Some time ago my youngest daughter Fiona suddenly asked me to guess what her favorite thing was. Since she had already asked me this question I already knew the answer, “your favorite thing is talking Fiona”. She was a little disappointed that I answered so easily and she actually became silent for a moment (a brief one) and then to my surprise she asked me “Pappa what is your favorite thing?” That she actually invited me to speak, implying that she would remain silent seemed rather strange so I gave a quick and short reply - “Chickpeas”! In Italian it is even shorter - “Ceci”!
I love chickpeas, from their shape and color to their taste and consistency and I think that this series of articles on how to create a healthy way of eating obliges me to share what I value most in our kitchen. What I like most about chickpeas are the unique dishes that you can make from them and I would like to share a couple of the best chickpea recipes I know. First off here is a list of how we eat them most often and how they are used in Italy:
Pasta e ceci.
Stufato di ceci (chickpea stew)
Zuppa di ceci (ceci soup)
Hummus (not of Italian origin but certainly Mediterranean).
Falafel (the same as the previous comment)
La farinata (ceci flour baked in a pan with olive oil and herbs, this is very Italian!).
There are many other chickpea dishes of course, the two that follow we use frequently in our home at our school and in our restaurant. Check on the internet for the other dishes and discover how many dishes based on chickpeas are used all over the Mediterranean area.
Pasta e Ceci
Here is a super recipe that even the most untalented cook can make with ease. Chickpeas are easy too cook and they are available in cans. We like to cook up a big pot and use the chickpeas in various dishes for the following days*. We are a family of 5 and we all like chickpeas and I am a big guy with a big appetite.
Pasta e ceci
1 cup of cooked chickpeas
1 onion minced
1 cup of pumpkin or squash cut in small cubes
8 ounces of pasta (use small macaroni or break up spaghetti into 12 inch pieces.)
Water and salt – qb. (please refer to article 2 of the series for a definition of qb)
Lightly sauté the onion, add the pumpkin, then the chickpeas and then add about 2 liters (quarts) of water. Bring to a boil, salt and add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked the dish is ready.
Use Bay leaf in cooking as well as any other herb you like (rosemary is good).
You can use other vegetables but I would suggest trying this very simple combination, it has a harmony to it that you start to get used to and crave after a while.
Hummus is sold in stores in America but I find it too rich in garlic and I wonder about the oil they use. It is so easy to make it is worth trying. Here is how I make it:
1 cup cooked chick peas,
1 tablespoon of tahin (you can add more or less)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Teaspoon of mustard (you need to find one you like not too strong and not too sweet and organic with no sugar)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (more if you like)
1 teaspoon soy sauce (best quality possible)
Add all ingredients to blender and blend (use cooking water of chick peas or just water to create the consistency you like; more liquid or more solid).
*You just soak them overnight, throw away that soaking water, put them in a pressure cooker and cover with water. Add about a 12 teaspoon of salt per cup and pressure cook for an hour. If they are still a bit hard cook longer or the next time cook without salt at the beginning and add it when you open the pot. If you add the salt at the end let it cook for at least 10 more minutes. We use a seaweed in cooking called kombu, that adds to the flavor and digestibility, but they are still great without it. My wife tends to add Rosemary in the pressure cooker but I prefer to add herbs according to the various dishes later.