As I was planning meals a couple weeks ago, I spied a chickpea and vegetable tagine dish I wanted to try:
Chickpea and Vegetable Tagine
Cooking Light JULY 2014
Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup zucchini mixture)
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 cups Sun Gold or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 (15-ounce) can unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
- 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (I used summer squash)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Bring 1 cup water, quinoa, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 13 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
- Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes; cook 2 minutes or until tomatoes begin to release their liquid. Add chickpeas and zucchini. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Serve zucchini mixture with quinoa.
This was a delightful summer meal, and the leftovers were even better for lunch the next day after the flavors meshed wonderfully together. It got me to thinking – with all the focus on vegan and vegetarian diets, the chickpea is now a fairly standard part of American diets. But this wasn’t always the case – when I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, chickpeas were not nearly as popular (or available). I think the first time I tried them was as part of my college cafeteria’s salad bar. When did recipes featuring this powerful legume first show up in American cookbooks?
Chickpeas are a true “ancient” food – along with wheat and barley they are one of the earliest cultivated crops in the Fertile Crescent around 4,000 B.C. Later other cultures adopted the versatile pea, also called the garbanzo bean, including those in the Mediterranean and southwest Asia. They were first brought to the New World by Spanish and Portuguese conquerors in the 1500s, where they were integrated into the dishes of Mexico and the American southwest. Other immigrants to the U.S. also brought them later from places such as Italy, the Middle East and India.
Oddly enough, it appears many Americans first used chickpeas to make coffee before readily adopting them as a food source. In fact, a letter penned by Thomas Jefferson (dated Monticello, Feb. 14, 1824) and printed two years later in The New England Farmer states, "The coffee bean, from its mild and smooth bitter, its essential oil, and the aroma that gives it, is become the favorite beverage of the civilized world. Many attempts have been made to find substitutes for it, trying, chiefly, vegetable substances. They have succeeded in furnishing a bitter, but never the peculiar flavor of the bean. As to the bitter, the chick pea is the best substitute I have ever tried.” The American Agriculturist (1862) also mentions chickpeas for the purpose of making coffee.
I didn't see any actual recipes featuring chickpeas in U.S. cookbooks until the 1880s. One of the first was for a chick pea soup in an 1882 cookbook called 366 menus and 1200 recipes in French and English by Léon baron Brisse. As indicated by the title, many of these dishes were of French origin:
- Chick pea soup. Soak the peas for twenty-four hours in water in which spinach has been boiled; cook them in water, season with onions, a bouquet of mixed herbs and salt; sprinkle some slices of bread with olive oil or melted butter, place in the soup-tureen, pour some of the boiling soup over them; when swollen, add the remainder of the soup and peas, and serve.
By the 1890s a couple more recipes containing chickpeas turned up, including the Spanish specialty Olla Podrida, a highly seasoned meat and vegetable stew, and a Bolivian dish called milk soup, which along with the chick peas, also contained chicken, crawfish and eggs in a milky broth. But it wasn’t until the second half of 20th century that chickpea dishes began to show up with more regularity.
Garbanzos with Sesame Oil Sauce (Hummus bi Tahini)
From James Beard’s American Cookery
- 6 cups drained cooked or canned garbanzos
- 1 cup sesame or olive oil (or tahini)
- 1 ½ cups lemon juice
- 3 crushed garlic colves
- Salt to taste
- Chopped parsley
- A Middle East dish usually served tucked into a half round of the puffy, hollow bread called pitta.
- Press the well-drained garbanzos through a sieve or food mill to make a puree. Add the oil and lemon juice alternately, a little at a time. Add the crushed garlic and salt to taste. Blend thoroughly. Check for seasoning, adding more lemon juice if necessary. Chill in the refrigerator a few hours before serving.
- To serve, heap the mixture in a bowl and top with a liberal sprinkling of chopped parsley. Serve as an appetizer with pieces of the flat Middle Eastern bread, if available, or with very thin slices of your favorite bread.
Spiced Chickpea Patties (Ujjah min Ghayr Bayd)
For good measure and in celebration of the chickpeas’s ancient heritage, I decided to round out my chickpea trifecta by making chickpea patties from a lovely cookbook called Scheherazade’s Feasts: Foods of the Medieval Arab World. I tucked these into pita pockets with some lettuce and tomato and served alongside a cucumber salad dressed with yogurt and mint. These patties are delightfully spicy, so the cucumbers were a refreshing contrast.