I’m smitten. I’ve been experimenting with chickpeas ever since obtaining a supply from Alvarez Farms in October, and the possibilities would seem endless. More than what one can coax from the average legume, anyway, and not just because this one has two proper names, the garbanzo bean being its alter identity.

The wide selection of eats that involve chickpeas has something to do with just how well chickpea flesh pairs with various herbs and spices. Beans are traditionally said to partner with summer or winter savory, an herb towards which I have feelings of relative contempt. Chickpeas range more broadly. In recipes we’ve tried recently, they pair nicely with basil and cilantro for salads, parsley for falafel and hummus, with ginger or chilies in Moroccan stews, with fried sage over pasta, and crisped with rosemary. Surely the French do something with chickpeas and thyme.

And then there’s the whole chickpea and pork situation. A friend loves them cooked down with leeks and bacon. Me, I think they’re most deluxe stewed with pork ribs, sausage, and paprika.

For all I know, they’re probably good for you too. Who’s counting the pork?

Recipe: Crispy Chickpeas

1 cup canned or cooked chickpeas / 2 tbls olive oil / ½ tsp salt / ground black pepper to taste / 1 tbls minced fresh rosemary

Drain chickpeas well. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over high heat. When hot, add chickpeas and toss with salt. Cook on high heat for 6-8 minutes, until skins are crispy and starting to brown. Add pepper and rosemary, toss, and serve as an appetizer. Adapted from Jerry Traunfeld.

Recipe: Cocido with Pork Ribs and Chickpeas

2 cups dried chickpeas / 2 lbs pork ribs / ½ lb brined pork belly or slab bacon / ½ lb chorizo / 6 cups stock or water / 1 onion, halved / 1 carrot, halved / 1 clove garlic / 2 tbls fresh thyme leaves / 1 tsp paprika / 1 bay laurel leaf

The night before, soak chickpeas in ample cold water until you’re ready to cook. Separate rib rack into individual ribs and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cut pork belly into half-inch dice. Heat large heavy stew pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add vegetable oil or lard and swirl to coat pan. Add ribs and pork belly in a single layer and brown deeply, about 5 minutes per side, then remove from pot. Continue until all meats are browned.

Pour out rendered fat and reserve for another use if you wish. Turn heat up to high. Add the chickpeas and browned meats plus all remaining ingredients except chorizo. Add stock, scraping up brown bits on the bottom. Liquid should cover ingredients; add water if it doesn’t. Turn heat down to low, cover, and cook for two hours. Add sausages and cook with the lid ajar for another 45 minutes or so, until meat is falling off the ribs. Remove onion, carrot, and garlic cloves and puree in a food processor. Return mixture to pot. Sauce should be slightly thickened. Remove bay leaf and serve over rice. Feeds 6-8.

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