It’s not that I don’t like baked beans with their tangy sauce and smoky drippings from the burnt ends — summer, please hurry up — but it seems unfair to me that navy beans have all the fun. Where are the black-eyed beans, gigantes, and baked kidneys? When it comes to flavors, you can do anything. I want red beans baked in a large casserole and served with tortilla chips. I want braised white beans with Catalan tomato bread and baked black beans on top of tostones. I also wish for the dinner we had last night, which was delicious.
It may not seem like it, but I failed to get far in trying to break myself of my obsession with all things Tex Mex — tortilla, fajita, and quesadilla. After I topped my chickpeas with Middle Eastern spices and added a tomato-cucumber-pepper salad, well-toasted pin nuts, hot sauce, and a fistful of chopped parsley to the oven-crisped chips, I realized that I had made Middle Eastern Nachos. I’m not at all sorry.
This was one of the best meals we’ve had in years. I can’t help but gush about it, and I am so happy I made an extra pound of beans so we could have some more tonight. This was the vegetarian (and vegan if you leave out the yogurt) meal you forgot about because it was so incidental. Letting people pile on the ingredients as they please is fun and playful. It was a perfect meal for bridging the winter’s heavy food with lighter foods. Please, more of this.
Baked Chickpeas With Pita Chips And Yogurt
Amanda Hesser, a Basque cookbook author, shared a recipe for baked chickpeas with the New York Times in 1999. (Yes, I am old). The Times’ Cooking section relaunched last fall, and I had forgotten the recipe. I was surprised by the requirement for saffron, which is expensive and would likely prevent most people from making it. I started thinking of other cultures and flavors that could be used and ended up in the Middle East. It’s not the only time I’ve made something I later realized was already a recipe, namely fatteh.
Note: You can use gluten-free pitas or wraps to make it gluten-free. If you want to make it vegan or dairy free, leave out the yogurt and make a lemon tahini-based sauce. You can thin it with water once you have the right amount of lemon.
Serves six generously, if eaten nacho-style
Chickpeas1lb dried chickpeas or 415-ounce cans of cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup olive oil
Two medium yellow onions halved, thinly sliced
Three cloves of minced garlic, purged and peeled
Cumin 2 teaspoons, ground
Two teaspoons of ground coriander
One teaspoon of sumac or paprika
Half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a spoonful of harissa, or 1-2 shakes of hot sauce of your choice (all according to your preferred heat level)
Few gratings fresh lemon zest
Use more salt for unseasoned broth and less for canned or salted beans.
For cooked chickpeas, use 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth instead of 4 cups for dried chickpeas.
If you haven’t presoaked the beans, 1 cup of water or more will be needed.
Pita chips made with fresh pitas
A big handful of parsley is good (or you can mix parsley with cilantro, mint, and other herbs).
Pine nuts – 1/4 cup
Salad of tomato-cucumber “relish
Lemon-tahini or plain yogurt
Sprinkle with additional paprika, sumac or both
Soak chickpeas before cooking: Is it necessary to soak dried beans? Nope, no, nope. It will reduce the cooking time and make this a weeknight meal that can be made in one hour. If you plan, you can soak the potatoes in a large amount of water, at room temperature, for 24 hours. You don’t have the time to soak them for 24 hours? I washed my for 3 hours. Based on the soaking time, I will estimate my final cooking times. Are you using canned beans? This step can be skipped.
Prepare chickpeas. Preheat oven to 375degF. Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in a heavy, large pot, such as a Dutch Oven (mine was four quarts – a perfect size). Add the onions and cook them for 5 minutes until they soften. Sauté garlic and onions for 3 to 4 minutes or until they are wilted. Spices, zest, and salt can be added to onions and garlic and cooked for one minute. Add chickpeas, soaked and drained or canned.
For already cooked or canned Chickpeas, 1 1/2 cups of broth
For dried chickpeas soaked in broth: 4 cups
For dried chickpeas that haven’t been soaked yet: Start with 4 cups of broth and 1 cup of water.
Bring mixture to a boil, and let it cook for a full minute. Put the lid on the pot and carefully transfer it to the oven.
Bake chickpeas. Keep in mind that cooking beans don’t have to be a science. The amount of liquid and cooking time needed will depend on the type of chickpeas, their age, freshness, and softness. These estimates are based on my own experience.
Bake chickpeas that are already cooked or in a can for 15 minutes
For dried chickpeas that have been soaked, bake them for 45 to 75 minutes.
For dried chickpeas that have not been soaked, bake them for one hour and 30 minutes. However, you should check every 10 to 15 minutes after 50 minutes to see if they need more liquid or longer cooking time.