Written and developed by Cathy Collins – Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman
I try to set aside some time each week to make and store quick meals and snacks but it seems there hasn’t been much time lately and I need snack-y type food, the kind that doesn’t require any extra dishes when I want to munch. It might seem like extra work to spend a day cooking, but it does save money and I have control of what goes into my food. I know a lot of people go for the potato chips and sour cream based dips or corn tortilla chips and salsa, but that gets expensive. Besides, chips and dip, cookies and other sweets, and other snack-y, ready to eat foods tend to have a lot of empty calories, lots of salt and preservatives, and tons of sugar. No one really needs that. When you have an extremely limited food budget, make the most out of what you do eat. Ok, I admit it, I am a sucker for my black bean and corn salsa and I love refried beans, both of them with yellow corn tortilla chips, but I’ve had my fill over the last couple of weeks. Time to move on to different flavors from different cultures and different of the world! And finally, a little extra time to cook, so let’s see what the pantries have put in my cupboards lately…
Aha! Chickpeas and there seems to be a glut of chickpeas in our area. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are an ancient, ancient agricultural staple. Evidence of this food has been found in ancient Greek and Roman writings, domesticated chickpeas have been found in the Fertile Crescent dating as far back as the Neolithic period in areas such as Turkey (about 6,000 BCE in … wow, that’s old)! Chickpeas are very useful. They can be ground into a type of flour and used for thickening stews, soups and sauces or as a base for foods like Falafel (a Middle Eastern fried dough ball). They are common in cuisines from all over the Mediterranean area and northern Africa to as far east as India. Ok, enough of the history lesson (I’m sure my kids are rolling their eyes at this point)…but it is very interesting! Think about it. People have been eating chickpeas for tens of thousands of years. They can’t be all bad, can they?
I love chickpeas. I’ve roasted them with spices for a crunchy snack, added them to muffins for the texture, fiber and protein. I’ve made Chana Dal (Indian Chickpea Stew) and as much as I would like to take credit for my Chana Dal recipe, I can’t. I simply buy the masala (a spice mix made by MDH) at our local Indian Foods grocery store and add the tomatoes and onions. I serve it with a bit of Dahi (Indian Yogurt) or plain yogurt on a bed of rice or with a side of Naan (Indian Flatbread)… But my favorite way to use chickpeas is to make Hummus and of course I have to have something to go with my hummus, so I use day-old sliced baguettes or other small loaf artisan breads I can find at the pantries. My friends and family call it the “Crunchy Hummus Bread.” Incidentally, for a good selection of breads (and sweets) you can visit First Baptist Church of Lafayette, IN every Friday morning at 11:00 a.m.
Before we get to the recipe, there is a trick to dealing with dried chickpeas. Just like any other dried bean, you really need to cook them, FOREVER! Chickpeas are particularly stubborn and do much better if they are processed while they are warm. I boil them for 2-3 hrs. Turn the heat off and let them sit for 8-10 hrs. Boil them again for 2-3 hours; let them soak again for 8-10 hours before I even think about using them. You can tell when they are done by smashing them between your fingers. They should squish fairly easily into a coarse paste.
Once the chickpeas are boiled, rinse them, drain them (at least mostly), put them in freezer bags and put them in the freezer. Easy! And ready to use.
Most of my cooking and recipes come from what is readily available and CHEAP! Some of it is “gut-fill”… the stuff that fills you up but doesn’t really have much nutritional value, but I do try to find relatively inexpensive, mostly good for you snacks. In that eternal search, I found a handy way to use up day old bread, especially the sliced baguettes found on the clearance bakery racks or any artisan type bread given away at the food pantries.