Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Little Chickpea

Names matter.  Ceci bean, chana, Bengal gram ... whatever you call it, it's the same basic legume.  But you can make it sound more appetizing by using the proper term.  "Garbanzo bean" sounds too much like "garbage bean" or "gonzo bean" ... not yummy.  But "chickpea"?  Could anything be more adorable?

I love chickpeas.  We toss them into salads and soups, whir them with some lemon juice and olive oil for hummus, and roast them with spices for a tasty snack.  They are one of the few staples of our pantry (along with canned tomatoes, vegetable bullion, dried pasta, and rice).

Needless to say, I was intrigued by the chickpea cutlet recipe I found in Isa Moskowitz and Terry Romero's  Veganomicon.  They promised something akin to a chicken cutlet, full of protein and versatile.  In the end, I tweaked the original recipe quite a bit to get a texture (and a calorie count) that I liked.  The resulting product isn't quite as chewy as seitan (or real chicken), but it's moist and just flavorful enough to be tasty on its own.  It's even better smothered with marinara and cheese, served with pasta or on a hoagie roll.  (It has a "fried" feeling to it, even though it's baked with little oil, and it's firm enough to stand up to serious sauce.)

In this recipe, the lowly chickpea takes two forms:  the more regular canned bean and the flour made from grinding the dried legume.  If you're nervous about investing in a whole bag of chickpea flour (because, seriously, it's not something most people use every day), never fear:  go to your nearest natural food co-op, and you're likely to find it in the bulk food section.  In fact, you'll probably find vital wheat gluten there, too (but that's a more common ingredient - excellent for giving loft to whole grain breads - so go ahead and get a whole box of the stuff).

Chickpea Cutlets a la Watson

Baked Cutlets
1 cup of drained/rinsed canned chickpeas
1/4 c. chickpea flour
1/4 c. vital wheat gluten
1 Tbs. olive oil (plus a little more for misting or brushing)
1/3 c. vegetable broth
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 ts. ground sage
1/2 c. whole wheat (or regular) bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375.  Spray a cookie sheet with olive oil or non-stick spray or line it with parchment.

Mash chick peas with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon until all are broken (you don't want a paste, but definitely break them up a bit).  Add the remaining ingredients, mixing as much as you can with a spoon before kneading a few minutes with your hands.

Pull the dough apart into 6 - 8 pieces.  Flatten each ball of dough between your hands until it's about the size of the palm of your hand.  Set the cutlets on the cookie sheet and mist (or brush) with olive oil.

Bake 20 minutes, flip, and bake another 10 minutes.



Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook. She also writes the Pet Boutique Mysteries under the name Annie Knox; you can follow Annie on Facebook, too!


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  1. What a powerful pack of protein from a little chickpea. Great vegetarian alternative, Wendy!


  2. Perfect timing! Our Master Chef accidentally opened a can of chickpeas last night (he thought he had a can of canola beans). Now he has a new recipe to try. THANKS!

  3. I'm a big fan of chickpeas, even when they're called Garbanzo Beans. Funny, I always thought Garbanzo sounded like a cute comic character.

    I don't use them as much as I would like because I never have any brilliant ideas about what to do with them. I like this a lot. It would make a nice side dish, too.

    ~ Krista

  4. I love chickpeas! But I'm like Krista--I never really know what to do with them! This sounds like a healthy and tasty alternative.