Also called garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a legume often recommended as a nutritious alternative to meat. As crops, they replenish nitrogen in the soil. First grown as a crop in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, they were known in ancient Greece and Rome.
High in fiber, 35 grams of chickpeas have 115 calories and 19 gr of carbohydrates (7 percent of the daily requirement), 11 gr of dietary fiber (44 percent), and 7 gr of protein. It is an important source of iron, with 35 gr providing 12 percent of the daily requirement, according to the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council. They are very low in fat, high in calcium – about the same as yogurt, according to some sources.
They can be bought whole or skinned – the latter is the most convenient. They have to be soaked for some hours and then simmered for one to two hours if used fresh. Canned chickpeas are also available.
Eat them in stews or cold in salads. Pureed, they can be cooked in the form of small balls. In India they are eaten unripe as a snack.
Here are two recipes to try as a change from the usual Greek dish “revithada.”
Velvet chickpea soup
Ingredients (serves 4-6 people)
500 gr chickpeas
400 gr finely chopped onions
4 garlic cloves
Stalks of a bunch of parsley (tied)
1 bay leaf
125 ml olive oil (early harvest,
Salt and pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of ground chili
Juice of 1.5 lemons
1 tomato chopped in small cubes
1/2 tsp powdered sweet paprika
Soak the chickpeas overnight in a saucepan with enough water to cover them.
The next day, dispose of the water used for soaking and boil the chickpeas in a large saucepan with twice their volume in fresh water, together with the onion, garlic, parsley stalks, bay leaf, cumin and chili.
When they are half done – after about 45 minutes – season and add the lemon, then continue until the chickpeas are quite soft – for about an hour and a half.
Test to make sure. If necessary, add more water.
When done to the point of nearly melting, the chickpeas should be reduced to two-thirds of the contents of the saucepan, with the water comprising no more than one-third.
Remove the bay leaf and parsley. Blend the contents of the saucepan with half the oil.
Serve the soup garnished with the tomato cubes, 1 teaspoon of oil and a dash of paprika.
Chickpea rissoles stuffed with onions
Ingredients (serves 8)
For the rissoles:
4 cups boiled chickpeas
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon (preferably organic)
1 egg (preferably organic)
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and quartered
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh or
1 tsp dried mint
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh or
1 tsp dried ginger
1 tbsp smoked or sweet paprika powder
1 tbsp curry powder (optional)
1 cup ground dried rusk (frigania)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Flour and olive oil for frying
For the stuffing:
2 medium-sized onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup of sweet Moschato or Mavrodaphne wine
1 tbsp lemon juice
For the sauce:
2 tbsp lemon juice
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mustard
2 tbsp strained yogurt
1 tbsp dried crushed rosemary
For the sauce, beat all the ingredients in a blender and refrigerate until the meal is ready to serve.
For the stuffing, saute the onions in the oil over a medium to low heat, season and heat until softened and slightly golden (about 10 minutes). Raise the heat and add the wine and lemon. When the alcohol has evaporated, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Rissoles: Put the chickpeas, onion, egg and ginger in a blender and beat until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Knead well and form into eight thin, long rissoles. Refrigerate for half an hour.
Then place the caramelized onions on one end of the rissole and fold over, forming them into a round shape. Roll in the flour, then shake off excess.
Heat the oil in a large heavy frying pan and fry the rissoles over a moderate to high heat for three minutes on each side.
Serve with the sauce and a green salad.