A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

Ceci

Yesterday was a hot day here in the Northeastern US. Part of my dinner menu was a cucumber, tomato and chickpea salad with an herb/lime vinaigrette. It was one of those “What do I have in the house that I can throw together because I don’t feel like cooking” salads. This morning, as I found my 18-year-old daughter picking out the cucumbers and ceci and putting them in a wrap with a schmear of vegan cream cheese, she mentioned that I haven’t used ceci lately and they are just SO good. So I resolved to put them back in the menu rotation as a protein source.

Ceci [Italian], aka garbanzo [Spanish], chickpea [English], Bengal gram or Chole  [Indian], Hamaz [Arabic], and Cicer [Latin] have been around since forever and are been a valuable protein staple in the Middle East. It is said that the Roman leader Cicero proudly claimed his name because one of his ancestors had a wart on his face that looked like a chickpea (ewww).

Ceci are also one of the most delicious legumes on the planet. They can be mushed up and made into a paste, eaten whole in soups, stews and salads, baked with spices as a snack, or dried and ground for flour (known as besan, I use this frequently as a binder/thickener in Indian vegetable dishes). I adore chickpeas cooked and eaten cold with lime juice and herbs.

Here are three of my favorite chickpea recipes. One is hummus, the standard, easy-as-pie dip for vegetables and crackers, one is skordalia, a potato/chickpea dip or spread from Greece, and the third is a chickpea in tomato sauce dish from India. However you add them to your menus, they will not disappoint.

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Garbanzos in Tangy Tomato Sauce (from Laxmi’s Vegetarian Kitchen, by Laxmi Hiremath)

  • 2 T mild vegetable oil
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced or smashed
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, crushed (about 1T)
  • 6 whole cloves, ground (about 1/2 tsp. ground)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. amchur powder (mango) OR 2 tsp. lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 large (6 oz.) tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 10 cilantro sprigs (just grab a handful)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 T desi ghee or unsalted butter (vegans – use Earth Balance)
  • 1/8 tsp. turmeric, ground
  • 1 15-oz. can garbanzos, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 medium red or white onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 lime or lemon, cut into wedges
  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat until it ripples when the pan is tilted. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until the onion is lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the cloves, coriander, cumin, amchur (if you are using lime juice, don’t add it yet), and cayenne. Stir and cook 1 minute. Add the tomato, lime juice (if using) and cilantro. Reduce the heat to medium. cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato is soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food  processor and process until smooth.
  3. Heat the ghee in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Add the turmeric and onion-spice puree. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beans and salt. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Serve in individual bowls, garnished with additional cilantro springs, if desired. Offer with slices of onion and lemon/lime wedges.
NOTE: I usually add about 1/2 cup water to the puree if I am serving this with basmati. It makes more sauce to soak into the rice.

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Linda’s Hummus (from American Vegetarian Cookbook by Marilyn Diamond)

My daughter has developed her own version of Linda’s recipe, which I offer here. She will tweak the ingredients until they suit her on any given day. Then she will sit down and devour almost the whole batch.

  • 2 to 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon (3-4 T)
  • 1 medium garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 drained 15-oz. can garbanzos

Drop garlic into the feed tube of a running food processor and process until garlic is in tiny chunks. Stop machine and scrape down bowl. Add olive oil, tahini and lemon juice and process until smooth. Add beans and process. Scrape sides of bowl and add additional oil or water until desired texture is reached.  Serve with raw veggies or pita chips or unsalted tortilla chips.

* * * * *

Chickpea Skordalia

Skordalia usually has ground nuts, potatoes and garlic as its base. Sometimes stale bread is added for bulk. This recipe, from Vegetarian Times’ Vegetarian Entertaining, is a delicious riff on the standard Greek dish.

  • 2 cups peeled, chopped, cooked white potatoes
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, undrained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I use extra virgin)
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  1. Drain the chickpeas, reserving 1/2 cup of liquid.
  2. Add the chickpeas and their liquid, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt, cayenne to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (NOTE: a food processor is better for this)
  3. Add the potatoes and process until creamy. Scrape the skordalia into a bowl until ready to serve. Keep warm in 200F oven or microwave briefly to heat a little before serving. Serve with crudites or pita crisps or anything else you like to dip.

NOTE: This recipe works best if you smash the garlic or process it in an empty processor before adding everything else. The smaller the garlic, the better. Also, use half the acids (vinegar and lemon juice) and add to taste.

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