By Steve Petusevsky
Director of Culinary Innovation
Native Foods Cafe
Native Foods uses this image courtesy of eatandrelish.com
Although they are often relegated to being used as salad toppings and as an ingredient in hummus, high-protein chickpeas deserve more attention.
Also called the garbanzo (Spanish), bengal gram (Indian), hummus (Hebrew), hamaz(Arabic) and Cicer Arietinum (Latin, botanical), this legume can find its way into soups, stews and even breads and pizzas.
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.
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 versatilility.
I even 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.