The Curious Cookís Guide to Chick Peas

Chick peas are one of the most flexible cheap food items Iíve ever run across. They rank among the top ten beans on the ANDI chart, and are used for everything from dips and fritters to curries and cookies. Yes, cookies.

Youíll find them tucked into Caribbean food items, Middle Eastern fare, Mediterranean meals and other international cuisines. And not only are they a popular food choice for those going vegan, but chick peas pair well with meat in a number of hearty dishes from around the world. This article covers some of the most creative uses Iíve found for chick peas, many of which coincidentally fall into the gluten free and vegan camps.

TASTY AND INEXPENSIVE CHICK PEA RECIPES

A hidden perk that comes along with packing more chick peas into your diet is that you may find yourself spending far less than normal on groceries. Dried chick peas are particularly affordable, as is chick pea flour (otherwise known as gram flour or besan). The flavor for both is pleasing to many.

Chick pea salad provides protein and fiber.

When it comes to chick pea salad, there are a couple of different ways you can go. First, there are several sandwich salads made with ground or mashed chick peas that are popular with those searching for vegan sandwiches. This creative chickpea of the sea sandwich filling from TheKitchn.com is something those nervous about eating tuna can enjoy as a substitute. The Apron Archives has this mock tuna salad made with chick peas as well, and uses ingredients most of us likely have in our pantries or refrigerator.† If you donít care about having a sandwich filling that even remotely resembles tuna or egg salad, then this smashed chick pea salad from the Smitten Kitchen is a colorful, healthy addition to your repertoire of fun sandwich ideas.

The other way you can go with chick pea salad is to whip up some side salads. Eating Well has this tomato and garbanzo salad that ranch dressing fans should enjoy, while the Merry Gourmet gets creative and pairs chick peas with feta and herbs instead. I like the three-bean variety made with chick peas, kidney beans, haricot verts and homemade vinaigrette. Itís colorful enough to be the only side dish on the plate when paired with grilled mushroom caps or sliced polenta. When it comes to texture and creativity, I give top marks to this Mediterranean garbanzo and bulgur salad from the Mayo Clinic. Itís got fun, healthy ingredients and is big on style.

Chick pea desserts were one of the unexpected surprises of my research efforts.

Perhaps the most unusual find was these no-bake Persian cookies made with chick pea flour, cardamom and other regional goodies. It was refreshing to see a no-bake recipe that didnít include the expected oatmeal and cocoa. This chick pea and peanut butter fudge was also interesting and used chick peas in a way I would never have expected. I thought the idea of substituting chick peas for macadamia nuts in cookies was a creative cost-saving measure.

Iím sure there are other cookie recipes you could try this with besides chocolate chip, but the visual texture certainly works here. There were really too many chick pea dessert recipes to include in a single portion of this guide, so Iíll reign myself in to two final picks. These Persian shortbread cookies look elegant enough to serve at a party, and this recipe for dessert hummus balls deserves to make the cut for creativity alone.

Falafel makes my world go Ďround.

When I lived in the Middle East, falafel was one of my favorite frugal street foods. Itís hearty, flavorful and pairs well with veggies and tahini sauce in a sandwich. Whether youíre making traditional falafel from scratch, going with an unexpected yet nutritious sweet potato falafel, or saving time by making falafel with garbanzo flour, itís a palatable way to squeeze more chick peas into your regular diet. This zestier homemade version of cumin-flavored falafel is interesting as well, and would pair nicely with veggies, hummus and stuffed grape leaves for a cocktail party featuring Middle Eastern mezza.

Chick pea burgers are a fun way to celebrate vegetarian cuisine.

Whether youíre going with a standard falafel burger or something more along the lines of a garbanzo and mushroom patty, the result will be something that satiates you. Thatís just how chick peas roll. If you feel like having the chick pea burger experience without the heft, then you might try these Middle Eastern chick pea sliders as a strategy for keeping things light.

A related recipe thatís not quite a burger but doesnít have its own category is chick pea cutlets. One of the many meatless recipes in Veganomicon, these things have gotten rave reviews all OVER the internet. So if youíre looking for something to replace your chicken fried steak with, these cutlets might be just the ticket. Too much work? These chick pea croquettes are quick to make, and pair well with a variety of salads and toppings. Since they also donít require a bun, itís a great way to cut carbs and have something that you can use with your favorite life-long dinner sides.

Roasted chick peas make a tasty snack thatís low on carbs and big on taste.

Even the kids can get in on making crunchy roasted chick peas for a party snack. After draining and drying them, you simply toss them with olive oil and your seasoning blend of choice and transfer them to the oven to bake. There are many things to love about roasted chick peas, including their flavor, low carb content and complete versatility when it comes to spice choice. There are several ways to flavor roasted chick peas, and you can choose anything from a Cajun spice blend to a more Mediterranean rosemary and sea salt with freshly-ground black peppercorns.

