The Life of a Chickpea

The life of a chickpea in our shop.

The chickpea is a majestic little nugget. It is compact, beautifully curved like a cute little butt, and it is able to be eaten in many many forms. Hummus, falafel, chickpea salad… those are just a few.

Fresh chickpeas are used in salads (recipe here), eaten drizzled with olive oil and salt, and even roasted and dusted in spices for snacking.

So what happens between the time it is green and crunchy and the time it is hummus and falafel in your sandwich? LOTS!

The chickpeas closest to us are grown in Canada and Mexico. Yes, there are some grown locally, but the big farms of chickpeas are just over our borders.

There are several types of chickpeas, and we have chosen to use the Kabuli chickpea.  “All hail the Kabuli Chickpea!” (chanting in the background) It comes to us dried, looking a little like our grandmother. And, like her, it has shrunk from its more plump self… and could use some hydration.

So, we soak them overnight, in a chilly bath. Ok – so grandma might not like that treatment. But the Kabuli Chickpea loves it. It likes it cold and wet, and it absorbs all that lovely water, and emerges in the morning a beautiful picture of its former self, glistening in the sun, waiting to be—oh. Crushed.

Ok — so here is the part where it gets ugly for the little chickpea. We’re going to smack it around a little, to get it ready for you. Does that make us the ‘fluffer’ of the chickpea experience? Maybe. But we’ll own it.

Let’s get it on.

First, we rinse the chickpeas again. Because everyone needs a second bath. And because you want the glorious taste of the chickpea to ring through. (the first washing removes dirt, the second when the chickpeas are soft will remove the impurities)

Then, we decide: will this group of victims become hummus? Or falafel?  If they are going to become hummus, they will be smooth operators… silky, full, tasting like the whipped luxurious heaven that they represent. But if they are going to become falafel, then they will become spicy, rough, party-balls of deliciousness that will crunch on the outside, and be steamily fragrant on the inside! Which to be?!?

Ok – let’s go hummus first!

We are going to throw the chickpeas mercilessly into the blender and start the pulverization!  We will keep blending until we have converted these pretties into a smooth paste…and we will be adding some ice to cool them down, and some tahini to hold them together (some humpty-dumpty-glue, because we have crushed them to pieces), and some garlic and lemon juice and salt that we also tortured in a grinder…blending, blending, blending… but nothing complicated. Oooooh… hummus has appeared!

Look at the silkiness as you dollop it on the plate, and drizzle with a little olive oil and pine nuts! YUM!

But you wanted to know what we did to the chickpeas that have been designated for the falafel? Ah… their tale was much different.  We spend a lot of time working with these chickpeas. We grow close to them. No, we don’t name them. We know better.

Ok – all kidding aside… we do spend a lot of time with the chickpeas that go into the falafel.  We take the freshly soaked chickpeas and set them aside while we chop up the veggies that will go with them: parsley, onions, garlic, and the spice mix we have developed over the years, which includes cumin, coriander, red pepper, salt and more…

Once we have everything ready, we get the grinder out, and start to feed the chickpeas and veggies through it together, so that the mixture coming out is deliciously blended!  Yes, the chickpeas don’t like this part so much, but we think they need a change, so this is the way we roll.

Then we mix in all the seasonings, and make sure it is all evenly distributed. Once it is all mixed, we put it into containers, and place it in the fridge for 24 hours.  It is important to let the spices soak in to allow the blooming of the flavors in the ground falafel.

Once it is ready, take the falafel from the fridge: we are ready to work together again! The falafel mix is formed into little ‘balls’ with a falafel tool, so we can drop them into the hot oil of the fryers.  Yes, this is the moment. This is when you make sure they come out perfectly… crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, steaming when you crack them open! Nom nom nom.

But we are not done. Because now that you have prepared them for the world, they must get all dressed up.  Some of the original chickpeas who went into the hummus business are rejoining their brother-chickpeas now as hummus smeared on the inside of the pita in which the falafel balls will also reside.  And now the artist in you takes over.  Dressing up the sandwich you are creating is the fun part. Scoops of cold-cucumber salad, pickled beets, fresh tomatoes, hot sauces and fragrant pickles adorn the beautiful falafel balls nestled on their bed of hummus.

And now to eat it. Oh, wait. You have to make your own first! (I am eating one here! See?…)

Falafel sandwich

Falafel sandwich

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