Tag Archives: chickpeas

Chickpeas and Pasta

19 Oct

Chickpeas and Pasta

“Just go away.”  I have uttered this often to my teenage students, in a variety of contexts, over the last twelve years since I started teaching high school English. I’ll say it as I attempt to take roll and a student asks me for the fortieth time if they need to skip lines when writing an essay, even though I have a large poster at the front of the room that clearly asserts, “Yes! Skip lines!” I’ll say it as I am but three words away from totally explaining the most impassioned and profound concept, which will alter their lives invariably thereafter, when one kiddo raises his hand and asks if he can go to the bathroom. I’ll say it when everyone is taking a final exam and the antsy, gregarious, loquacious student who finishes first asks me what I’m cooking for dinner that night. Loudly.

But truly, the context in which I most often say “just go away” relates to what they do after high school. I tell them to travel, to get away from their familiar environs, and just go away. You want to see South America? Good! Just go. Castles where knights rose and fell? Go. You want ninjas? Go. Where Napoleon died? Why? Never been to San Francisco? Go. You want to see hot Spanish chicks and dudes? Go. Make it happen and don’t wait.

Usually this is precipitated by me sharing about my backpacking trip around Europe when I was 23, fresh out of college. For two months, my best friend Pat and I went from Ireland, to Spain, to Germany, to Austria, to Czech Republic, to Netherlands, back to Spain, to France, and then home. We partied every night, slept on the floors of trains, saw Europe before it was the EU and before the internet localized the world, partied more, ate stuff that I still can’t identify, and basically changed our lives for good.

Physically, mentally, economically, or realistically, I cannot and will not ever be able to do this type of trip again. It was once in a lifetime, and I try to instill this in my students. “Do it now, kids, because you won’t be able to later. Trust me.” No money? I didn’t have much either. It took me until I was thirty to pay it off, but it was interest well bought. Just get out of town. Just go away.

As usual, I tangentially bring this up because, until that trip to Europe, chickpeas were something I refilled in the salad bar at Straw Hat pizza in my teens, not something I ate knowingly. Amsterdam changed that. Without going into details, I will posit that Amsterdam’s “coffee” shops are intentionally and strategically located next to shwarma and falafel stands (and KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s, for that matter), so patrons succumbing to the munchies have no choice but to belly up to some serious grub on every side of them. They’ve got you by the balls convincingly. Before this time, I had never even heard of falafel, which is ground chickpeas and spices rolled into balls, deep fried, and then served in a pita with veggies and sauces. But after leaving a coffee shop and letting the holy grail of street food create new universes in my expanded mind, I ate them every day for a week. Sublime.

As the Food Network Empire and Darth Rachel came to power, chickpeas (garbanzos, or if you’re a pretentious prick, ceci, pronounced che’-chee) started getting some coverage in a variety of contexts. Unbeknownst to me, “chickpeas and pasta” are an Italian staple all over the boot. Although I personally had never had the dish, Darth Rachel’s scratchy voice assured me that it is “yum-o,” which of course comforts me in the recesses of my mind, Sand People pursuing or not.

In any case, this is a Weight Watcher’s recipe and I took only a few liberties with it. A good-size portion is a mere 7 on the old system (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off frenetically). It’s vegetarian, filling, and good for you. It’s easy as hell to make, too, so it’s a perfect weekday dinner. And you will see that, as you eat this, you will tell people to just go away.

Chickpeas and Pasta

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups serving is an old Weight Watchers 7


4 tsp. olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

3 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly

1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (or a teaspoon dried, I’m guessing)

2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley, divided

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 14 1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 16-oz. can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed well

1/4 tsp. each of salt and freshly ground pepper

1 or 2 zucchini or yellow squash, peeled and made into ribbons (I used the peeler to make thick ribbons, but only shave the meaty parts rather than the seedy parts)

2 cups cooked pasta, like rotini, penne, or ditalini

1/4 cup parmesan

Makin’ It:

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Saute the garlic for a minute and then add the carrots, rosemary, red pepper, and 1 tablespoon o’ the parsley. Saute this for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the tomatoes and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Start cooking the pasta about halfway through this.

