Ode to the Chickpea

hummus-2I’m crazy about the humble chickpea. 

This pallid orb, AKA  garbanzo bean, was once relegated to a lonely container nestled in ice on a salad bar.  But no more. 

Now, hummus is the new salsa.  And the chickpea is the new superfood.


Several recent studies suggest this pale legume deserves the limelight.  Packed with fiber, protein, folate and hard-working phytonutrients, chickpeas have a lot to brag about.

Australian researchers found that a chickpea-heavy diet helped bring down blood cholesterol levels, including LDL or “bad” cholesterol.   Even more recently, the same group of Aussies found that chickpeas helped with glycemic control and insulin resistance — which may be valuable in the prevention and management of diabetes.  Other studies suggest chickpeas can tame your appetite (boost satiety) and could even help trim your waistline — OK, that study was with rats, but still!

Beans are a lowfat alternative to meat, so making a substitution could be beneficial.  After all, beans are officially part of the “meat and beans” group in the food pyramid.  And they also count as a vegetable.  In fact, beans are the only food that can do double duty.  They belong to both food groups. Dietary guidelines recommend 3 cups of beans per week — but most people need to triple the amount of beans they eat to achieve this level.  Certainly, hummus is a good place to start.

Here’s the most perfect bowl of hummus we enjoyed this summer in Lebanon.  Even though it’s easier than ever to find prepared hummus in most supermarkets today, there’s nothing like making it yourself.

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Hummus Recipe

4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
2 16-oz. cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup tahini, well stirred
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
water (as needed)
1 teaspoon salt
Optional garnish:  whole chickpeas, toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley, paprika, cumin or sumac

Combine all of the ingredients except the water and garnish in a food processor and process until smooth. Add water to thin hummus to the desired consistency (about 1/2 cup).  Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with additional olive oil to keep the hummus from crusting, and add garnish. Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with pita chips.

My Lebanese mother-in-law will boil the canned chickpeas first to soften and get rid of the thin skin on the bean (to make for a really creamy hummus), but I tend to skip this step.  You also can rub the chickpeas with your fingers until the skins come off. My husband often prefers a version without tahini that’s called balila hummus (although he refers to it as hummus “unplugged”).

Even though we like the plain garlic/lemony version best, we will often experiment by adding different ingredients  including canned chipotle in sauce, roasted red peppers, chopped jalapeno, olives, cilantro or pomegranate molasses. Check out this hummus recipe from Joylicious that’s simply garnished with paprika and whole chickpeas.

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