Weeknight Cooking

The Hands-Off, Any-Time-of-Year Dinner You'll Never Get Bored Of

October 13, 2016

My canned chickpea dinner once followed a predictable path: Open can, drain and rinse chickpeas, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil, add the beans, stir around till warm, eat. (Then look around the kitchen for something else.)

But Joy the Baker figured out how to take a similar route and end up at a much, much better destination. Canned chickpeas don't want a quick stir-around: All they need for a bit of rejuvenation is a warm bath in olive oil, herbs, and spices.

Forty-five minutes in a covered pan in the oven and they're fattened up and flavored to the core, without any of the original chalky-hardness. The briny ingredients (capers in Joy's original recipe, with the addition of cured olives here) soften into the oil before whole baking dish is topped with cheese and smoked paprika, tying all of the salty-spiciness together.

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I want to eat these chickpeas for dinner every night and, since there are one zillion ways they could go (I've counted!), it's tremendously hard to get bored of them.

First consider the making:

Once you've got the basics down—chickpeas + oil + things salty, fresh, and acidic—there's plenty of room to wiggle within that formula:

  • Skip the capers and go solely with olives, trying the milder Castelvetrano in place of the black and oil-cured.
  • Throw in half a lemon instead of the dainty slices, then squeeze its juices over the warm beans.
  • Add a splash of vinegar—red, sherry, white, Champagne, apple cider, or Datu Puti, even!—and a couple of tablespoons of chopped preserved lemon.
  • Replace the thyme with rosemary or sage; the feta with goat or ricotta; the smoked paprika with cumin.
Meet me in the warm oil bath? Photo by James Ransom

Or pick a region of the world to provide some guidance:

  • Add mustard and cumin seeds, crushed coriander, a pinch of curry powder, crumbled dried red chile, and forgo the thyme for curry leaves, fresh or dried (Indian-ish).
  • Or go with cinnamon, ground ginger, cumin, chile flakes, golden raisins, and a spoonful of harissa (Moroccan-ish).
  • Or lean more heavily towards the Mediterranean: Melt down an anchovy with olive oil before you sauté the onion; supplement the thyme with marjoram and oregano and the capers with sun-dried tomatoes.

Then add any vegetable you'd braise in oil: coarsely chopped broccoli rabe, cauliflower or broccoli florets, strips of red bell pepper, carrots sliced on the bias.

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Top Comment:
“I just threw it together again today with maybe half the oil and some shallots, omitted the feta and paprika, and plan to flake in some canned tuna when it's finished. Will eat with Saltie's focaccia and a fattoush-style salad all week :) ”
— noisette

As much as you play, stick with chickpeas if you're looking for a forkable texture: White beans and black beans, already spineless from the can, might turn into a mushy stew.

....and then address the eating:

It's natural that you'll want to spoon the chickpeas and their warm oil over absorbent bread—or hummus, or baba ghanoush, or a mound of Greek yogurt. But you can also mix the chickpeas with cubes of that bread, then add bitter greens for a salad of sorts. Or add in shredded roasted chicken and spoonfuls of yogurt.

Or stir the chickpeas into a pot of couscous, or quinoa, or wild rice—there's no extra dressing needed, and you can add volume with hearty greens, fresh herbs, vegetables you roasted while the chickpeas cooked, and toasted nuts. A nearly instant grain salad! Ali Slagle has been known to mix Joy the Baker's chickpeas with Joan's on Third's Curried Chickpeas—a meeting of two chickpeas.

Add them into a shakshuka before you crack in the eggs, or to any tomato sauce, for that matter. Mash the oven-soft chickpeas slightly and eat with pita as a warm dip.

Or collect the extra oil to marinate fish, to start a vinaigrette, to dress a salad, to be the base of a mayonnaise, to coat vegetables pre-roast. Or, you know, just make the recipe as written, spoon it into a bowl, and do the whole thing again tomorrow night...

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • LM
  • RanchoGordo
  • noisette
  • Chris Palmer Delacruz
    Chris Palmer Delacruz
  • Aimee Cardwell
    Aimee Cardwell
Sarah Jampel

Written by: Sarah Jampel

A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.


LM March 2, 2019
Wowza, was this delicious. I followed the recipe to the letter (except used dried rosemary). I could have eaten the whole thing by myself, and think that I may do so next time. Thank you!
RanchoGordo October 7, 2017
45 minutes of simmering canned chickpeas is almost halfway to cooking them for dried. Good, new crop dried garbanzos should take 1.5 to 2 hours to cook. I think this would be even better, and smarter, with home cooked chickpeas. And slow cooker while you're at work and then coming home to make this makes even more sense.
But I can't wait to try this.
noisette April 10, 2017
This is surprisingly good. The first time I made it mostly as written, but without the feta and it was delicious. I just threw it together again today with maybe half the oil and some shallots, omitted the feta and paprika, and plan to flake in some canned tuna when it's finished. Will eat with Saltie's focaccia and a fattoush-style salad all week :)
Chris P. December 5, 2016
This was fabulous! And I didn't even follow the directions properly (did not cover the pan) I ate it for a few days and can't wait to make it again, thank you!
Aimee C. October 27, 2016
I'm going to try this in a bagna cauda style, with an anchovy instead of olives or capers. Looks amazing!
LT October 16, 2016
Please fix your terrible grammar. "This Hands-Off, Any-Time-of-Year Dinner Will Never Bore You."
Connie W. October 16, 2016
You beat me to it, LT. I was appalled when I read "bored of!" The work of the Grammar Police never ends! Great recipe—poor proofreading. PS to Food 52, I am a copy editor, so let me know if you need any help.
mela October 16, 2016
I believe Brits say 'bored of'. Prepositions are used differently in different places.
Connie W. October 16, 2016
Well, this is the USA.
Scribbles October 17, 2016
and this is a cooking site not an English grammar lesson - it is the way people talk - give it a rest
al W. October 16, 2016
The 'widget' is missing for this recipe so I couldn't save it. Alas!
Author Comment
Sarah J. October 16, 2016
Hi al! Which widget?
al W. October 16, 2016
I tried to 'save' the recipe, but was told the 'widget' to save was missing for recipe #----- (whatever # this recipe is) I have saved it to my Pinterest account, which is MUCH less organized.
EmilyC October 14, 2016
Made this last night and LOVED it! I added Castelvetrano olives and fennel, since I had them on hand. The possibilities seem endless. This is definitely going into the weeknight rotation. Thanks for highlighting this gem, Sarah!