Smoky Minted Chickpeas and Feta with Kalamata Olives is an easy to fix recipe that will wow a crowd.

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Although they are often relegated to being used as salad toppings and as an ingredient in hummus, high-protein chickpeas, also called garbanzo, deserve more attention.

In Italy, garbanzos are made into the most incredible pancakes called farinata. They are fried in olive oil and wrapped hot in brown paper after being sprinkled with coarse salt.

And I can’t forget the panzelle I enjoyed in the chaotic street markets of Palermo. They look like little squares of polenta until they are lowered into a vat of simmering olive oil where they expand into airy pillows made from chickpea flour. They are placed on a semolina roll, drizzled with fresh lemon juice and dusted with parmesan.

At 2 a.m. in the oldest plaza in Seville, I’ve popped chickpeas in my mouth after they’ve been pan sauteed with garlic and paprika. Now you know what I mean when I talk about their versatility.

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I recall sitting in an ancient fishing village on a Greek island watching the fishermen return to the dock while I spread crushed chickpeas mashed with green olive oil and garlic on crispy farmers’ bread.

I’ve enjoyed them simmered in ceramic tagines in Morocco.

So many unforgettable food memories from such a tiny legume. Here’s a simple recipe for Smoky Minted Chickpeas and Feta With Kalamata Olives that I make when I want to wow a crowd.

Smoky Minted Chickpeas and Feta with Kalamata Olives

Makes 8 to 10 servings

4 cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed well

1 medium tomato, chopped

1/4 cup minced red onions

1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1/3 cup crumbled low-fat feta cheese

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

4 cups field greens or 6 lettuce leaves, optional

1. Combine all ingredients except lettuce in a large mixing bowl; toss with a spoon. Let marinate 15 minutes or refrigerate overnight. Serve as is or over a bed of lettuce leaves or field greens.

Note: You can mix this salad with couscous or serve over a bed of cooked couscous as an entree.

(Steve Petusevsky is a freelance writer in Coral Springs, Fla.)

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