Featured Ingredient – Chickpeas
I recently bought a new healthy recipe cookbook titled Mindful Eating written by a famous spa and resort located in the US, and ever since I saw that title I have been thinking about what mindful eating means to me. I am sure I am not wrong when I say that we all want to live a long, healthy life, and therefore we should put some effort each and every day to work towards that goal. Mindful eating is just one way we can help to accomplish that. Really, should we not pay attention (or be more mindful) to everything that we put in our mouths? When one thinks about all the processed foods out in the market place today, and all the artificial colors and preservatives we ingest when eating these products, it is no wonder we have so many more people complaining of allergies and a multitude of other illnesses. This is just one of the reasons that I love the Mediterranean diet we enjoy here in Italy as it includes healthy grains, legumes, fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, and small portions of meat or poultry.
For myself, trying to focus more on mindful eating has encouraged me in a number of ways. I’ve been doing some reading about foods that promote health and help prevent diseases, I’ve been working to incorporate more “power foods” into my daily diet, and have even started juicing and now add a couple of very nutritious power packed vegetable and fruit juice drinks into my daily menu. One type of power food that I have learned to both love and appreciate the past few years are dried beans. Dried beans were often called the meat of the poor because they were inexpensive enough for anyone to be able to buy, but are a fat free source of protein, are high in fiber, and pack a high dose of folate, B vitamins, and iron.
Since we bought our property here in Umbria, I have truly learned to appreciate the versatility of dried beans as beans and grains do play an important part in Umbrian cuisine. Although I often use the wonderful lentils from Castelluccio here in Umbria, the cicerchie (a dried bean that looks like a cross between fava beans and chickpeas), or cannellini beans in my kitchen, it has taken me longer to learn to love chickpeas. Growing up, the only chickpeas I ever encountered, were called garbanzo beans, came from a can, were found in mixed bean salads, and were very mushy. I have luckily since learned that properly cooked chickpeas are truly wonderful things and I usually cook up a big batch weekly and use them for soups, salads, vegetable stews, or even as a side dish. I recently bought a bag of dried chickpeas that cost me less than 2 euros at the grocery store and from that one little bag of beans, once cooked, I made both a large Chickpea & Cherry Tomato Salad and a hearty Summer Chickpea Soup that could each feed 4 to 6 people. Of course I had to add some additional fresh ingredients to both of these items, but the inexpensive chickpeas were the main ingredient. Considered one of our most ancient foods, the health benefits and versatility of chickpeas (and other dried beans) should encourage us all to incorporate more legumes into our daily diets. Read more about Dried Legumes.
Buying Chickpeas - Look for beans that are intact and unbroken and try to buy from a source that has a good turnover. Very old beans will take longer to cook and often do not retain their shape as well as younger ones do.
Storing Chickpeas - Do not mix your newly purchased beans with older ones and they may have different cooking times. Dried beans keep best stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.
Cooking Chickpeas - Chickpeas take longer to cook than most other dried beans and do require pre-soaking. Place in a large bowl of water in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before cooking. Once soaked, bring beans and liquid to a boil in a large saucepan, then reduce the heat and cook until tender but intact, which may take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 hours depending on the age of the bean. Once cooked, drain and use as desired. I also cook extra beans and store them in the freezer for future soups and stews.
Both these recipes were made from one small bag of dried chickpeas!
Prep Time: 24 hrs
Cook Time: 2 - 3 hrs
Cooking dried chickpeas is very easy to accomplish although they do take some time.
1 Bag Dried Chickpeas
The night before, place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover by a few inches with fresh water.
Store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours.
Place the beans and their soaking liquid in a large pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 hours depending on the age of the beans.
Drain and use as needed.