The chickpea, also known in America as a garbanzo bean, is an underrated, under-used and under-appreciated legume.
Some of my favorite foods are made from chickpeas. Things like falafel, a fried chickpea burger, and hummus, a dish with ground up chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, salt, olive oil and tahini (basically a sesame seed paste), contain the small, pale-orange colored legume.
Fresh chickpeas come dry and need soaking overnight but taste much better than the canned version that generally comes out overly salty and with a mushy baby food-like texture.
Nutritionists praise the food because it is among an elite group of food that provides a healthy source of fiber, protein, calcium and iron.
In addition to the high nutritional praise, some studies have been done that imply chickpeas can elevate your mood. As far as mood elevators go I am skeptical, but I guess anything is possible.
My original introduction to the legume was when my mom used to put garbanzo beans in her pasta salad, which brought about my immediate response of picking them out.
My true appreciation for garbanzo beans didn’t come until I traveled to Israel back in 2001 where I found a plethora of chickpea-based meals that were pleasing to the palate in both taste and texture.
Nostalgia struck this week as I had a craving for Middle Eastern food.
Since I can’t make falafel or hummus properly I went for the American version of hummus (pre-made in a plastic container) as well as an Israeli salad (a combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and onions) and pita bread.
When Americans have hummus it is almost always pre-made and served as a side dish or a condiment. I admit even I fall into that stereotype.
Israelis on the other hand consider the dish a meal to be served with pita or falafel.
This week I used hummus as a condiment on my pita sandwiches that also contained turkey and Israeli salad. It became a light, healthy solution but only a temporary silencer to my craving. I will have to head out to a Middle-Eastern restaurant to satisfy that.
Until then, L’Chaim and B’Tay Avon (to life and eat well).
Verve Editor Liz Sunshine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
Salt and pepper
Combine first four ingredients. Drizzle the combination with olive oil and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!