20 July 2010

Chickpea Magic

Legumes hardly figured into my diet prior to my transition to plant-based eating.  Their appearances on my plate were only in the form of something like the latter half of "...with rice and beans" or as bean dip for my tortilla chips, save for its complementary role in fueling my shameless chili addiction.  (Although the meat component obviously overshadowed the legume contribution there.)  I did occasionally enjoy various Japanese snacks like anpan, manju, dorayaki, and other similar treats filled with anko (sweet azuki bean paste), but the legume presence was more of an afterthought than an issue summoning any sort of conscious awareness.  Adopting a vegan diet encouraged if not forced me to recognize my ignorance of what types of food I consumed; I didn't even realize that legumes were substantial sources of protein until I first became interested in vegetarianism.  It may sound silly, perhaps, but acknowledging my ignorance has since made me grateful that I now know better.

Deep into my pre-veg days, I could not have distinguished a chickpea from a navy bean, or would even have known that the former is the same as a garbanzo bean.  I recall first coming across the word "chickpea" in a book of riddles I enjoyed reading from time to time as a child, but never thought much of what it actually represented, only imagining something resembling a yellow pea.  Up through high school, had someone asked me whether I had ever eaten falafel or hummus, I would likely have looked fairly confused while answering with a hesitant "no."  Fast-forwarding to the present--something like two years into sustaining a vegan diet--I not only know what a chickpea is, but also cook and consume them on a regular basis.  Even as I write this post, there are dried beans simmering away in a soup pot.

Among the various legume varieties stocked in my kitchen, chickpeas are one of the most plentiful; they are so versatile and delicious for making fritters, bean patties, dips, and probably myriad other delectables I have yet to try.  Noticing a popular use for chickpeas as the basis for mock tuna salad, I became intrigued by how a bean might mimic the taste and texture of a fish-based salad.  I heard that the Chickpea-Hijiki Salad from Isa's Vegan with a Vengeance was a particularly delicious fish-free version of the classic dish, so I decided to give it a whirl.  I substituted the hijiki with reconstituted, minced wakame, because it was what I had on hand at the time.  I also mixed in chopped parsley for a fresh, herbal touch, as well as a good squeeze of sriracha for heat.  This chickpea- and sea vegetable-based salad tasted good and in pleasantly surprising fashion, close enough to the fishy version that inspired its creation to satisfy a craving for old school tuna salad.  You did it again, Isa.  Well done.
Along that vein of spreadable, chickpea-based deliciousness, I also happen to enjoy hummus quite a bit these days.  Having cooked a batch of dried chickpeas recently without any specific use in mind, I eventually decided upon using some of them for a hummus-inspired dip comprised of various kitchen finds that sounded dip-worthy.  The amounts of the ingredients used are approximate and, as always, open to whatever adjustments might suit your tastes, should anyone be inspired to whip up his or her own dip or spread.

Spicy Chickpea-Cashew Spread (printable recipe)
Yields approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups

1 1/2 c cooked chickpeas, drained (Canned are fine.)
1/2 c blanched spinach, squeezed of excess liquid
2 (1/2-inch) chunks jarred hot red peppers, drained (Reduce for milder results.)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 green onion stalks, roughly chopped
3 T cashew butter (Other nut or seed butters may be substituted.)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Water or reserved bean cooking liquid

In a food processor, pulse the garlic, green onions, and parsley until they are finely minced.  Add the peppers and
pulse until the mixture becomes paste-like.  Add the chickpeas, spinach, cashew butter, cumin, and lemon juice, and blend until the mixture is smooth, adding water or reserved bean cooking liquid to achieve the desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
This dip is spicy and perfect for dipping, topping toast, slathering in a sandwich, or what have you.  I particularly enjoyed it spread over warm Egyptian Flat Bread, like the ones I made using an adaptation of this recipe from Arabic Bites.  I omitted the dry milk, substituted the water with almond milk, and used less white flour than the recipe suggested.  The results were slightly sour, fluffy discs of carbohydrate-laden deliciousness--perfect as vessels for eating the Spicy Chickpea-Cashew Spread, using to make wraps, or for just eating plain.


  1. I love spreads and dips and this one looks really tasty!

  2. I wanna come over! Please share your food with me.

  3. Chickpeas are probably my favorite bean. I love making mock chicken or tuna salad with them, but I've never tried putting seaweed in it! That spread looks great, too; a little heartier than hummus.

  4. Your flatbread and spread look delicious!!

  5. Oh I want to try this! Kind of like hummus except with added iron (spinach). Love it!

  6. Your flatbread and spread look delicious!!

  7. I love spreads and dips and this one looks really tasty!


Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. :)