Green Eats: A very versatile bean

Healthful and rich in dietary fiber that can help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, the chickpea is not only for humous.

Chickpea cakes 390 (photo credit: MCT)
Chickpea cakes 390
(photo credit: MCT)
It’s hard to imagine a day in Israel without chickpeas, one of the earliest cultivated vegetables in our region and the basis for our beloved humous and felafel. In fact, most of the chickpeas we consume in Israel are home grown, and we even produce enough to export.
Chickpeas are amazingly healthy, rich in a special kind of dietary fiber that can help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. One-third of a cup of the beans per day can help control blood sugar and insulin secretion. Garbanzo bean fiber can also be metabolized by bacteria in the colon to produce relatively large amounts of short chain fatty acids that can help lower the risk of colon problems, including colon cancer.
In addition, chickpeas are an excellent source of folate, tryptophan, copper, phosphorus, iron, antioxidant phytonutrients like flavonoids and anthocyanins and the mineral manganese among others.
And if all that were not enough, chickpeas also contain valuable amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid from which all other omega-3 fats are made.
The best and most thrifty way of preparing chickpeas is to cook them yourself from scratch, preferably after soaking them overnight. You can also use the quick soak method by boiling raw chickpeas for two or three minutes in enough water to cover them, and then letting them sit for an hour. Drained and covered in fresh water, they’ll cook up within about 45 minutes.
Although many people add baking soda to the cooking water to soften the beans, it’s best to do without, since baking soda helps destroy valuable B vitamins.
If you’re in a hurry, there are other good possibilities as well.
Frozen chickpeas are precooked.
They are produced by Sunfrost and Pri Hagalil, the latter of which has just come out with a new particularly good product. Although canned chickpeas supposedly contain virtually the same nutritional value as those you cook yourself, their taste is inferior, and I like to avoid canned products as much as possible due to concern over possible BPA content in the can and ecological considerations.
Also available and recommended are crushed plain chickpeas, available in the same type of plastic containers as tomato paste.
But this week, I’d like to introduce you to another way to enjoy chickpeas, by using chickpea flour, which is sold in health-food and spice stores but can also be made at home by grinding dry chickpeas in a coffee grinder or Vitamix blender. Traditionally used for Persian gondi but also for Italian flatbreads like socca and farinata, chickpea flour can be used for a gluten-free pizza-like base for pizza or a delicious coating for schnitzel.
Makes one, serves 2-4
✔ 2⁄3 cup chickpea flour
✔ 1⁄3 tsp. salt ✔ 1 cup water ✔ 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided ✔ 1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped ✔ 2 Tbsp. red onion, finely chopped ✔ 3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese ✔ Coarsely ground black pepper ✔ 5-6 small basil leaves or 2-3 large, shredded
Preheat the broiler. Mix chickpea flour and salt and sift into a medium bowl.
Add just enough of the water to make a smooth paste, then add the rest of the water gradually to avoid lumps. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let stand at room temperature for a half an hour.
Heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a large (about 30-cm.) non-stick oven-proof frying pan. Stir the batter again till uniform and pour it into the pan. Drizzle the remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil on top. Cook over medium-high heat until the bottom is golden and crisp (use a spatula to lift up an edge) and the top is almost set, 2 to 3 minutes. If you notice any air bubbles developing, burst them with the tip of a knife or a toothpick.
Sprinkle the tomato, onion, Parmesan and pepper over the top, then place the pan under the broiler and cook until the pizza is golden and crisp on top, about 4 to 5 minutes. Slide the pizza onto a work surface, sprinkle the basil leaves on top, cut into wedges and serve warm.
VARIATIONS: Serve the same base focaccia style: Instead of tomato, onion and cheese, top the crust with sliced fresh garlic, small sliced red onion or shallot, sprigs of rosemary.
Other topping possibilities: marinated artichoke hearts, lightly sautéed mushrooms and thyme.
Makes 1-2
✔ 1 piece chicken breast ✔ 1⁄4 cup chickpea flour ✔ 1 Tbsp. za’atar seasoning ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. dried coriander ✔ 1⁄4 tsp. paprika ✔1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water ✔ Olive oil for frying
Separate the schnitzel into two pieces, removing the fibers between the two pieces. Wash the chicken, rinse, pat dry and set aside.
In a wide bowl, beat the egg and water. In a second bowl, mix the chickpea flour, za’atar, coriander and paprika.
Heat a shallow layer of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan.
Dip the chicken in the egg, the flour mixture, and again in the egg. Sauté on both sides as you would regular schnitzel.