You will find few people more passionate about dried legumes than I. Chickpeas and various lentils and so many beans—black, white, red, butter, cranberry—make up a fair share of my lunches.
Now, in a doomsday hoarding frenzy, along with all the toilet paper, Seattleites are buying dried legumes in irrational quantities. So, you now have seven pounds of chickpeas and lentils. (You saw other people buying lots! You had to get some!) But so often when I talk with people about using dried legumes, they're deeply uncertain. Do you soak them? Generally (you can skip with lentils) and ideally overnight—they’ll cook faster and more evenly. How long do you cook them? Until they're tender, creamy. Legumes of different ages and qualities cook at different speeds. Do you drain them after cooking? Not if you’re making a soup, or rich stewy beans to pour over rice. That cooking liquid is easy to emulsify lots of fat into (which, along with garlic, is beans’ greatest friend).
Make a salad.
Everyone’s had some chickpeas tossed indiscriminately in a chaotic mixed salad. Much like three-bean salad, that's sometimes a good idea, often less so. But lentil salad is, tossed with a mustard vinaigrette, exceptional. Thomas Keller's B0uchon recipe has you covered:
Cook a cup of dried Le Puy lentils (black caviar are nice too) in water with a leek, a carrot, half an onion, a head of garlic, 3 bay leaves, 3 thyme sprigs, and 12 peppercorns (put the last four in a sachet). Cook gently until tender. Drain. Season with salt and a little red wine vinegar. Let cool. Toss with a mustard vinaigrette, minced red onion, parsley, and chives.
Make a puree.
Homemade hummus is excellent and easy. But other beans, especially white beans, make great purees. Toss cooked beans in the blender with roasted garlic, salt, lots of olive oil, and enough cooking liquid to get things moving. Dip things in it.
Roast those chickpeas.
Cook, drain, toss with oil and salt, roast until crisp.
Eat them over toast or rice.
Cook the beans until they’re soft. Sauté some garlic in butter or olive oil or lard. Toss in greens—kale, chard, etc.—until they wilt. Add the beans and cook until the liquid is the consistency of cream. Add more fat, if you like, and a splash of vinegar or hot sauce. Pour over a piece of thick, toasted bread or over cooked rice.
Make the greatest damn soup.
Marcella Hazan’s chickpea soup is, to me, the ur-legume preparation (alongside lentil soup with bacon). I make a batch once a month or so and eat it for lunches. It’s crazy adaptable and nearly all the components are shelf stable. If you nix the stock and parm, the soup’s vegan (add some miso, then). You can also add on: hot paprika, onion, carrot, kale. If you want to add on lots more, try a Moroccan stew. Or swap the olive oil for butter; add curry instead of rosemary and yogurt instead of parmesan—it’s a different soup entirely. But the classic, gently tweaked, does just fine: cheap, super easy, quite sustainable, very nourishing.
1 cup dried chickpeas
5 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed rosemary
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
- Soak the chickpeas overnight.
- Drain and cook in water until tender.
- Sauté the garlic in the oil. Add tomatoes and rosemary. Cook for 20 minutes or so.
- Add the cooked chickpeas (with liquid) and stock. Cook another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Finish with parmesan.
Do you really need that many beans? Layoffs mean unemployment mean food insecurity. Food banks still need food.