Roasted chick peas can be used as an affordable holiday hostess gift, a fun vegan Super Bowl snack or a simple treat for family movie night that provides a break from popcorn overload. Theyíre also a great idea for those classroom birthday parties where you need to bring something gluten free to work around any wheat allergies in the room.

Black chick peas are less known by many American cooks, but provide variety as well as protein.

There are several recipes calling for black chick peas in The Indian Slow Cooker, and the Foodess features a recipe for black chick pea curry that boasts color and flavor. Black chick peas arenít usually available in the regular grocery store, although I have seen them at Patel Brothers and other Indian markets. There are two things to note about black chick peas. Not only are they smaller than regular garbanzo beans, but as you can see in this video for a butternut squash and black chick pea entrťe, they change color after soaking and become more of a reddish brown. So as you are planning what ingredients youíd like to pair them with, bear this mind.

Chick pea curry is an easy, one-dish way to enjoy this particular legume.

Whether youíre whipping up yours in a crock pot or on the stove, chick pea curry is a popular choice for lovers of ethnic food and those trying to embrace bean-based protein. The version of chick pea curry featured on Planet Green feeds up to four people for approximately $3.50. Pretty thrifty. Fat Free Veganís eggplant and chick pea curry recipe keeps it light and could pair well with any number of sides, including plain basmati. If youíre looking to get your greens quota met, then this spicy curry of spinach and chick peas from Epicurious should do the trick. Itís short on ingredients but tall on nutrition. Finally, this vegetable and chick pea curry with potatoes and coconut milk from the My Recipes web site is nothing but hearty. Since it can simmer in the crock pot while youíre at work, it definitely makes the cut for being career-woman friendly.

Chick pea dip is probably what comes to mind for most people new to garbanzo beans.

If theyíve never heard of any other use for them other than salad add-ins, theyíve likely at least heard about chick pea dips. And even if they havenít, bean dip in general is something most people are at least relatively open minded to. Aside from traditional hummus, my internet scouring expedition led me to four additional, unique recipes for chick pea dip. Canadian Livingís antioxidant-loaded pomegranate and garbanzo dip was the first to catch my eye. Pomegranates are prevalent throughout the Arab world, and are used in juices, desserts, eggplant spreads and more.

A close second was this nutritionally-packed, Spanish-leaning chick pea and spinach dip from the Nourish Network. I try to eat as much spinach as I can, but thereís only so much salad a girl can consume. So any recipe that works these greens into a snack has my vote. As someone who can never decide between hummus and baba ghanouj whenever I sit down at a Middle Eastern restaurant, this combo dip from Chicoís Kitchen was particularly appealing. It combines two of my favorite regional ingredients, and lightens up the hummus heft for nights when I donít want to eat anything heavy. Finally, Dr. Benkimís garbanzo guacamole caught my eye because it was a creative way to combine Southwestern flavor with a bean not normally seen in that type of cuisine.

Chick pea loaf is something to try on a night when falafel burgers just wonít work.

If youíre looking for something to pair with mashed sweet potatoes and French beans, a typical falafel patty isnít going to get the job done. Thatís when chick pea loaf might be able to serve as a suitable stand-in. Between the turmeric, tahini and tamari, this chick pea loaf recipe promises a fair amount of flavor, while the inclusion of almonds and sweet potatoes in this version of garbanzo loaf brings additional protein and color to the Meatless Monday plate. Iím always concerned that this type of dish wonít have enough color even if theyíre flavorful enough, and both of these recipes address that issue in spades.

Chick pea soup can be a great transitional meal when beginning to explore meatless meals.

Meat tends to be in smaller pieces when itís in a soup anyway, so the size of chick peas along with their toothy texture makes them an excellent soup ingredient for budding vegetarians and vegans. This pureed and curried chick pea bisque is certainly enticing, as is this interesting vegan cream of tomato soup thatís hearty enough to have for dinner. Oh She Glows has a garbanzo bean soup that should be a hit with every hummus lover, and those who enjoy Italian peasant fare will likely enjoy this Tuscan chick pea soup. Any of these would be delicious paired with homemade bread sticks or savory dinner muffins on a brisk day.

Chick pea casserole might actually deserve a try.

This curried version of chick pea casserole puts the flavors more typically stewed in a slow cooker directly into a casserole dish, expanding your pairing options. From the Australian version of Taste.com we have a pumpkin and vegetable garbanzo casserole that looks perfect to pair with a leg of lamb and a green salad. For fish lovers who appreciate a one-dish meal, AARP has featured this casserole with chick peas, vegetables and cod fish. You could certainly have rice on the side if you wanted to, but it really looks hearty enough for me as it is.

I have to admit, many of the chick pea casserole recipes I found fell short on flavor and presentation parameters. These three however, rose to the top. The ingredients and seasonings called for make a suitable amount of flavor sense, and donít include chick peas in a way that makes them seem like a lame afterthought.

