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Spicy Roasted Chickpeas, 2 Decades in Waiting

Posted Jun 10 2009 9:27pm
Today, I ate roasted chickpeas. It's something I've waited two decades to try.

I have known about roasted chickpeas since I was seven years old. I was obsessed with the All of a Kind Family series of books by Sydney Taylor and Helen John; they are the Jewish, New York City-based, early 20th century equivalent of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I couldn't get enough, and re-read each volume several times over.

All of the five daughters' adventures--laundry days, visits to the NYC public library, swimming at Coney Island-- mesmerized me, but it was the vivid descriptions of the food, including the rituals for making, serving, celebrating, and eating it, that hooked me. I was dazzled by sizzling latkes, cinnamon babkes, chicken soup with matzoh dumplings (made with the chicken mama plucked herself), and animal crackers, gingersnaps, and lemon drops in waxed bags from the neighborhood 5 & dime. I was ready for Passover, Hanukkah, and a move to New York.

One of the nibbles that piqued my interest in particular was roasted chickpeas. In the first volume of the series, the girls are granted a special treat: a visit to the food markets for the weekly shopping. Along the way, the youngest daughter clamors for one of her favorite treats, sold by a street monger: roasted, salted chickpeas, scooped warm into a paper cone. She shares some with her sisters, and they swoon over the tender-crunchy, nutty-salty flavor.

But what on earth are chickpeas, I wondered? I asked my mother.

"It's another word for garbanzo beans," she informed me.

Oh. Hmm. I knew garbanzo beans. They were a regular feature in soups and salads at our house. I liked them as much as I liked any bean, but there was the rub: they were just beans. Why would anyone agitate for a cone full of beans?

Two decades later, I have the answer. I stumbled across a basic recipe for roasted chickpeas in the midst of cleaning out my cookbook collection a few weeks ago. Chickpeas, olive oil, salt, a brief spell in a hot oven...it sounded deceptively simple. But what the heck, it would be an inexpensive experiment.

Oh. My. Goodness. Crunchy, hearty, healthy, and cheap to boot. The All of Kind Family clamor was clarified in the first nibble. I have found a new life-long snack. Do give them a try. I'm off to work on paper cone construction for my next batch.

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

After making a few batches, I want to stress how important it is to pat dry the chickpeas after draining and rinsing them; the goal is to get a good crunch to the chickpeas, and they will not achieve it if they are damp.

1 15-ounce can chickpeas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon spice of your choice (I am keen on curry powder, chipotle chile powder or garam masala)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Transfer to a large dry dish towel and pat dry.

In a medium bowl toss the chickpeas with the olive oil, salt and spices of your choice. Toss to coat, then spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.

Roast for 34-38 minutes, checking them frequently in the last 10 minutes (you want them crunchy, not burnt :)). Makes about 1 and 1/2 cups.
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