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

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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.

Joy the Baker's Olive Oil-Braised Chickpeas (More or Less)
Joy the Baker's Olive Oil-Braised Chickpeas (More or Less)

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.

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?
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.

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.

Joan's on Third's Curried Chickpeas

Joan's on Third's Curried Chickpeas by Ali Slagle

11 Ways to Celebrate the Chickpea, Humble Lunchtime Savior

11 Ways to Celebrate the Chickpea, Humble Lunchtime Savior by Caroline Lange


....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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Joy the Baker's Olive Oil-Braised Chickpeas (More or Less)

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Serves 4
  • 3/4 cup high-quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion (red is good, too!)
  • Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • Big pinches sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme (rosemary is good, too! same with sage)
  • 1 teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1/4 cup cured black olives, pitted and sliced in half
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced into thin wheels
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta (ricotta cheese is also highly recommended)
  • Smoky paprika, for serving
  • Crusty bread, for serving