We’ve been putting back the chickpeas since long before recorded history—a wild version of the legume, found in southern French caves, has been carbon-dated to 7000 BC. Its presence in the kitchen (and the cave) needs little explanation. As Bittman mentions, chickpeas are one of the larger legumes, and have a heft and substance other, smaller beans lack. They’re inexpensive but power-packed, high in protein, fiber, calcium, and zinc. And while their distinctive flavor wins fans, their mild taste means that they can pair with an unbelievable array of ingredients. Served cold, with ginger, lemon, and bell pepper, as Bittman suggests
? Delicious. Stirred into a rosemary-laden batter and baked into Sicilian farinata
pancakes? Even better. Roasted with cloves as a leblebi
, a Turkish snack as popular as peanuts are here? Whether savory or sweet, spicy or subtle, the chickpea can wear any hat it's asked.
While Bittman notes the near-ubiquity of chickpeas, which play a starring role in kitchens from India to Greece to Mexico, he hardly scratches the surface of the bean’s hundreds of uses. Its versatility stretches far beyond the expected falafel and hummus. Chickpeas show up twice in the bakery—fermented and used as a leavening agent, or ground finely into a flour. The low-glycemic chickpea flour also makes a particularly effective thickening agent. A more coarsely ground chickpea was once used by the Romans as a form of polenta. A Filipino dessert is made from sugar-marinated chickpeas, their leaves can be used in salads, they can even be fermented and distilled into a sake-like alcohol…
Legumes aren't just for vegans anymore.