Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dinner, Part 1: Roasted Chickpeas

Yes, today's post is late, late, late! I had some technical difficulties, but if you're reading this, then I finally got everything worked out. Anyway, here's the first part of the menu from Sunday's dinner with Amanda and Gordie: roasted chickpeas. I wouldn't exactly call them an appetizer - more a light pre-dinner snack, something to nibble on during the last few minutes of cooking.

Chickpeas are great because they are packed with both fiber and protein; roasting them makes a tasty, crunchy snack that is akin to popcorn but more nutritious. You can use canned chickpeas for convenience, but they are more expensive than the dried ones and often have lots of added salt and preservatives. I buy Goya dried chickpeas in one-pound bags from my local Price Chopper, where they usually cost between $1.00 and $1.50 per pound, but you might be able to find them even cheaper in the bulk section of your co-op or supermarket. Cooking them takes some time, but it's basically hands-off, so it's great for a day when you are doing things around the house: I'll usually soak them overnight on Friday, cook them Saturday, and freeze whatever I don't use that day. They keep well frozen and if placed in the fridge in the morning, they'll be thawed and ready to use by dinner.

Roasted Chickpeas

2-3 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 1/2 pound dried chickpeas, cooked
2 tablespoons olive oil
garam masala* or spice of your choice, to taste
salt, to taste

Set oven to 375. Toss chickpeas with olive oil and spread in one layer on a cookie sheet. Season liberally with spice of your choice; sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chickpeas are ready when they are golden, crispy on the outside, and tender inside.

*A note about garam masala: garam masala is an Indian spice blend that is readily available in most supermarkets. If you can't find it in the spice section, check the natural foods section, which is where I found mine. The specific combination of spices can vary widely but often included are cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and coriander. The version I have also includes cloves and black pepper. It's a wonderful way to add sweet and savory flavors to a dish. Roasted chickpeas can be made with any seasoning you think you'd like - for instance, chili powder or garlic salt - but garam masala is by far my favorite.

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