Garbanzos get it going

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By Betsy Gazo


Saturday, June 21, 2014

THE chickpea or garbanzo is a staple feature in our kitchen cupboards. The bean is ever present in our Pinoy fiesta food callos and caldereta, and sweetened in halo-halo.

But garbanzo (Cicer arietinum) is presented in our dishes only as a garnish for meats and not in significant amounts. The legume is high in protein and is an excellent source of manganese, molybdenum, iron, folate, and is a good source of phosphorus and copper. It is low in fat, too, with most of this in polyunsaturated form.

In India where chickpea is a popular ingredient in many an Indian dish, chickpea flour or gram flour features a lot even as a dessert e.g. besan ladoo (sweet chickpea flour balls with cashew and raisins) and besan halwa which has milk and ground cardamom and is served in squares.


The garbanzo was widely cultivated also in the early times in the Mediterranean area so it is no surprise to have the Iberian Peninsula produce dishes with garbanzos - bacalhau, tapas, salads and soups, the callos con manos de cerdo and the caldereta de cordero in the Extremaduran cuisine of Extremadura, Spain.

Healthy chickpeas contain antioxidant phytonutrients and are believed to lower our LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in a month if even just ¾ of a cup is eaten every day.

Also, taking half a cup of chickpeas daily helps control blood sugar levels in as short as a week’s time. This could be because of better digestive function.

A welcome after-effect of eating chickpeas and other legumes is that one always wins the “Game of Thrones” when nature calls.
The insoluble fiber lowers risks of colon problems by passing through our digestive tract unchanged. More insoluble fiber means a lesser chance of getting colon cancer. Per cup, garbanzos provide 50% of the daily value of fiber. The dietary fibers in garbanzos give a sense of fullness to the diner and, in effect, help with weight management, too. At 270 calories a cup, even eating much allows one to leave the table guilt-free.

One old tapas recipe I so enjoy cooking at home is easy to cook with canned chickpeas:

1. Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a thick saucepan.
2. Toast chopped garlic and Spanish paprika in the oil.
3. Sauté cubed tomatoes until soft, pour in a third of the liquid from the can, add drained chickpeas and simmer until liquid is reduced to a sauce. Season with salt.
4. For some sizzle, drizzle hot sauce to taste during the sautéing part.

You can eat this as a snack, over rice, or with bread to sop up the sauce.

One favorite chickpea recipe, of course, is that Middle Eastern dip hummus made of pureed chickpea, olive oil, tahini or sesame paste, garlic and lemon juice. This is served with wedges of unleavened bread for scooping up the dip and is good accompanied with whole green olives.

Vegetarians will also find a friend in one of the most nutritious leguminous seeds. Protein fixes can be obtained from plant sources and, with chickpeas’ versatility, many dishes can be prepared, including— believe it or not— coffee substitute.

Here’s a soup recipe that is perfect for the cold rainy season and requires few ingredients that are easily available in our city.

I share Martha Stewart’s Chickpea Soup with Parsley and Parmesan:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat.
2. Add 5 cloves of very thinly sliced garlic and a pinch of red-pepper flakes.
3. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
4. Cook until oil is infused and garlic is about to color (around 2 to 3 minutes).
5. Transfer garlic chips to a plate.
6. Add 2 cans drained and rinsed chickpeas into the pot and increase heat to medium-high, and cook until thoroughly heated and creamy, about 5 minutes.
7. Smash some with the back of a wooden spoon.
8. Add 4 cups of chicken broth and 1 cup water; simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
9. Season with salt and pepper.
10. Divide the soup among 4 bowls. Top with coarsely chopped parsley, finely shredded Parmesan, and garlic chips.
11. Drizzle with olive oil and serve while hot with toasts.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 21, 2014.


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