Chickpeas with Orange, Lemon and Squash

There are countless variations of slow-cooked chickpeas all over the Mediterranean. Most are vegetarian, like this one, inspired by a dish Stelios Tylirakis prepares in his wood-fired oven at Dounias tavern, high in the mountains above Chania, Crete.

In Crete chickpeas are commonly flavored with bitter (Seville) orange, while in most other islands lemon is used. I think orange peel is a wonderful substitute for the bitter orange, along with some lemon juice. This simple chickpea dish, like the one without squash, should be made with the best quality, preferably organic dried chickpeas, not the canned ones. Their flavor is so much more interesting. 

I add mustard, something I learned from my mother who claimed that it made all pulses more digestible. I’m not sure it does, but it certainly deepens the flavor of the beans and chickpeas.

 

I start describing the long, old fashioned oven-cooked method, and then I add my way of making the dish fast, with pre-cooked, frozen chickpeas without losing its original flavor and texture –by the way I, as most Greeks, like the chickpeas meltingly tender, somewhat mushy, not chewy.

 

I developed this recipe for EATING WELL magazine; part of a piece about the healthy Cooking of Crete (March 2020).

 

 

Serves 6-8

 

         2 cups dried chickpeas, preferably organic (see NOTE 2)

 

        1 teaspoon baking soda (optional)            

 

       1 ½ teaspoons Salt, or to taste       

 

       1/3  cup olive oil          

 

       2 1/2  cups coarsely chopped onions        

 

       2-5  teaspoons Aleppo or Maras pepper, or Hot Red Pepper Flakes to taste

 

      1  1/2 cups vegetable or Chicken Stock or more, as needed

 

  • piece fresh or dried orange peel (about 4-5 inches)

 

  • cup coarsely chopped celery, preferably Mediterranean leaf-celery

 

  • One1 1/2-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded and diced into 1-inch pieces

 

       2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

 

      3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

 

       Extra virgin olive oil, preferably Greek, for drizzling

 

       Freshly ground black pepper

 

 

Soak the chickpeas overnight in plenty of water. Drain and rinse well under running water.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200 C).

 

The traditional METHOD:

 In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda if you like, and toss well.

In a medium flameproof casserole or Dutch oven, heat the oil and sauté the onions over medium heat for 4 minutes, or until they start to soften. Stir in the chickpeas, salt, and Aleppo pepper or pepper flakes, then add the stock or water, the orange peel and celery. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and cover the dish with a double layer of aluminum foil and then the lid.

 

Reduce the oven temperature to 250°F place the casserole in the oven and cook for about 5 hours, or until the chickpeas are quite tender. Mix the mustard with the chickpeas together with the squash pieces, toss and continue baking for another 30minutes, or until the squash is tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt, more lemon juice, and black pepper to taste.

Drizzle with olive oil and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

 

With Pre-cooked Chickpeas

In a sauté pan or casserole heat the oil and sauté the onions over medium heat for 4 minutes, or until they start to soften. Stir in 6 cups pre-cooked chickpeas (see NOTE below), salt, and Aleppo pepper or pepper flakes, toss a few times, then add the stock or water, the orange peel and celery. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to its minimum and simmer for 15 minutes.

Mix the mustard with the chickpeas together with the squash pieces, toss, and continue simmering for another 12-15 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the chickpeas start to get mushy.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt, more lemon juice, and black pepper to taste.

Drizzle with olive oil and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

 

NOTE:    Pre-cooking Chickpeas

For 6-8 people:

 

2 cups (1 pound) dried Chickpeas yields about 6 cups cooked

 

1 or 2 pounds dried Chickpeas, preferably organic

 

2-4 Salt

 

1 teaspoon baking soda (optional)

 

Place 1 or 2 pounds Chickpeas in a large bowl, covering them with water by about 4 inches.  Let soak overnight, for 8-12 hours.

The next morning rinse the chickpeas under cold water, place in a large pot and add water to cover by about 4 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, adding salt (2 teaspoons for 1 pound chickpeas, and 4 for 2 pounds) bring to a slow boil and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until the beans start to soften. Taste after 10 minutes – if they are still very hard, add the baking soda and cook 15 minutes more. Taste: the chickpeas should be almost soft, but not entirely cooked. Turn off the heat and let them cool in their broth.

Drain, let cool, then transfer to a Ziploc bag and freeze flat. They will keep for up to 6 months.

To cook, take out the bag, beat on the counter to loosen the beans, and use as much as you need. Close the bag and return to the freezer.

 

NOTE 2. Buy best quality Large, small or medium chickpeas

Try to get the best quality, freshest organic dried chickpeas. I prefer medium, but no matter the size, what is important is that they have not been sitting in the shelve for more than a few months. I have had chickpeas that cooked in just 15 minutes, and others, even with the addition of baking soda that helps them soften, needed more than an hour’s cooking to become edible, and never reached the meltingly tender texture that I love.

 

 

 

 

 

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