more beans | chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce

So many of you loved the white beans and kale recipe from the New York Times that I wanted to share another recent favorite. It's also a pantry-friendly meal you can throw together on a weeknight.

But first, a story. Sometimes food blogs can make home cooks seem invincible. Our food is so pretty, the recipe turned out perfectly, and the props tilt at just the right angles. We don't always share the flaws, but the truth is, I'm not a perfect cook and am just as prone to mistakes as anyone. In this case, I was multitasking by cooking two kinds of beans for two different recipes. It all began well. The little beans were boiling away and I took the opportunity to straighten some things around the house. Then I smelled the dreaded burn. I rushed to the stove and realized that both sets of beans had absorbed all their liquid and were proceeding to stick to the bottom of the pan and turn a lovely shade of black. The white beans I was preparing for a dip, thankfully, were mostly salvageable. But the chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce were a complete disaster. Andrew ate it without much complaint and declared them at least edible, but I was so upset I ate a bowl of cereal and called it a night.

My mistake was very clear. I had made rice the night before using the standard 2-1 method. For some reason, I used a similar ratio when I put my beans together. I should have simply covered them with 2-3 inches of water, but instead I only put about 4 cups in, just barely enough to cover them. I still don't know what I was thinking, but I learned an important lesson, and a week later licked my wounds and tried again. This time I did things my way, cooking a luxurious sauce separately from the beans, then folding them gently into the pan and adding fresh cilantro.

I absolutely love this dish. It's also versatile in terms of serving suggestions. You can eat them alone, as I did, with a dollop of sour cream and some blue corn chips on the side. Or serve them with a light Caesar salad, or with naan or pita bread. It could be a side dish to grilled steak or a main course, the choice is entirely up to you.


Recipe adapted from Food & Wine

The original recipe called for canned beans, but I opted to cook my own. Due to my disastrous first attempt at this recipe, by the second time around I just threw in a combination of spices I found in my pantry without consulting the magazine. This is a great recipe to improvise! I used lime juice and chipotle sauce since I had it on hand, but experiment with your favorite flavors to find a combination you and your family will enjoy.

Serves 4

1/2 pound dried chickpeas
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (I prefer imported Italian varieties)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chipotle sauce (if you have some)
Juice of 1 lime, plus more as desired
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
Light sour cream, for serving

Soak beans overnight or first thing in the morning. To cook, add to a pot covered by 2 to 3 inches of cold water; bring to a boil. When the beans are bouncing around, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until cooked through.

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over low heat. Add the onion and garlic. cook 7 to 10 minutes, until softened and translucent but not brown. Add tomatoes and 1 to 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add spices and lime juice; season with salt. Reduce sauce until thickened, 20 to 30 minutes.

When the beans are almost cooked through, season with 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt. Add cooked beans to tomato sauce and continue cooking on low heat for 5 more minutes. Add cilantro and stir to combine. Serve in bowls with additional cilantro, lime juice and a dollop of sour cream.