Then, add the chickpeas, salt, pepper, and squash.  Simmer this for another 5 minutes, stirring here and there. Add in the pasta, parmesan, and the other tablespoon of parsley. Divide into four bowls and serve. Bob’s your uncle.

Chickpeas and Pasta 7

Now just go away.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013


Chicken and Chickpea Chili that’s Good for You

26 Apr

Weight Watchers Chicken and Chickpea Chili 1

Good ol’ American chili is an art-form.  I quote the famous curmudgeonly sleuth, Nero Wolfe:  “Chili is one of the great peasant foods. It is one of the few contributions America has to world cuisine. Eaten with corn bread, sweet onion, sour cream, it contains all five of the elements deemed essential by the sages of the Orient: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter.” Couldn’t have said it better me-self.

In the States, annual chili cook-offs are a tradition in which almost every American has participated at one time or another.  I don’t know any American who doesn’t love a kick-ass bowl o’ chili. To boot, any given family’s chili recipe is secret, kept hidden but to a privileged few of the succeeding generations, to be passed on thereafter in covert meetings by the stove on an autumn day to worthy kin. Chili is diverse in its content in that it can contain any meat imaginable, or no meat; lots o’ beans, or no beans; veggies galore, or simply meat and sauce.  In essence, it represents America even more than the hamburger; chili can be any color, any personality, and created by any culture or creed, and we will accept it, love it, and welcome it into our homes and our lives. That’s why I love chili, and that’s why I love that I’m American.

Funnily enough, my family doesn’t have a chili recipe.  In fact, I don’t even have a “this is my chili” recipe, which kind of bums me out.  I keep working at it, though, and when I hit on one that reflects me, I will start there, tweak and revise, and eventually post it here.  But that doesn’t mean I haven’t made some good chili along the way.  This Chicken and Chickpea Chili recipe will make the insides of your thighs tingle.  Is it you exactly?  Maybe, maybe not.  You have to make it you, of course.

A few years back,  I got the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook as a housewarming present (with a message about how my weight loss is inspiring, no less (aw shucks)), and I have used it fairly often since then. This recipe is in there. I did take a few liberties with it, of course, but not enough to alter the points.  1 1/2 cups of it is an 8 on the old Weight Watchers system (Points Plus and 360° can both fuck off profoundly).  Check out that it has cocoa powder; you’ll be surprised at how much it heightens the flavor. Moreover, it doesn’t take too long, in terms of chili. You have to find a cornbread recipe that will limit the points, of course, but the chili on its own is good enough.

Chicken and Chickpea Chili

Serves 4, 1 1/2 cups for each serving


4 tsp. olive oil

1 bell pepper, any color, seeded, membranes removed, and diced

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 medium red onion, diced

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3/4 lb. or so), diced

1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. chili powder

1 tbsp. ground cumin

1 heaping tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional and dependent on your love of heat)

1 can diced green chilies

1 28 oz. can crushed tomato

1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (or thereabouts)

1/2 cup chicken broth (low sodium and no fat would be best for WW)

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

a few dashes o’  hot sauce, like Tabasco (optional)

1 15 oz. can (or so) chickpeas (garbanzos, drained and rinsed)

1 15 oz. can (or so) pinto beans (drained and rinsed)

Makin It:

In a dutch oven (translation: pot), heat the oil over medium to medium high heat. Add the bell pepper, celery, and onions.  Saute them until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the diced chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 7 minutes.

Sprinkle this with the flour, chili powder, cocoa powder, and cayenne and stir this constantly for a minute.  Add in the chilies, tomatoes, broth, vinegar, and hot sauce, if using.  Bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer it for 30 to 40 minutes uncovered, stirring fairly frequently, until it’s thickened to your liking (hehe).

Next, stir in the chickpeas and pinto beans.  Simmer until it’s heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve in bowls with corn bread or alone.  Pass the low-fat sour cream and sing the National Anthem with gusto, kiddos.

Weight Watchers Chicken and Chickpea Chili

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013