The Old Chickpea Learns a New Trick
I HAVE proclaimed my love for chickpeas, and I’m not alone. Chickpeas — also called garbanzos, ceci and chana, among many names — are among the most widely appreciated legumes, grown on every continent except Antarctica, and cooked and served in countless ways. The recipe here is a more-or-less North African treatment, one I was taught in Córdoba, in southern Spain.
The popularity of chickpeas stems, I believe, from three assets. They’re meaty, relatively big as legumes go, and chewy. They have a different flavor from any other legume, arguably the best of all. And the liquid they exude when you cook them is actually delicious.
You’ll never become aware of this last aspect if you use canned chickpeas, because the canning process changes the taste of the broth. Canned chickpeas are incredibly convenient, but you should always rinse them before using.
If you can act ahead in making this salad, cook some dried chickpeas yourself. Soak them first if you have time, and cook them in abundant water, thoroughly, until they’re nice and soft; this could take two hours, or even longer. Once they’re done they’ll keep well, in their liquid in the refrigerator, for days. When you are ready to eat, you can throw this salad together in maybe 10 minutes. That’s how long it will take if you start with canned chickpeas, too.
The result is a beautiful combination of colors, with red onion and a little assortment of bell peppers. Toast the cumin for best flavor, and don’t skimp on the ginger or lemon juice. And don’t let this salad sit around too long before serving, or both colors and flavor will fade.
If you’re not a fan of chickpeas already, this will do it.