New health research has turned the humble chickpea into a kitchen superstar.
By Lisa James
t’s a heart-warming story: Star catches a cold, barely noticed understudy catches a break and a new star is born. So it has been with the chickpea. The stuff of falafel and hummus, little-known Middle Eastern novelties in much of the US until recent years, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) have become a hot ingredient in trendy kitchens. “This pallid orb was once relegated to a lonely container nestled in ice on a salad bar. Now, hummus is the new salsa. And the chickpea is the new superfood,” says Janet Helm, a registered dietician who blogs at Nutrition Unplugged
Like other members of the legume (pea and bean) family, chickpeas contain substantial amounts of insoluble and soluble fiber; the first helps regulate the bowels, the second helps control cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Chickpeas also provide protein, the B vitamin folic acid and a number of crucial minerals, including copper, iron, manganese and molybdenum.
Unlike most vegetables, most of the nutrition found in chickpeas remains when they are canned. This makes them valuable to the time-pressured home cook, especially one looking for a good plant source of protein. According to Helm, frozen green chickpeas—”poised to become the new edamame,” as she puts it—are also becoming more readily available in the US.
Chickpeas have always been available in dried form. To prepare, spread them on a plate to look for small stones or debris and rinse in a strainer under cool water. Then you can either soak them overnight in the refrigerator or boil them for two minutes, cover and allow to stand for two hours. For either method use two or three cups of water for each cup of beans. Skim off any floating skins before using. In addition to their traditional use in hummus and falafel, chickpeas can be added to green salads, curries, pasta or vegetables, or simply served hot with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
Versatile, healthy, easy to prepare: Chickpeas deserve their time in the limelight.
E T R e c i p e
Chickpeas with Spinach
3 tbsp olive oil
1 thick slice crusty white
bread, torn into small pieces
1 lb 10 oz fresh spinach
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
salt & freshly ground
white or black pepper
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in skillet over medium heat. Add the torn bread and fry, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
2. Remove any thick stems from the spinach. Wash well, shake off excess water and place in large saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until wilted. Drain in colander and cool. A handful at a time, squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then chop coarsely.
3. Add remaining oil to skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach and cook, stirring often, until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Add chickpeas and spices; crumble in fried bread.
4. Add vinegar and 2 tbsp water. Cook, stirring often, until chickpeas are hot, about 5 minutes.
Serves 4. Analysis per serving: 227 calories, 9g protein, 12g fat (2g saturated), 7g fiber, 25g carbohydrate, 400 mg sodium
Reprinted with permission from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible by
Victoria Blashford-Snell (DK Publishing, http://us.dk.com)
1 acorn squash (about 1 lb)
1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tsp melted butter
2 tsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
dash ground cloves
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 1-quart baking dish.
2. Halve squash and remove seeds; cut into quarters. Place quarters, skin side up, in dish and cover; bake 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
3. Turn squash cut side up and top with apple mixture. Cover and bake 30 minutes longer or until apples are tender.
Serves 4. Analysis per serving: 88 calories, 1g protein, 3g fat, 3g fiber, 17g carbohydrate, 24 mg sodium
Recipe courtesy of the washington apple commission (www.bestapples.com)