If you’re looking for a low-cost, versatile, shelf-stable protein that diners will actually want to eat, look no further than the chickpea. Back when they were called garbanzo beans, chickpeas were limited to languishing behind the sneeze shield at salad bars and making an occasional appearance in falafel. These days, they’re an in-demand ingredient for many appetizers, entrées, specialty flours and even desserts.
Flipping for chickpeas
“These legumes are grown across the globe and are used in just about every world cuisine,” says Marilyn Sarasqueta, Account Coordinator for California Beans, a website of the California Dry Beans Advisory Board. “You can find chickpea recipes in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Greek, Indian, Spanish and Portuguese cuisines, to name just a few. They pack a nutritional wallop, too, and they’re a low-fat, high-fiber, heart-healthy protein.” From a sustainability standpoint, chickpeas are a great menu option for customers seeing to make the “protein flip,” a movement to reduce consumption of red meat to a few ounces per week and switch to other animal and plant proteins with a smaller environmental footprint.
Aquafaba to the rescue
Indiana software engineer and vegan Goose Wohlt gets credit for the term “aquafaba,” which refers to the method of making meringue from the liquid that’s usually discarded from cans of beans and other legumes, such as chickpeas. It’s turning up as an egg substitute in baking, a thickener for soups and stews and as a foamy topping for many dishes. Chefs, both vegan and traditional, are experimenting with its ability to bind, emulsify, foam, gelatinize and thicken. There are more than 60,000 members of an aquafaba Facebook group that shares recipes and techniques.
From apps to desserts
Dry roasted, salted and seasoned, whole chickpeas are a wonderfully warm amuse bouche, bar snack or appetizer. For entrées, they’re a hearty addition to soups, stews, pastas and paella. As a puree, they can be used in baked goods like brownies or cookie dough to cut fat and boost fiber.
“I make my own chickpea flour by grinding dry chickpeas in my Vitamix,” Sarasqueta says. The flour adds both nuttiness and sweetness to recipes when used to substitute up to one-fourth of all-purpose or bread flour in recipes. Sarasqueta uses her chickpea flour for a variety of baking projects, from pancakes to banana bread.
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