Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve probably noticed that the meat options at your favorite grocery store have changed. Sometimes, the chicken case is empty, or there’s no ground beef. On another visit, the meat you’re looking for is there, but the price you’re accustomed to isn’t.
If you’re a No-Cook Cooking cook, your response is, “No meat? No problem.”
No-Cook Cooking empowers you to create satisfying meals based on what’s available. Before the pandemic prompted panic buying and disrupted supply chains, people usually planned meals for the week and wrote grocery lists at home before heading out to shop. Then came the phenomenon of empty shelves, which most Americans were encountering for the first time outside of blizzard forecasts. Even the pantry staples you might have counted on for simple go-to meals in emergencies past — spaghetti with jarred sauce, peanut butter sandwiches, canned soups — were cleaned out.
It’s always good to have a few non-meat proteins in your pantry and refrigerator for those weeks when meat isn’t in the butcher’s case or in your budget. And the more comfortable you are with the skills you’ve built during COVID-19’s stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders to put satisfying meals together on short notice, the more you may enjoy branching out and trying new options. After a weeks-long absence, chickpeas seem to be making a comeback on store shelves, making it a good time to try them.
Chickpeas, which often are labeled garbanzo beans, offer not only handy, shelf-stable protein, but also substantial levels of fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B6 and thiamine. They play well with many vegetables, including spinach, carrots, squashes, radishes and onions, and spice profiles from cuisines from Indian to Lebanese to Moroccan. During the summer, while fresh produce is abundant, chickpeas can be the starting point for all kinds of entrees and appetizers.
Appetizers? Absolutely. One of the simplest ways to try chickpeas is right out of the can, drained well and tossed over fresh greens with a sprinkling of feta or blue cheese and your favorite green or black olives.
Roasted chickpeas are almost as easy, and they’re even better on salads. They also make irresistible snacks, especially while they’re warm.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees while you drain a can or two of chickpeas, pat them dry with paper towels or dishtowels, toss them with olive oil and a bit of salt and spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Stir occasionally to make sure they all get crispy and golden, which will take 20 to 30 minutes.
Once you pull the chickpeas out of the oven, the fun begins. While they’re warm is the best time to toss them with seasonings. Curry powder and garam masala are no-brainers. Chili powder and smoked paprika add flavorful heat. Keeping it simple with salt and pepper is delicious, too.
Hummus is another habit-forming way to enjoy chickpeas. The smooth, filling dip, popular from the Middle East to the Midwest, is based on chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and spices. Tahini is sesame seed paste, which is available in grocery stores but pretty simple to make at home if you prefer.
Many popular recipes call for putting tahini and freshly squeezed lemon juice in your blender or food processor and whirling them into a thick, smooth paste before adding drained chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil. Choose spices to suit your own taste; many recipes call for salt, garlic, cumin, pitted olives or pine nuts. Roasted red pepper hummus is a winner, so here’s your excuse to whip up a batch of hummus when you’re firing up the grill.
Slice up some fresh summer veggies and dig in. Dip carrots, zucchini and celery sticks in your hummus, or lightly toast some pita bread and cut it into wedges for scooping. If you’re serving it as part of a Middle Eastern-inspired meal, serve it with pickled radish sticks or slices. If you’re a fan of the combination of salty and sweet, try dipping a seedless green grape in hummus and enjoy. (I discovered that combination by accident when my grapes landed in the hummus on my plate at a summer cookout buffet, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.)
And there’s no need to save hummus for entertaining or special occasions. Hummus also makes a great sandwich filling for pita bread or flatbread; add thinly sliced jalapeno and handfuls of spinach and romaine.
If you didn’t get full on the appetizers already, check out a world of online chickpea recipes for international entrees and side dishes, including chana masala (a chickpea curry) or chickpea daal from Indian cuisine or the many chickpea stews, burgers and salads from Lebanese cuisine. North Africa boasts many chickpea recipes, including leblebi, a traditional chickpea soup, and spicy stews rich with coconut or peanuts.