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Chickpeas with herbs and walnut sauce

October 29, 2010

This is based on a recipe from World Vegetarian, a really excellent cookbook. I’ve made enough changes, though, that I’m claiming credit for my version. It isn’t the most photogenic of recipes, but it’s truly delicious. We ate this with whole wheat beer bread and roasted eggplant.


Ingredients
1.5 cups dried chickpeas
water
2 dried bay leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 or 2 (or to taste) small hot chiles, finely chopped
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
salt to taste
1/2 cup finely sliced scallions

For the walnut sauce:
1/2 cup walnuts
5 tbsp good olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/4 cup of cooking liquid from the beans
salt to taste

Method:
1. Presoak and cook the chickpeas (see below). Add the bay leaves to the pot when you begin cooking them.
2. Make the walnut sauce by combining all the ingredients in a food processor. Process until completely smooth. It should have a smooth, pasty texture, sort of like hummus. If it’s too firm, add more cooking liquid or vinegar or oil. Or even a splash of water.
3. In a large saucepan (or large saute pan) heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and chile and stir a few times. Add the herbs and paprika and stir again.
4. Next, add the cooked chickpeas, along with the bay leaves and about 1.5 cups of the cooking liquid from the beans, as well as some salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat and add all of the walnut sauce to the pan. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with scallions and serve.

Notes:
1. Adjust the chiles to suit your taste. If you don’t want the heat, use just one chile and leave it whole, and then fish it out after you’re done cooking.
2. You can substitute lemon juice for the vinegar in the walnut sauce. You might need a bit more.
3. You can certainly use fresh herbs instead of dried. You could even substitute fresh parsley (or maybe mint) for a garnish, instead of the scallions.
4. This dish tastes good hot and at room temperature, and keeps fine in the refrigerator. I made some of the leftovers into a tasty salad by stirring in some raw chopped vegetables and olive oil.

 

My little bean cooking treatise:

(Feel free to skip this section. Personally, I’ve cooked a lot of problematic pots of beans, but now that I have my method down, I get consistently good results, so I’m sharing it.)

Beans are delicious, healthy and satisfying. I’m a big fan. Beans you cook yourself taste better than canned. Also it’s cheaper. And in a bean-centric recipe like this one, it really makes a difference. It’s not particularly difficult or time-consuming, but does require checking in on, so if your schedule doesn’t make for convenient bean cookery, make big batches on the occasional weekend and keep them in the freezer.

Most recipes will tell you to soak beans overnight. This is only useful, I think, if you’re going to cook beans in the morning, but in most cases that’s not what’s happening, and eight to ten hours is too much soaking for most beans, in my opinion. What I do is start soaking beans first thing in the morning, cook them in the afternoon, and make the finished dish at dinnertime. Some small beans you can soak for 2 hours; 4 is sufficient for your mid-sized bean; and chickpeas or other large or especially firm beans should soak for 6 hours. To soak, just pick through the dried beans to look for pebbles (it happens), put them in a large pot and cover them with fresh, cool water by about 4 inches.

When it comes time to cook them, you can discard the soaking water, rinse the lovely swollen beans and add fresh water to the pot (cover the beans by 3 inches). I often like to cook the beans right in the soaking water; it has a lot of vitamins and if you’re trying to make, say, a wonderful black bean soup, your broth is never going to get the right kind of glossy depth if you don’t use the soaking water. Now, for some people, this approach will make them farty (it happens). My solution is to add a piece of dried kombu (kelp) to the pot, which makes the beans easier to digest. Don’t worry, you won’t even notice the flavor. Just be sure to fish out the slimy piece of seaweed before you serve your dish. The best kind of pot to use, in my opinion, is enameled cast-iron. A regular stock pot will work, too.

So, if you want to add some aromatics to the pot, now’s the time. I usually throw in a couple of bay leaves or something. Do not put in any salt or acid, these will ruin the texture. Turn up the heat on your pot of beans and let them come to a strong boil, but nothing crazy. Let them boil for two minutes, then turn the heat way, way down. A low, slow simmer is what you want. I leave the pot partially covered. Don’t stir, because this can disturb the skins and make the beans explode. Check in on your beans periodically. You might need to add more water. Also, check for doneness. This varies greatly depending on the size and freshness of your beans. Once the texture is perfect and creamy inside, but with intact, firm skins, turn off the heat and add salt to the pot. Taste the broth, not the beans, to determine if you’ve added enough. Then cover the pot and let stand, off the heat, for about 15 minutes to let the salt absorb into the beans. Hooray!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2010 7:29 am

    Thanks for the bean treatise. It helps my bean-making confidence to know that you and I have basically the same method. Just yesterday, I made my nightfall beans from Phelps’ farm (aw, those were the days…) pretty much exactly as you describe here minus the seaweed. Delish. Hey, do you think the walnut sauce would work with another nut? It sounds great, but Dr. B. isn’t a walnut fan. My first thought is pumpkin seeds, but that may just be the season talking. xo

  2. arlemonbar permalink*
    November 2, 2010 12:53 pm

    That was such a good day, when we bought beans and saw the baby goats! I should go there over Christmas and bring back a suitcase full of beans. You could certainly change the nuts or the beans in this recipe (the original recipe uses black-eyed peas). Pumpkin seeds would probably be good; I think almonds would work well. You could even use peanut butter: instead of making the walnut sauce, just stir in some peanut butter and some vinegar (or lemon juice) at the end. hugs!

  3. November 5, 2010 7:20 am

    Oh dear Aly! I can’t wait to try the recipe. Remember all my bean disasters in Studentenstadt? Well, maybe you don’t but I do! As for nut substitutes, perhaps pine nuts would work? I know you can make pesto with walnuts, so why not swap the other way too?

    • arlemonbar permalink*
      November 5, 2010 12:41 pm

      Katychen! I do remember a couple of bean mishaps, but luckily, no one got hurt. I think pine nuts would be delicious, good call.

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