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Chick-peas

Why Eat It
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

If chick-peas (also known as garbanzos or ceci) aren't a regular part of your diet, you're missing out on one of nature's truly perfect foods. Inside these cream-colored, mild-flavored, marble-size legumes, you'll find hefty amounts of protein (but very little fat), slow-burning complex carbohydrates, fiber (including the soluble fiber that may lower cholesterol), B vitamins--especially folate (folic acid)--and minerals. The phytochemicals in chick-peas include isoflavones and protease inhibitors.

Chick-peas probably originated in Middle East, and are prized in several of the world's cuisines, Middle Eastern, Indian, Italian, Spanish, and Latin-American among them. Their delicate nutlike flavor makes them eminently adaptable to all sorts of recipes--salads, soups, dips, and pasta or grain dishes. Chick-peas can also be roasted for snacks, and are the basis for falafel, a Middle Eastern dish in which the mashed beans are formed into balls and deep-fried (these can be baked, instead).

Chick-peas can be purchased dried, and cooked like other beans, but they are also sold in cans, ready for use.

Availability

Canned and dried chick-peas are seasonless. If you have trouble finding them in your supermarket, check the aisle that has Italian and Latin-American foods.

Shopping

When buying dried chick-peas in bags, look for uniformly sized, evenly colored chick-peas. If you buy in bulk, examine the chickpeas carefully for insect damage, which sometimes shows up as pinhole-sized marks. Check that the chick-peas are not cracked or broken. As with all dried beans, purchase chick-peas in a store with high turnover.

Storage

Store dried chick-peas in a tightly closed container at cool room temperature; they should keep for up to a year, but since you don't know how long they've sat on your supermarket shelf, plan to use them within six months. Do not mix a new supply of chick-peas with older legumes; the mixture of old and new stock will cook unevenly.

Store any leftover cooked chick-peas in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator, where they will keep for three to four days. Cooked chick-peas may also be frozen.

Preparation

Dried chick-peas should be picked over before cooking; spread them on a white kitchen towel so that you can easily see and discard any dirt, debris, or damaged specimens. Then place the chick-peas in a strainer or colander and rinse them under cold water.

Dried chick-peas have tough skins and are normally soaked before cooking. If you don't have time to presoak them, expect the cooking time to be lengthened by an hour or more. You can quick-soak chick-peas in an hour or let them soak for eight hours or overnight. For either method, place the chickpeas in a large pot (they will double in size soaking) and add enough water to cover them by 2 inches. For long soaking let stand six hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. For quick soaking, bring the water to a boil and cook for two minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered, for an hour.

With either method, discard any chick-peas that float to the top after soaking and pour off the soaking water. Then add the required amount of fresh water or broth; the liquid should cover the chick-peas by about 2 inches. Bring the liquid slowly to a boil, skimming off the scum that rises to the surface. When the liquid boils, reduce the heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer until the chick-peas are tender (for salads, remove the lentils or peas from the heat while they are cooked but slightly firm; for soups and purees, cook them until they are very soft). Stir occasionally during cooking, and add more water, if necessary. Don't keep the liquid at a rolling boil, or the skins of the chick-peas may split. The chick-peas are done when they can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.

If using canned chick-peas, rinse and drain them thoroughly before cooking to eliminate some of the sodium in the canning liquid. Plan to cook them for as short a time as possible (just to heat them through). If they're going into a salad or dip, the chick-peas need not be heated at all.

Nutrition Chart

Chick-peas/1/2 cup cooked

135
Total fat (g)
2.1
Saturated fat (g)
0.2
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0.5
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
1
Dietary fiber (g)
6.2
7
Carbohydrate (g)
23
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
6
Folate (mcg)
141
Manganese (mg)
0.8
Copper (mg)
0.3
Phosphorus (mg)
138


Date Published: 04/20/2005
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