I’ve been a fan of legumes for as long as I can remember. At the tender age of three or four I would follow my mom into the garden and eat the sweet peas right from the vines. And maybe because my parents were both Southerners, at least once a week we enjoyed a big pot of butter beans, black-eyed peas or navy beans for dinner. One legume I never had back then, though, was the chickpea. And that’s a shame really, because chickpeas are one of the most versatile legumes on the planet.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have been grown in Turkey for more than seven centuries. Today, however, more than 80 percent of the world’s chickpeas come from India. In addition to India, many African countries, Italy, Greece and Israel (among others) have developed their own special dishes which spotlight this versatile legume.
Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Soup
If there’s one culture that understands spice, it’s Morocco! This recipe calls for just the right combination of cinnamon, cumin and cayenne for a spicy soup that screams of northwest Africa. Tomatoes and spinach round out the flavor profile for a chunky, hearty soup that can be an appetizer or entrée.
Indian Chickpea Curry
This is a Punjabi recipe with a spice combination that is out of this world! Coriander seeds, pomegranate seeds, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns and cumin seeds all meld together for a tangy punch that’s a perfect complement to the nuttiness of the chickpeas.
Italian Chickpeas Stew
If the Moroccans know spices, the Italians know herbs! This delicious recipe uses garlic, oregano, basil, thyme and marjoram to season the zucchini, tomatoes and collard greens that complement this chickpea stew.
Greek Garbanzo Bean Salad
This recipe gives you everything you want in a great Greek salad. The lettuce is replaced with garbanzo beans which makes it bursting with protein and fiber. Lemon juice, feta cheese and black olives – all typical of Greek cuisine – are included for a delightful starter you won’t want to stop eating.
If you’ve not yet experienced the joy that is falafel, this is your chance to see what all the fuss is about. Falafel is a combination of mashed chickpeas and spices that is formed into balls or patties and then deep fried. It is often found as a street food in Middle Eastern countries or areas with large Mid-Eastern populations. This is an Israeli recipe that uses cumin, coriander and garlic for spice.