There is a world of difference between chickpeas prepared from scratch, and canned versions. With the latter, what you save in terms of convenience sacrifices taste and beauty as the difference is immeasurable. An added bonus is the chickpea cooking broth, which is jam-packed with flavor. I often use it as a substitute for water when making soup, pasta or rice, or any dish where stock would normally be called for, such as risotto.
Below is a vegan version of the tapa known as “garbanzos con espinaca” but one that uses watercress in place of spinach. This was adapted from a recent recipe by David Tanis, which you can view here. Mr. Tanis is a New York Times food columnist and is a chef formerly associated with the restaurant Chez Panisse, located in Berkeley, California.
Chickpeas with Winter Greens and Almonds
For the chickpeas and broth:
1 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/2 onion, stuck with a clove
1 small carrot, peeled, cut in 2-inch chunks
1 small bay leaf
5 cups water
Pick over chickpeas, put them in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. Drain chickpeas (they should have swelled considerably) and put them in a soup pot. Cover with water, add the onion stuck with clove, the carrot and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat and let chickpeas simmer gently. Skim any foam that rises to the surface. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until chickpeas are tender. If chickpeas seem to be drying out during cooking, add 1/2 cup water to keep them submerged in liquid. Season generously with salt, and leave chickpeas to cool in the broth (cooking liquid). You should have about 2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas. They may be cooked a day in advance, if desired.
For the chickpeas and greens:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
sea salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
1 rocambole garlic clove, peeled and minced — (1)
1/4 teaspoon pimentón — (2)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and coarsely ground
1 head of watercress, washed trimmed and shredded (about 1 cup shredded watercress)
6 tablespoons slivered almonds, lightly toasted
Put olive oil in a deep, wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, pimentón and 1/2 teaspoon of the cumin, and stir to coat. Add the cooked chickpeas and 1/2 cup broth. Bring to a simmer, add the watercress and sprinkle with a little salt. Stir to allow the greens to wilt. Put on the lid and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until greens are completely cooked. Stir well, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cumin and the almonds.
Time: About 2 hours, plus 8-12 hours soaking, prep time not included.
(1) — Rocambole garlic is an heirloom variety of garlic, known for its sharp, spicy flavor (which is more intense than silverskin garlic, otherwise known as the usual type of garlic commonly found in supermarkets in the United States). Substitute regular garlic if unavailable, and double the amount called for in the recipe (or adjust to your own preference).
(2) — otherwise known as Spanish paprika. Substitute regular paprika if unavailable, but note that regular paprika lacks the distinctive “smokiness” that is characteristic of pimentón.