This usually means summer is also salad season, but while I love me a good salad every now and then (heyyy Harvest Bowl @ Sweetgreen), sometimes I want something a little more substantial than your normal bowl of greens. For me, that means looking at how to incorporate plant based protein and veggies into my diet that require minimal cooking. I’ve turned to chickpeas as one of my go-to sources of summer protein as a result. Not only are they quick and easy to prepare, but they are also cheap, protein and fiber packed, and easy to dress up and flavour every which way you want. Sounds good, no?
Let’s dive in
Chickpeas go by a few names, including garbanzo beans and Egyptian peas, but they all are legumes like other familiar foods, including peanuts, soybeans, lentils, and other beans. They look like small, light blond spheres with a thin, edible “skin” which sometimes separates during cooking. Fun fact, chickpeas are probably one of the earliest cultivated legumes as well, with a history of human cultivation going back over 7,500 years.
Mostly associated with Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, chickpeas are extremely versatile and can be prepared in seemingly endless ways. They can be ground and turned into flour, pureed into spreads like hummus, cooked whole in stews and curries, and roasted until crisp into tasty, poppable snacks. In addition to their versatility, their popularity also likely stems from being extremely nutrition packed - full of fiber and protein as well as many vitamins like folate and iron.
There are two forms of chickpeas you will probably see in your local supermarket - dried or canned. Like I mentioned earlier, the most common names they go by are chickpeas or garbanzo beans, but no matter the name they are labeled with, they are all the same thing.
I’m partial to the canned variety of chickpeas since they are already fully cooked and can be just drained, rinsed, and eaten or added to dishes ASAP. Dried chickpeas are often a little cheaper and sold alongside other dried beans. They will keep almost until the end of time in their dried form too, but you will need to soak and cook your beans before you can eat them. For me, I’d gladly trade the multi-hour soak and cook time for the convenience of opening a can.
You will find chickpeas from many brands (including some fancy artisanal ones), but I have yet to find too much of a difference aside from some fancy, pricier brands having slightly larger peas on average. A tip in case you find that your store runs out of canned chickpeas or only has the expensive varieties left, a trick that I often use is to check the international or Latin section of the grocery store and buy Goya brand - usually people forget it’s there and it’s cheaper than artisan brands.
I’m not going to go into depth on the countless ways to prepare chickpeas. Like I mentioned earlier, you can make hummus, add them to curries, roast them, and more, so instead I’ll focus on how you can use them simply as they are right out of a can.
Canned chickpeas are ready to use in 2 easy steps:
- Open and drain the chickpeas of the canning liquid
- Rinse with fresh running water and drain
What you have are fully cooked, ready to eat, tender and creamy chickpeas that can be used as the star or supporting actor in many dishes. For a summertime recipe where the chickpea can play a star role, I like to make a riff on an autumn time favorite and prepare a Summertime Succotash.
A regular succotash is a warm veggie dish featuring corn, beans, and occasionally other vegetables like carrots or bell peppers. To make this summertime version, we don’t cook the vegetables and instead, let their freshness and natural sweetness shine and accent it with a light vinaigrette and fresh herbs. This dish is easy to scale up for larger group dinners or potlucks and packs well for picnics. On its own, it’s a hearty side or light entree with some bread. I like to serve it with pan seared or grilled fish and crusty bread to soak up and not waste any of the dressing.
The most time consuming part of this dish is the chopping and prep of the vegetables. You want all the pieces to be roughly the same size and so it can be easily scooped by a serving spoon. Wait to dress the salad until about 10-15 minutes before serving.
Serves 4-6 as a hearty side
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 zucchini - chopped into ½ inch cubes
- 1 pint mixed cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 ears of fresh sweet corn, kernels cut off (watch how here)
- 1 bunch basil (8-10 leaves), chiffonaded (see how here)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard (or to taste)
- Salt and pepper
- Prepare all the vegetables and add them to a large mixing bowl. Remember, we want all the pieces to be roughly the same time - about the size of 1 chickpea!
- Cover and refrigerate vegetables until ready to use
- About 10-15 minutes before serving, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients until fully emulsified. Add to the vegetables and mix thoroughly
- Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes covered.
- Stir one more time and taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Serve cool or room temperature. Enjoy!
Pairs well with: a nice chilled pinot grigio, rosé, or refreshing crisp wine.