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A can of chickpeas in the pantry is, with just a wee bit of magic, nearly as good as dinner on the table.
But take those chickpeas and simmer them in a mixture of tomatoes, garlic, cumin, and chili powder, and you're not only making a plusher pot of beans, you're also establishing a flavor profile that will become more pronounced (and more delicious) throughout the week. That means there'll be less rifling through your pantry to see what sauces and spices you should flavor the cooked beans with for tonight's dinner. Instead, you're all set, and well on your way to inspiration.
If you're using dried beans, be sure to soak them for at least 8 hours; otherwise, use two cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or four cans, if you're doubling the recipe).
Double the amount of chickpeas you make...
For cooking the chickpeas
- 1 pound dried chickpeas, see notes above
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the chickpea taco bowls
- 2 tablespoons oil, grapeseed or olive
- 2 cups diced onions
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes, see notes above
- 1 tablespoon cider (or other) vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- juice of half a lime, plus more for serving
- For serving: grated cheese, sour cream, finely shredded romaine lettuce, quick-pickled onions (see notes above)
...and the first night, eat them as directed in the recipe, with grated cheese, sour cream, quick-pickled onions, sliced avocados, and any other taco toppers you'd like.
Then repurpose them into a week of meals, like so:
- Add to pasta. Since the chickpeas already have a tomato-y profile, they'll do well added to tomato-based pastas and pasta sauces. They'll be your ceci in pasta con ceci (simply add your cooked beans when you'd otherwise tip in the can), or add them to your favorite tomato sauce (like Marcella Hazan's) when it's nearly done so that the chickpeas warm through. Eat with shells, rigatoni, or orechiette—something where the chickpeas can hide away and surprise you. (...Boo!)
- More-than-lentil lentil soup. Make a basic lentil soup (here's an extensive guide, here's a simpler one). When choosing ingredients to add, pick those that will play nicely with the chickpeas' existing flavor (fire-roasted tomatoes and red pepper flakes: yes; coconut milk, lemongrass, and curry paste: maybe not as good a fit). Add the chickpeas when the lentils are nearly cooked, so that they warm through and mix with the other flavors without turning to mush. This would work with your favorite minestrone or chili, too.
- Bulk up frittata. Sauté an onion in olive oil, then add the chickpeas, a chopped red pepper (or roasted red pepper), and cubed chorizo. Cook, stirring, until everything is sizzling, then wilt in some greens (spinach, kale, chard). Pour beaten eggs over top, dollop with soft cheese (like ricotta or creamy goat), cook until set, then finish in a hot oven. Shower with Parmesan.
- Top a flatbread. Warm a flatbread (homemade or store-bought) under your broiler, in some oil on the stovetop, or directly over a gas flame. Smear with yogurt thinned with lime juice, then spoon over your cooked chickpeas. (Or, blend those cooked chickpeas in a food processor—add some tahini to thin it out—and you'll have a not-quite hummus situation you can spread liberally over that same bread.)
- Veggie burgers. Call forth your food processor and add the cooked chickpeas, a handful of breadcrumbs, an egg, and raw, bulking ingredients (shredded carrot, cabbage, sweet potato, or winter squash, for example), and flavor-adders (sun-dried tomatoes, capers, or herbs). Pulse to combine, then feel the mixture: Do you need another egg to help bind things together? Or more bread crumbs to dry it out a bit? (Our veggie burger guide can help.) To cook, either bake or pan-fry.
- Fill a baked sweet potato. Cut a couple sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, toss with salt, pepper, and oil, and bake, cut side against a parchment-lined baking sheet, until soft (about 45 minutes at 400° F). Turn them over, use a fork to loosen up their insides, then add the cooked chickpeas and the cheese of your choice (feta, goat, tiny mozzarella hunks—all good choices) and return to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese has softened. Sprinkle with herbs and something crunchy (like toasted hazelnuts or pepitas).
- Spinach meld. With a little help from some breadcrumbs, you can unite your cooked chickpeas with spinach (or another green of choice) without making a fancy sauce. You'll wilt the spinach, then toast cubes of bread in garlic, cumin, fresh oregano, and crumbled chile (or chile flakes) in another skillet before mashing them up with red wine vinegar. Add the chickpeas to the bread paste pan and cook until the flavors meld, then stir the wilted greens in and cook until heated through. Serve over bread or rice, with a fried egg on top.
What flavors do you think go best with chickpeas? Tell us in the comments below.