My last two “Cooking Off the Cuff”s for The Washington Post - here and here - have featured chickpeas, for which Jackie and I developed a new fondness on our recent visit to Barcelona. In addition to the dishes I talk about in those posts, I used chickpeas the other day in a paella-like rice dish which is also worth mentioning.
I try to keep little balls of sofrito in the freezer (see here), so starting these rice dishes doesn’t require any planning; if it did, we wouldn’t eat so many of them. For this one, I browned some chunks of Spanish chorizo and batons of lightly smoked pancetta in olive oil (not too much, as the meats have their own fat), then added a spoonful of onions (also pre-cooked, by the way), a sliced Serrano chili and one of my sofrito balls.
Finally, I added chickpeas and liquid – a light mixture of chicken stock, chickpea broth and water – a sprinkle of pimentón and finally the rice (the Spanish bomba variety). It cooked, uncovered, until done; then I covered it with a towel and left it for twenty minutes before serving.
It could have used a nice juicy sweet red bell pepper for extra moisture, but it was very good nonetheless. I often use pre-cooked dried beans in my Catalan-type rice dishes, but the chickpeas are an excellent, perhaps even better, alternative.