Falafel, Salads, And Stews: Chickpeas As A Cheap, Healthy Food

Falafel, Salads, And Stews: Chickpeas As A Cheap, Healthy Food

As a huge Seinfeld fan, I have adapted the phrase “look to the cookie”, healthfully inserting the chick pea. While the garbanzo bean may not be a metaphor for racial unity, it does represent a thread that connects us all. As the main component of falafel, we have all experienced its flavor.

But trace this legume back 7,500 years, acknowledging all of its deeply-rooted cultural interpretations, and it makes sense that this protein-rich staple still enjoys worldwide acclaim. I know that I'll be incorporating it into my holiday spread this year!

Here are some ideas for incorporating this essential bean into your daily routine:

Proactive Prep

The chick pea is an insanely healthy dried legume that is both vegetarian and gluten-free. When combined with a whole grain, like brown rice, it makes a virtually fat-free protein. To quickly cook chick peas, they should be soaked overnight. After straining and rinsing the soaked beans, cover with water in a sauce pan and simmer, partially covered for one to one-and-a-half hours….or, open a can of garbanzo beans and rinse well. The nutritional value of canned beans does differ slightly, and while the taste of the dried bean is richer, nuttier, and creamier, canned cecis make an inexpensive, reasonable option.

Salad: Star Or Supporting Role?

Most salads could benefit from a handful of this miracle food. Take the simple romaine lettuce tossed with olive oil; add some chick peas, a squeeze of lemon, and some grated parmesan cheese for some flair. Add some garbanzos to a Greek Salad to make it a vegetarian protein meal. For a protein salad wherein the garbanzo delights at center stage, check out Goldie’s Chick Pea and Brown Rice Salad.

Surprisingly Simple Snacks

Think of garbanzos as a healthy snack, remembering that these nearly fat-free nuggets are high in calories. Try roasting them and enjoy on a hike as a crunchy delight, or indulge in my favorite form: hummus.

Spicy Ceci Stews

Chick peas are a staple of Indian, Italian, and Middle Eastern cooking, where they are used in stews. These meals can easily be made vegetarian with no loss of exotic spice! Although this legume isn’t initially associated with Spanish cooking, check out this interpretation of a chick pea stew with spinach and chorizo. I use turnip greens, which have more of a citrus flavor than earthy spinach.

Chick Pea, Chorizo, & Turnip Greens Stew

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and finely diced
5 or 6 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
½ pound Spanish chorizo- uncooked (not the cured chorizo), sliced into ¼ inch thick half moons
1 cup tomato puree
1 tsp smoked paprika or chipotle powder
3 cups stock (your choice of flavor) or low sodium chicken broth
2 cans chick peas, well rinsed
¾ pound turnip greens, sliced thin (chiffonade)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and rosemary and cook until onions are soft, stirring to avoid browning. Add chorizo and cook five minutes. Add tomato puree and paprika and stir well. Add chick peas and two cups stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add in turnip greens and one cup stock. Incorporate greens fully. Season with salt and pepper.

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