I’ve always thought of my husband as a Midwestern meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, and imagined myself as the spice-loving, healthy vegetarian. But I realized the other day that his favorite meal is meat-free and probably one of the spiciest, most healthful dinners I regularly put on the table: chickpea curry over brown rice.
We have been eating a lot of chickpeas lately. This passion began when we returned from Istanbul having devoured the most delicious chickpea dishes on the planet. The hummus there is silky and smooth and worth licking up. The lemon chickpea soups are refreshing and flavorful. I could go on.
All three of my children like chickpeas. As any parent can appreciate, unearthing a healthful food that pleases everyone is a big boon, so we embrace the chickpea. Hummus is a staple; we make it most weeks. Roasted chickpeas with sea salt and an array of spices are an easy snack. When I am stuck without a dinner plan, a can of chickpeas tossed with olive oil, chopped scallions and sea salt makes a great, protein-rich side dish to anything. Chickpeas lose some of their nutritional value when canned, so if you have the time, soak the dried beans overnight and then simmer for two to three hours.
A few facts about this legume:
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— Chickpeas are high in fiber, iron, vitamins and antioxidants.
— The legume is 20 percent protein, a percentage comparable to meat’s.
— The Latin name for the word chickpea means “small ram” because the legume somewhat resembles a ram’s head. Other names include garbanzo bean and Egyptian pea.
— A Chinese company is attempting to patent chickpea extract as a diabetes medicine because it is shown to lower triglycerides and cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar.
— In some cultures, dried chickpeas are ground as coffee because they have a similarly nutty flavor.
I told my boys that chickpeas are eaten as dessert in some countries, which is true, but they didn’t take the bait. Maybe your kids will?
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 ½ cups thinly cut onion wedges
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons peeled, grated ginger root
¾ teaspoon cumin seed
2 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, with their juices
2 teaspoons garam masala
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed
2 cups water
2 cups cubed Yukon Gold potatoes (½-inch cubes)
5 cups cooked, drained chickpeas (from three 15.5-ounce cans)
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)
1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger, and cook until the garlic starts to brown, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Add the cumin seed, tomatoes, garam masala, turmeric, coriander, salt and water.
3. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes, adjusting the heat so the liquid is barely bubbling.
4. Add the potatoes and chickpeas. Cook until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Season to taste with salt, and stir in the lime juice and cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately, or cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.
NUTRITION: Per serving (based on 6): 330 calories, 14 g protein, 54 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 410 mg sodium, 11 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar
Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company. Look for her posts on the On Parenting blog: washingtonpost.com/onparenting.