Chickpeas in Coconut Milk; or, Turmeric for Dummies

chickpeas in coconut milk

If there’s one food people should eat more of, it’s turmeric.

It’s one of those “aw geez how can this be so good for me” kinda foods.  It’s anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and there’s research going on to study turmeric’s effects on loads of diseases, like: Alzheimer’s, arthritis, heart trouble, digestive problems, liver disease, and (most interestingly to me) cancer of all sorts.


onion before
onion before

See, my sister and I are the next links in a maternal chain of breast cancer (three generations running! go team!), and I’d really rather avoid having to deal with that.  Sure, treatments have improved hugely between my grandmother’s first mastectomy and her second (forty-ish years apart), but holy crap does it still suck.

onion after
onion after

In pursuit of dodging that bullet, I’ve adopted a few habits, including pitching a little curry powder into my usual weird-ass lunch of brown rice, edamame, miso, gochugaru, and nori.  It’s not any kind of guarantee, but I’m so convinced of turmeric’s efficacy that I try to eat it more days than not.


Look, I’m not here to preach at you, or tell you how to live your life.  We’re all just here for the food.

I’m just saying it wouldn’t hurt to eat some turmeric now and again.

spicy onion
spicy onion

Obviously there’s no point eating something unless it tastes good.  Lucky for us, turmeric tastes awesome.  It’s a little bit like saffron, but it’s earthy where saffron is floral.

chickpeas in coconut milk
look at it go

And if you’re one of those weirdos who doesn’t like curry?  You can add turmeric into any number of dishes, like deviled eggs or chicken pot pie.  But it’s impossible to sneak.  Turmeric will stain the crap out of things.  Fair warning.

weird herbs
spicy globe basil

One of the simplest dishes involving turmeric I know of is Chickpeas in Coconut Milk, from an early Dinosaur Comics.  (If you aren’t familiar with DC, get to reading.  You’ve got over 10 years of awesome to catch up on.)  As far as I know, it’s the only recipe on the site???

chickpeas in coconut milk

The original recipe is very simple: combine everything in a pan and cook it.  You can certainly do it that way.  Me, I like to build flavor.  Sauté the onions until they get a little color.  Bloom the spices in the oil.  Add some herbs.


Bonus: this dish isn’t so outrageously foreign that you have to make a special trip to the local International Specialty Market.  Other than the turmeric, you can find everything in your local grocery.

chickpeas in coconut milk

So there’s one way to get more turmeric into your life.  Easy, fast, delicious, healthy.  You’re out of excuses.

never forget
don’t forget the hipster ketchup

Chickpeas in Coconut Milk

Yield: 2-3 servings

Chickpeas in Coconut Milk

Adapted from Ryan North's Dinosaur Comics

I'ma say it again: turmeric stains. Don't drop this on the couch. Don't wear white while eating this. Don't use white plastic utensils to prepare this, and don't store this in anything plastic, unless you really like yellow plastic.

And hey, if you leave out the fish sauce, did y'all notice this recipe is vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free? Of course you did.


  • 1 tablespoon neutral-flavored vegetable oil (or other fat of choice)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cans chickpeas (15.5 oz each, or about 4 cups), rinsed and drained
  • 1 can coconut milk, well-shaken
  • 1-2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional, to taste)
  • 2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh herbs (such as cilantro, basil, mint, parsley, or a combination)
  • Salt & black pepper, as needed
  • Cooked rice or couscous, to serve


1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Add the onion, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the onion has softened and begun to brown.

3. Add the garlic, turmeric, cloves, cayenne, and a grind or two of black pepper. Stir, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste.

4. Add the chickpeas and a scant 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and pour in the coconut milk. Stir to combine, reduce heat to medium, and let simmer for about 10 minutes, until thickened. If it thickens too much, add a little water to thin.

5. Stir in the fish sauce, if using, and the herbs. Taste, and correct seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Serve at once over rice or couscous.



Harissa Tuna & Chickpea Salad

harissa tuna & chickpea salad

This is the best kind of salad.

It’s one that requires no stove, oven, microwave, or any other sort of heating device.  It doesn’t require any special equipment or power tools.  All you need is a can opener, a knife, a cutting board, and a big ol’ mixing bowl.  I guess most people would want a spoon, but in a pinch you can just use your hands to mix.

It’s a very zen thing, making this salad.  It comes together as fast as you choose to chop.  There’s no worry about over-cooking or under-cooking.  No pressure at all.

harissa tuna & chickpea salad

A main feature of this salad is the harissa.  You can tell because it is the first word in the title.  I know, I just know someone out there is wondering what can be used instead of harissa because who on god’s green earth has harissa sitting around and where can you get it and what is it even.

