A few years ago, when I was just starting out on my quest to dial back meat in our house, one of my daughters walked in the door and said she had a vision: “I think we should have Caesar salad tonight, but instead of chicken, just swap in crispy chickpeas.”
Caesar salad with chicken had long been a favorite in our house, and recently, so had crispy chickpeas, so her suggestion made a lot of sense. I fried up a can of drained, dried garbanzos in oil, then added cayenne, smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and into the salad they went. It was such a success that now, when people ask me for advice on how to transition to vegetarian cooking, one of the first things I tell them is: Make friends with chickpeas, aka garbanzos, gram, ceci, chana. I think of the protein-packed humble legume the way I used to think about chicken — the starting point for dinner. Two more examples…
Antipasto Pizza — Toss chickpeas (completely drained and dried) with broccolini, onions, olive oil, salt and pepper, and pile on to a provolone-mozzarella topped pizza dough. (Add a little bit of Genoa salami if you need to convince any meat-eating hold-outs, including yourself.) Bake at 475°F on a greased cookie sheet (or pizza stone if that’s your thing) until crust gets golden and cheese starts bubbling, about 15 minutes.
Crispy Chickpeas with Yogurt — You can take those same crispy chickpeas from the Caesar salad and make them the star of the plate: just top with yogurt and tamarind sauce and serve with rice. (I would say by now this qualifies as a meal we’ve loved to death in our family.) We’ve also been known to toss spinach or kale in the skillet to up the green factor.
And just like the way I used to gravitate towards chicken recipes in cookbooks, now I flip to the index to look for chickpea-driven ideas first. Case in point: Vasudha Viswanath’s new book The Vegetarian Reset, which is a wonderful global collection of vegan and vegetarian cooking. The chickpea-centric recipes I’ve already dog-eared? Tagine with Lemon-Herb Cauliflower Rice; Paella; Falafel Salad; and the spiced coconut-y stir-fry Sundal which she was kind enough to share with us, below.
From The Vegetarian Reset
Says Vasudha: “Sundal is ‘officially’ part of the Navaratri celebration for many Hindus in South India, but is served on other occasions as well or consumed as a snack. The simple tadka of mustard seeds, green Chile, curry leaves, hing, and coconut instantly elevates this dish. I also suggest serving this as a main, on a bed of greens.”
1 heaping cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, or 2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons avocado oil, or other neutral oil of choice
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds (yellow mustard seeds are less pungent, but will work as a substitute)
2 Indian green chiles, jalapeño peppers, or Thai chiles, chopped
10–15 fresh curry leaves, chopped, or 20–30 whole dried curry leaves, crumbled
½ teaspoon urad dal (black gram, split and skinned; optional)
¼ teaspoon asafoetida (hing, sometimes called yellow powder)
½ cup finely diced onion
1½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon fresh or frozen shredded coconut, or dry unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon lemon juice
If using dried chickpeas, combine them with 3 cups of water in a pressure cooker and cook just until done (about 7 minutes on high in an Instant Pot; quick release pressure after 5 minutes). The beans should be cooked but crunchy. Skip this step if using canned chickpeas.
Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, turn the heat down to medium and add the chiles, curry leaves, urad dal, and asafoetida. Cook until the urad dal turns light golden brown, 1 minute. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, 5–6 minutes. Add the chickpeas and salt, mix well, and cook for 2–3 minutes, until heated through. Do not overcook or they will get mushy.
Turn off the stove, add the coconut and lemon juice, and mix well. Serve hot.