Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Garbanzos: More Than Salad-Bar Sprinkles

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Garbanzos: More Than Salad-Bar Sprinkles

Article excerpt

FEW INGREDIENTS taste good straight out of a can, but garbanzo beans are an outstanding exception. Their firm, pleasant texture and nutty flavor keep well, and they don't get mushy or fall apart when reheated in a sauce.

To many people, garbanzo beans are known as chickpeas. Regardless of what we call these nutrient-rich legumes, they should be remembered by anyone who is looking for easy ways to add interest and variety to menus.

Everyday dishes gain a new twist and become more substantial if you add a can of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans. I use them as a tasty addition to a simple chopped salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. They make a savory complement for pasta, too. For a quick, colorful dish, cook spiral pasta with broccoli florets and drain. Add garbanzo beans and season the melange with olive oil, salt and cayenne pepper.

The beans can easily become a hearty casserole. For example, you can simmer them in tomato sauce spiked with cumin and garlic. Serve this satisfying dish with couscous or rice for a terrific vegetarian entree.

What makes garbanzo beans so valuable as a meatless main course is that they are rich in protein yet low in fat and cholesterol. They are a good source of fiber, iron and folacin and contain calcium as well.

They are also a classic partner for meat and poultry. The Spanish add them to rustic meat and vegetable soup-stews called cocidos. In India, the Middle East and parts of Latin America, garbanzo bean stews are time-honored favorites. People in southern France like them too, and so do the Italians. I had a memorable dish in Florence that was simply a poached fish steak with garbanzo beans, both sprinkled with a flavorful extra virgin olive oil.

It's easy to find the canned variety in supermarkets, and low-salt brands are also available. Dried garbanzo beans are sold in health food stores and in many ethnic grocery stores, sometimes in several sizes.

I like to prepare this colorful Provencal salad for potluck dinners and cooking classes, and it is always popular. You can prepare it ahead, but add the lemon juice at the last minute. Otherwise, the acid will cause the green beans to lose their bright color. GREEN BEAN AND GARBANZO SALAD WITH TOMATOES AND OLIVES

3/4 pound green beans, ends removed, broken in half

Salt

4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 large onion, cut into thin slices

1 (15- to 16-ounce) can garbanzo beans or 2 cups cooked, drained (see recipe)

1/2 pound ripe tomatoes, diced

1/3 to 1/2 cup black olives, halved and pitted

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil or 2 to 3 teaspoons dried basil, crumbled

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Freshly ground black pepper

Cook green beans, uncovered, in large saucepan of boiling salted water over high heat until tender-crisp, 6 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water and drain well.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in medium skillet over medium-low heat. …

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