If there’s one thing more contentious than Israeli politics, it’s Israeli food. Just try to suggest to a large group the best sabich in Jerusalem or the perfect trick to making kubbe at home, and you could set off an argument bordering on World War III.
Perhaps it’s for the best then that Israel has no official food. Despite that, there is no arguing that there are two culinary delights that take center stage in the hearts, minds and stomachs of Israelis – falafel and hummus. Often eaten together, but also enjoyed apart, these two foods have one perfect ingredient at their heart – the chickpea.
Israelis love their chickpeas, consuming tons of the nutrient-rich and ancient legume each year.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the US, Israel produced 26,315 tons of chickpeas in 2013 (up from 21,940 in 2012). And a 2010 article in the Journal of Agricultural Science
says that the humble chickpea is the most significant pulse crop in Israel, covering about 10,000 hectares of land throughout the country.
Dr. Shmuel Galili, a specialist in chickpeas at the Volcani Institute’s Agricultural Research Organization, says the majority of the legume grown in Israel is consumed inside the country. That’s a lot of hummus.
In fact, a variety of reports indicate that Israel has the highest consumption of hummus per capita in the world. The most popular variety grown in Israel is the kabuli, which are large, light-colored and have a thin skin. They even have a long history in the region – 7,500-year old fossilized remains of the legume have been found in the Middle East.
Chefs and true foodies will always tell you to cook your own dried beans at home instead of using canned. And they’re right – when done correctly, the texture and flavor is superior. But the canned ones are pretty darn tasty too – and a whole lot quicker and easier.
These recipes are all designed around canned beans, but feel free to swap in the same amounts of cooked dried beans.
In honor of Israel’s 67 years of independence and hummus consumption, I’ve designed an entire meal celebrating the humble chickpea. From starter to side, main and – yes – even dessert, here are ways to enjoy garbanzos every step of the way.
I love chickpeas and often sneak them into salads, soups and stews. But roasting them until crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside will always be my favorite way to eat them. To keep them simple you can toss them with salt and pepper, or mix things up with a variety of your favorite spices. I love to use curry powder and sweet paprika, but they’d be delicious with a hit of cayenne pepper, cumin or even cinnamon to spice things up.
They’re great as just a snack, but they’re also a nice addition to salads for added crunch, or even to top soups in place of croutons.
Once considered a food reserved entirely for health nuts, today quinoa is a popular grain choice among even devout meat eaters. My favorite way to serve it is as a room-temperature salad, tossed with a variety of fun mix-ins and a bright dressing. This variety is a combo of sweet potatoes, chickpeas and cranberries, though there’s obviously room for plenty of variation. Other ideas include pine nuts, lentils, diced apple or pretty much any vegetable.
Independence Day is a day for barbecuing, and I’m not here to stop you. But after you grill your chicken to perfection, why not dice it up along with some roasted vegetables, a swipe of hummus and roll it up inside a laffa or tortilla? In fact, you could swap out the chicken for strips of steak or even beef kebabs and everyone at your barbecue will have happy taste buds.
Finally: dessert. I imagine the idea of a chickpea dessert leaves you a little perturbed. But try out this version of brownies – gluten free, packed with protein and low in fat – and you’ll be a convert. You need a blender or food processor to get the texture just right. I only had a hand blender in my not-so-stocked Jerusalem kitchen, so I removed the skins of the chickpeas before blending to make sure they didn’t interfere. And the final result? My unsuspecting tasters had no idea their chocolatey treat was so healthy – they were too busy enjoying its dense, fudgy texture and super-chocolatey taste.
Crispy Roasted Chickpeas
♦1 can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
♦olive oil spray or 2 teaspoons olive oil
♦salt and pepper to taste
♦ additional spices as desired
Toss the chickpeas with the oil (or spray), salt and pepper and spices. Spread in a single layer on a metal baking sheet.
Roast on 225 C for about 30 minutes, giving the pan a good shake every 5 to 10 minutes.
Hummus, Chicken and Veggie Wraps
♦ 1-2 carrots 1-2 red bell peppers
♦2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
♦divided salt and pepper 4 skinless
♦boneless chicken breasts
♦2 teaspoons za’atar
♦ ½ cup hummus 4 flour or corn tortillas
Peel and cut the carrots into sticks 5-6 cm. long. Core and slice the pepper into strips. Toss the vegetables with a tablespoon of oil and spread out in a single layer on a sheet pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Roast the veggies on 225 C for 20-30 minutes, until tender and lightly charred.
Meanwhile, pound the chicken breasts until they are an even thickness. Coat them lightly with the oil and then sprinkle both sides with the za’atar seasoning. Cook the chicken on a grill pan or an electric grill until cooked through – about five minutes per side. Since you’re going to slice them up anyway you can cut them open to check doneness if you’re concerned.
Spread each tortilla with 2 tablespoons of hummus. Slice the chicken into thin strips and divide among the tortillas. Repeat with the vegetables. Wrap up tightly and serve.
Option: toast the rolled-up tortillas in the grill pan or electric grill until brown marks appear.
Summer Quinoa Salad
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
♦2 cups uncooked quinoa
♦1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
♦1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and patted dry
♦ 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
♦ 1 teaspoon salt
♦½ teaspoon black pepper
♦ ½ teaspoon garlic powder
♦ ½ cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
♦¼ cup olive oil
♦ 3 tablespoons orange juice
♦ 2 tablespoons honey
♦ 1 tablespoon apple
♦ 1 teaspoon salt
♦ ½ teaspoon black pepper
Prepare the quinoa according to package directions, then set aside.
Peel and cube the sweet potatoes until roughly the size of the chickpeas. Toss the potatoes, chickpeas, oil, salt, pepper and garlic together in a roasting pan and cook on 200 C for about 25 minutes, until they are both brown. Add to the quinoa mixture, then add the cranberries and mix to combine.
Mix together the oil, orange juice, honey, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk well until combined. Taste and adjust sweetness and salt as necessary, then mix with the quinoa.
Makes 16 squares
♦200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
♦ 1 can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
♦2 eggs ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
♦2 tablespoons cocoa powder
♦ 1 tablespoon (15g) butter or margarine
♦2 teaspoons vanilla
♦½ cup (100g) brown sugar
♦ ½ teaspoon baking powder
♦ ½ teaspoon salt
♦6 tablespoons (85g) butter or margarine
♦ Heaping ¹⁄3 cup cocoa powder (about 45g)
♦2²⁄3 cups icing sugar
♦ 2 teaspoons vanilla
♦2-4 tablespoons milk or soy milk
Melt the chocolate in a microwave until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
In the bowl of a food processor or blender, blend together the chickpeas, eggs, cinnamon, cocoa, butter, vanilla, sugar, baking powder and salt until completely smooth. Add in the chocolate and continue blending until a uniform mixture is created.
Pour the mixture into a 23x23 cm. baking pan lined with greased parchment paper or foil. Bake at 160 C for 25-35 minutes or until they test done.
While the brownies cool, make the frosting. Beat together the butter and the cocoa powder until smooth, then mix in the icing sugar, vanilla, and as much milk as needed to create your desired consistency. Spread over the completely cooled brownies.