Garbanzos Galore

Whatever your preference, chickpeas, garbanzo beans, ceci beans, chanas, Indian peas, or bengal grams… they have a long history in world cuisines with credits dating back over 7,500 years as one of the earliest cultivated vegetables. In early antiquity, chickpeas were associated with Venus and revered for medicinal attributes linked to increased sperm and milk production.  The Roman gourmet Apicius offered several recipes for chickpeas.  Culpeper found “chick-pease or cicers” less “windy” and more nourishing than peas.  In 1793 a German writer noted that ground roast chickpeas were considered a suitable coffee substitute.
It’s hard to compete with garbanzos when it comes to nutrition, they are a good source of zinc, folate, and protein.  They are very high in dietary fiber and a good source of carbohydrates for those with insulin sensitivity or diabetes. Chickpeas are low in fat, mostly polyunsaturated, and are also an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese, which is an essential cofactor in energy production and in antioxidant defense.  Garbanzos provide dietary calcium with some claims of content at about the same level as yogurt and close to milk.
 I enjoy their nuttiness, their slight crunch, and the extra dimension they provide, but I’m a little late to the game when it comes to appreciating the full capabilities of these mighty legumes.  In my pantry there’s always a can on the ready for when I’m craving hummus, or need a quick addition to a salad, soup, or stew.  Admittedly, since I have always relied on the convenience of canned varieties it never occurred to me that I could actually cook my own from the dried state. It seemed like a lot of work for one can’s worth. 
But, thanks to the arrival of my new pressure cooker the world looks different these days, and life has morphed into a garbanzo bean bonanza.  I’ve discovered that given a night of pre-soaking, it only takes about 10 minutes before I am totally surrounded by a full pot of these lovelies.  Instead of cans, my freezer is now stocked with quart bags filled with cooked ceci beans. 
Released from this unnecessary stinginess, I plan to take full advantage of my new store of frozen garbanzos. Beyond the obvious, there will be more tajines, curries, and stews, probably more exotic veggie burgers, I’ll even spice some up for snacking; and maybe I’ll find a good falafel recipe that uses cooked chickpeas instead of its flour. 
Here’s an idea expanded from Spicy Garbanzo Burritos, by Lynne Rossetto Kasper at Splendid Table.  Tacos and burritos fixings are a standard in my kitchen, and this offers a ton of options for quick meals. The flavors are reminiscent of the Mediterranean, yet melded with Latin touches a dynamic partnership is formed.  I have included chicken here (because I had one cooked breast on hand), but it is optional; the satisfying garbanzo beans can easily stand alone.      
Spicy Garbanzo Bean Burritos with Yogurt Sauce
Inspired by a recipe from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s Splendid Table early newsletter.

1  tbsp olive oil
½  red onion, sliced
1 poblano or other green or red pepper, seed and slice

1 large clove garlic, mince
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½  tsp. oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 cups garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drain
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup stock or water, as needed

4 large wheat tortillas, warmed

1 cooked chicken breast, shredded (optional)
1 cup feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
Arugula or other greens, approx. 16 leaves or so
fresh oregano for garnish

Yogurt Sauce
1 ½ cups plain yogurt

2 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seed, chop
2 tbsp cilantro,  chop
1 small clove garlic, mince
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onion and toss to soften, then add the pepper and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic, the cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika and sauté to blend flavors.   Add the garbanzo beans and cook for 5 minutes, stirring and adding liquid to moisten if it becomes dry; season with salt and pepper.
For sauce: combine ingredients and set aside. 
To assemble:  Warm tortillas and spread each with sauce and top with a few leaves of arugula.  Add a dollop more of sauce and top with chicken if using.  Cover with garbanzo mixture and top with feta.  Sprinkle with fresh oregano. Roll up the tortillas and serve. Pass the hot sauce.  Serves 4

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