A Fresh Look at Chickpeas
Do dried chickpeas remember where they came from? Did they ever grow in the ground, feel the rain on their leaves, do they remember being harvested…did dried chickpeas ever have an aroma like garden fresh vegetable do? Most of us are only familiar with chickpeas in their shelf - stable form. It’s hard for us to believe that the little ol’ chickpea can be something more than a starchy texture in a soup, or a neutral basis of hummus. Fresh chickpeas can be a wonderful surprise on the plate.
Everything Old is New Again
Archeologists have found evidence of chickpeas harvests (Cicer arietium L.) in the area now known as Turkey dating back to 8,000 BC. You can bet that most of the folks mentioned in the Bible relied on chickpeas for daily sustenance, although chickpeas never got as many honorable biblical mentions like grapes, wheat or sesame. Chickpeas were considered the food of the poor, with the husks and stems of the chickpea plants used as animal fodder.
A Mediterranean Fave
Finding fresh chickpeas can be challenging, unless you grow them yourself. Occasionally you can find them in the grocery store, especially markets that feature the cuisine of the Mediterranean, where chickpeas have been popular for millennia.
Be careful when husking the chickpeas, as some people experience irritated skin when in contact with the thin shell that surrounds the pea. If you experience irritation when husking corn or other vegetables, you may consider using rubber gloves when husking your fresh chickpeas.
Chickpeas should be flavored with other Mediterranean favorites such as olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt for best results. You can serve them with roasted meats, on top of salads or alongside rice and cooked greens for a satisfying vegetarian meal. Our favorite is tapas style, served in small portions alongside cocktails and other nibbles.
Roasted Chickpeas with Cracked Pepper and Lemon Zest
- 1/2 lb. fresh chickpeas (garbanzos) unshelled, or 1 cup shelled (not dried)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- ½ tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
- Cracked black pepper
- Kosher salt
- Shell chickpeas if you have purchased the unshelled variety.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, and stir to coat the pan well. Add the chickpeas, and allow to roast for 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. The chickpeas should acquire a golden brown color. Remove from heat, and stir in the lemon zest. Season with cracked pepper and kosher salt.
Makes 1 cup