a bundle of fresh chickpeas from the itinerant veggie seller and the fun was to pop the pods close to our mouths and make sure we do not miss the pea!

Thanks for the memory!!

Rachel said...

I like the idea of pairing with lamb just following your thoughts on becoming a vegetarian. Awesome! (As said in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding: 'He no eat meat??? No problem. I'll cook lamb!'"

Michael Walsh said...

That doesn't sound too bad, all vegetarian except for lamb, I could do that.