There is something elementally elegant about beans that speaks to me in the cooler months of the year. A dash of fat, a handful of celery, carrot and onion, a pinch of salt and an abundance of time all contribute to a bowl of satisfaction guaranteed.
Rancho Gordo is a purveyor of heirloom dried beans and food products native to the New World: dried corn, chiles, grains and herbs. The beans are wonderful and need very little in the way of additions; they come out perfect every time. When I was in San Francisco not long ago, I made sure to buy a couple of sacks at the main store in the Ferry Building.
In the hands of a marvelous cook, beans can be transformed into a food that you’ve never eaten before in your life. Crack a ham bone open to let all that wonderful smoky fat leach out; combined with onion, celery and bell pepper, a pile of humble red beans slowly metamorphosizes into a cross between meat and vegetable. Mix with a little white rice, and it’s the stuff of legend made famous in New Orleans. It’s a little silky, a little smoky and entirely of the earth.
The same love affair that New Orleanians have with red beans, I have with chickpeas. They’re probably my favorite of all dried legumes. I love them in pasta, in salads or in side dishes, but I’ve never had them roasted … until now.
Well, that’s about to change if I have anything to say about it.
Roasted Chickpeas, with Preserved Lemon, Olives and Mint
Adapted from How Sweet It Is.
1 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/2 onion, stuck with a clove
1 small bay leaf
5 cups water
1 teaspoon olive oil + more for garnish
a small pinch of ground cinnamon (about 1/4 teaspoon)
a small pinch of Spanish paprika (about 1/4 teaspoon)
3 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon
1/4 cup mixed pitted olives
2 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
freshly milled black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped mint
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 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. Taste for salt and leave chickpeas to cool in the broth (cooking liquid). You should have about 2 cups cooked chickpeas. They may be cooked a day in advance, if desired.
If you elect to use canned chickpeas, make sure to drain the can completely of any extraneous liquid, and rinse the chickpeas thoroughly.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Place chickpeas on a paper towel and pay completely dry. Remove any loose skins. Transfer to a cookie sheet and stir in 1 teaspoon olive oil. Roll around to coat. Sprinkle with cinnamon and Spanish paprika, and toss well to coat. Make sure chickpeas are in a single layer. Roast for 15 minutes, toss well and flip, then roast for about 15 more minutes.
When done, they should look like this:
Transfer them to a bowl and let cool.
Stir in the olives, preserved lemon and heirloom tomatoes. Mix well. Taste for salt (you shouldn’t need much) and pepper. Stir in the mint. Spoon chickpeas onto shallow serving bowls. Drizzle with a little oil, then serve immediately.
This recipe is sized for four people.
Time: About one hour, not including prep.