What's wrong with being a little pea-brained?

No matter whether you call them garbanzo beans, arbes or humous, these legumes are versatile and nutritious.

Small but assertive, chickpeas are little beans with lots of promise, since they not only taste good, they also pack a nutritional wallop. A versatile ingredient available year round, chickpeas are especially good as a winter comfort food. And wait - you can even make a nutritious cake with them (recipe follows)! A perfect addition to soups and salads, hearty stews and vegetable dishes, chickpeas are, of course, the basis for our beloved humous and felafel. In India, you'll find chickpeas cooked and ground to use as a stuffing, or dried and ground into flour for breads, puddings and even desserts. Chickpeas are a good source of protein, calcium, iron and potassium, a super source of zinc, manganese, and a range of B vitamins, including folic acid. They are also a source of dietary fiber, and among other legumes, considered beneficial to help lower cholesterol. As with most beans (pulses), chickpeas need to be soaked overnight or at least for several hours, but you can also buy them precooked and frozen or canned (the frozen variety is far superior and more ecological, but if using the canned, make sure to rinse before use. Interestingly enough, most people don't know that there are several kinds of chickpeas in Israel. In the Spices chain in Afeka, Tel Aviv, for example one can find three different kinds: Hadas and Bulgarian chickpeas, best for humous and other ground chickpea dishes, and the larger Spanish chickpeas, recommended for cooked dishes like cholent in which the chickpea remains whole. It's also good to know that adding cumin, coriander seed, caraway seed, cardamom, anise or fennel will not only season a dish, they will help alleviate gassiness. AROMATIC CHICKPEAS These are a great protein nibble to nosh throughout the day and evening.
  • Makes 6-8 servings 2 cups (approx. 1/2 kg.) dried chickpeas 1 bay leaf 4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed 1 tsp. paprika 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more to taste) 1 1/2 tsp. salt 1/2 cup minced Italian parsley Freshly ground black pepper to taste 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil Sort chickpeas and soak overnight in water to cover. (Or boil for 5 minutes and let soak for 1 to 2 hours.) Drain. Cover with fresh water plus 5 cm. Add bay leaf, bring to a boil and cook over low heat, until chickpeas are tender but not mushy, about 1 hour. (Cooking time will depend on size and age of the chickpeas). Drain, discarding bay leaf. Transfer to a serving bowl. Add remaining ingredients while chickpeas are still hot. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature. ADI SMALLER'S SWISS CHARD AND CHICKPEAS Adi Smaller loves to cook, and does it well. I tasted this dish at Smaller's home and almost finished the whole serving bowl's worth! Makes 4 servings as a main dish 1 kg. Swiss chard (mangold in Hebrew) 1 cup chickpeas, soaked 12 hours 7-9 garlic cloves, sliced or crushed 1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 cup lemon juice - freshly squeezed Coarse sea salt and pepper Cook the chickpeas until ready, but not too soft. Rinse the chard and separate between the green leaves and the white ribs. Chop the leaves coarsely and steam over boiling water or for 2 minutes in the microwave. Slice the ribs crosswise into 1/2-cm. pieces. Stir fry 2-3 minutes. Heat a 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat and add half the garlic. Do not brown. Drain the chard and add to the frying pan, together with the cooked (drained) chickpeas. Add the rest of the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cover, lower heat and cook for 20 minutes. Add the stir-fried ribs and cook an additional 10 minutes. Taste and add more lemon juice or olive oil to taste. NO-FLOUR MEXICAN LEMONY CHICKPEA CAKE This fabulous recipe with no flour and no added fat is almost too good to be true… but it is! Makes 6-8 servings 2 cups cooked chickpeas (recommended: frozen defrosted, drained) 4 medium-large eggs, organic if possible 1 cup demerara or golden sugar 1/2 tsp. baking powder Grated peel of one medium-large lemon Juice of the same lemon Confectioner's sugar (about 3 Tbsp.) Butter to grease pan Heat the oven to 180ºC. Grease sides and bottom of a 22-23-cm. pan with butter. Place a circle of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan and grease that too. If using frozen chickpeas, defrost for a minute or two in the microwave, then drain and transfer to a food processor. Grind. Add eggs, sugar, baking powder and lemon rind. Mix together using short pulses of the processor. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool 15 minutes. Gently remove from pan and let come to room temperature. Just before serving, squeeze the juice of half a lemon (or the juice of the whole lemon if you really like it lemony) on top of the cake, wait a few moments and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar passed through a sifter.