Well, we made it to March, folks. And we’ve reached that sweet spot in the year where a few of us have not yet abandoned our New Year’s resolutions, others are enduring Lenten sacrifices and the (very brief) spring preview we enjoyed this past week has some people already thinking about getting shaped up for summer togs.
If you fall into any of those categories, I’ve got a snack for you! It’s high in protein, low in fat, packed with nutrients and fiber; and it’s gluten-, nut-, soy-, sugar- and grain-free! It also can be packed with as much flavor as you’re willing to give it.
I’m talking about roasted chickpeas. This is a really cheap and easy treat to make at home. All you need are some chickpeas (dried or canned), a bit of oil, and some optional seasonings and spices. The prep takes just moments, and the rest is just baking time. When you’re done, you’ll have a snack or garnish that can add protein to your diet and keep you feeling sated for hours.
Start with the chickpeas. If you’re using the dried variety, you’ll have to cook them (or if you put in a little extra the last time you made a batch, pull them out of the freezer). If you’re using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse them.
Either way, you don’t want the chickpeas to be at all damp, so dry them in some fashion. Some options are to run them through a salad spinner, blot them between towels, or-if you’re one of the few people who thinks ahead-put them on a baking pan and let them sit in a cold oven overnight.
I consulted almost 20 recipes for roasted chickpeas, and all but one of them called for roasting them in a oven that is anywhere from 375 to 450 degrees (the lone maverick suggested skillet roasting them in some oil on the stovetop over medium-high heat for about 20 minutes). If you pick the middle ground, that will put your oven at somewhere around 400-425 degrees.
While the oven is heating, mix up whatever flavors you want for your beans. There is a lot of room for improvisation here. You can shoot for a total of about a tablespoon of spices per can of beans (which is equivalent to about one and a half cups of cooked chickpeas). Use a combination of powdered cumin, chilies, coriander, ginger, cayenne pepper, garlic, onion, paprika, cinnamon, curry, turmeric, allspice or garam masala. Other things you might want to include are crushed toasted nuts or seeds, nutritional yeast, or ground herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, marjoram or sage). Some recipes I looked at also called for adding a few squirts of liquid ingredients such as maple syrup, soy sauce, tamari, liquid aminos, liquid smoke, or lemon juice and/or zest.
Mix your seasonings in a bowl, add the chickpeas, and then drizzle them with up to a tablespoon of oil per can of beans. Stir everything together until the chickpeas are coated, season with salt and pepper if you like, and spread the chickpeas out on a baking sheet. Bake until done, which should take anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes. Stir the chickpeas around a little bit every 10 or 15 minutes so they cook evenly, and also to check for doneness. You want them to be crisp and golden. With so many variables at work, your cooking time will probably vary from batch to batch, so keep a close eye on them. I made two versions this week: one with canned chickpeas and another with some that I’d pulled out of the freezer. The canned ones cooked quicker, but the ones I cooked from dried beans ended up being a little lighter and crunchier.
With so many possible combinations of flavors, this is a treat that can hold up to numerous reruns without ever getting tiresome. Enjoy!
Alice O’Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn’t really learn to cook until midlife. When she’s not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.