Stovetop recipes for chick peas make eating garbanzo beans more convenient.

With a pot of basmati in the rice cooker, you can whip up any number of skillet-based chick pea meals and keep the cleanup efforts under control. This tagine of squash and chick peas with mushrooms says fall to me and would work well with lamb chops or sautťed string beans. If cruciferous vegetables are more your cup of tea, try this chick pea and eggplant simmer from Canadian Living. Since many of the chick pea curry ideas can also be prepared on the stovetop, I kept this list deliberately short. Suffice it to say there are many ways you can prepare them that donít involve an abundance of pots and pans to wash afterwards.

Think outside of the chick pea box.

While Iíve tried to reign in my chick pea recipe finds to a limited number of categories, the truth is there were a couple of them that didnít fit the mold but are worthy of note. First, if youíre looking for non-dairy cream sauce ideas, chick peas are one of several ingredients you can use for success in this regard. Second, while I havenít experienced it yet myself, Iím willing to give this buffalo chickpea pizza a try. Having enjoyed Southwest pizza with black beans before, and being a fan of both garbanzo beans and hot-wing-flavored foods from way back, Iím definitely intrigued.

CHICK PEA FLOUR IS NEARLY AS FLEXIBLE AS THE CHICK PEAS THEMSELVES

Chick pea flour can simplify your situation when youíre running short on time. It can be used to create a number of meal items normally made from other types of flour, and falls firmly into the gluten-free arena. So if you thought besan was only for desserts, think again.

Chick pea polenta is one option at your disposal.

If youíre looking for a little more protein than corn polenta can provide, try preparing besan polenta. You can season or sauce it anyway you want, as evidenced by this chick pea polenta with mushroom ragout, or cut it up and serve it in slices or shapes such as chick pea fries or these sliced and fried chick pea fritters from Epicurious. I love that the chick pea flour allows you to make a large batch of polenta at the beginning of the week, and have it on hand throughout the week as a simple side dish that can take many forms.

Crepes, flatbreads, pancakes and pizzas can also be prepared with chick pea flour.

A chick pea crepe with tomatoes and goat cheese is certainly a tasty way to go, and this gram flour crepe with savory chopped Swiss chard adds some nutritional green veggies into the mix. Youíre free to stuff and sauce them however youíd like, and the possibilities are endless. The point is that you have a gluten-free crepe option that doesnít require the soaking and grinding of rice and beans for hours ahead of time.

Socca, slightly heartier than a crepe, is a popular street-side chick pea flour flatbread served in France. Whip up a batch some night when youíre serving French lentils and a mixed green salad for a light dinner thatís healthy and fiber filled. Pancakes are quite similar to socca, and you can make them with garbanzo flour as well. Zucchini and chick pea pancakes are suitable for both brunch and dinner, or you can keep it breakfasty by going with something like these garbanzo and blueberry pancakes instead.

While it may not mimic the pizza crust youíve grown up with, it is possible to make pizza with chick peas as the flour base. You can keep it lighter with this gram flour pizza topped with tomato and Parmesan, or go a little heftier with this deep dish chick pea pizza.

Crackers, croutons and breads are also creative ways to use chick pea flour at home.

While I donít embrace an afternoon of making homemade crackers unless I have serious party pressure, they are a great way to go the extra mile for your guests without breaking the bank or going too heavy on the sweets. †I found several cracker recipes that use chick pea flour while researching this article, including some spicy cilantro crackers from Manifest Vegan, rustic rosemary crackers from Clean Green Simple and some adorable heart-shaped chick pea crackers from Fat Free Vegan.

If youíre looking for a way to beef up a brothy dinner of light soup, look no further than bread and croutons. These protein-rich chick pea croutons come together quickly enough, at least for a special occasion soup. If you donít want to deal with something that requires two steps however, this chick pea flour farinata bread is super simple and takes no more effort than a simple polenta, really. Iím excited to try it out when the weather starts cooling off a bit. For a loaf thatís a little more traditional, youíll need a few more ingredients. This gluten-free chick pea bread recipe from Red Star Yeast looks delicious and should cost lots less per loaf than store bought once youíve stocked your basic ingredients.

Clearly chick peas are good for much more than salad toppers and hummus. Their flavor is also milder than many other beans, making them appealing to a wider variety of foodies. If youíve been searching for a food item that can help you bridge the gap between cheeseburgers and increased soluble fiber intake, consider giving garbanzo beans a try. With so many ways to enjoy them, youíre sure to find something everyone in your family can enjoy.

Photo Credits: Falafel Balls by Girl Interrupted Eating, Chick Pea Croquettes by Joe Foodie, Pasta Salad with Chick Peas by Ozmafan, Hummus photo by Low Jumping Frog, Chick Pea Sandwich by Jugglerpm, Eggplant and Chick Pea Stew by Rusvaplauke and Garbanzo Sandwich with Sundried Tomatoes by The Delicious Life.

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