If you can’t find harissa (or can’t be bothered, and girl I feel you), remember that it is red and spicy.  Use something else red and spicy and understand that it won’t be the same but this is not always bad.

Taste your harissa.  If it tastes good, congratulations!  You’re well on your way to a delicious salad.  If it tastes musty or weird or off, you might want to consider a different brand next time.  Or try cutting it with sriracha, which fixes any number of ills.

harissa tuna & chickpea salad

Harissa Tuna & Chickpea Salad

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Harissa Tuna & Chickpea Salad

We all know how to smash garlic into a paste with a chef's knife, yes? A microplane will do the job just as well, and in about a tenth of the time. Just mind your fingertips.

This dish will keep for several days in the refrigerator, and might be better the second day.


  • 1 clove garlic, grated finely or smashed into a paste
  • 4 tablespoons harissa, or less if you're a wuss
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can hearts of palm, drained and chopped roughly
  • 2 cans tuna (about 10 ounces total), drained
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1/3 cup parsley, chopped roughly
  • Fresh salad greens (optional; I used spinach)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


1. In a large bowl, stir or whisk together the garlic, harissa, sherry vinegar, and olive oil.

2. Add the remaining ingredients, along with a generous pinch of salt, and toss together.

3. Taste, and correct seasoning if necessary with salt, pepper, harissa, sherry vinegar, and olive oil.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cooking Chickpeas

Part of the reason I never cook beans is because I lack foresight.  I never think about soaking them overnight, partly because I never want beans hard enough.  Overnight pizza crust, I can do; but then, I kinda love bread.

Also, you’re somewhat tied to the kitchen when you have a pot of beans on.  Sure, you can do other things around the house, but you really can’t leave.  What if they need more water?  When will they be done (and you know they always take longer than expected)?

So why the hell did I decide to bring home a pound of dried chickpeas the other day, instead of just buying a can or two?  *shrug*

I left them sitting on my counter to remind me to cook the stupid things, instead of shoving them into the pantry and promptly forgetting about them.  So with a tiny mountain of chickpeas eyeballing me balefully, Google and I got on that stick.  And I was reminded of a trick I’ve recently heard.  It’s two words, and it will change your bean-cookin’ life:

Baking soda.

Oh yes.  One teaspoon of baking soda will not only soften one pound of beans to perfection — no hard, gritty centers here — but it also eliminates the need to soak overnight.  And they cook faster than usual.  I’m dead serious.

I don’t remember exactly where I first heard about this trick, but let’s just say it was Harold McGee.  Him, or Cook’s Illustrated; it’s got to be one of them, right?

It’s the perfect lazy-man’s method.  I didn’t even bother rinsing the chickpeas.  I literally just dumped it all together in a pot.  And for extra flavor, I tied up some leeks and pork bones in a sachet (to make removal super-easy) so that it made its own quick stock while it simmered away.

When things are too simple and easy like this, I tend to assume that it’s not going to taste good.  And I was never happier to be wrong.

Because man cannot live on chickpeas alone, I paired some with mustard greens, onion, and garlic.  On top is a little fromage blanc, which looks a bit like a poached egg.  (That would also be amazing.)  Nothing fancy, but it was very, very good.

I might have to start cooking beans more often.

Chickpeas and Mustard Greens

Yield: A million chickpeas; the greens will serve 4

Chickpeas and Mustard Greens

Forget everything you've ever heard about cooking beans. Add salt at the beginning. Don't soak overnight. Just use a little baking soda. Perfect.

My chickpeas were well done at the 2 hour mark, even a little softer than I'd intended. Depending on how old yours are, you might need to let them cook longer. I like leeks in the sachet, but if you'd rather, a quartered onion will do just as well.

I specify mustard greens, but clearly you can use whatever greens you prefer. I used mustard greens so that I didn't have to remove the ribs, because my god is that a pain sometimes.


    For the Chickpeas:
  • 1 pound dried chickpeas
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pound bones (chicken, pig, or cow)
  • 2 big leeks, washed well, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 large sprig thyme
  • For the Greens:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 to 3 cups cooked chickpeas, plus cooking liquid
  • 1 bunch mustard greens, cut crossways into 1-inch ribbons
  • Salt and pepper to taste


For the Chickpeas:

1. Put the chickpeas in a large Dutch oven. Add enough water to cover by about 3 inches, and add the salt and baking powder. Bring to a boil over high heat (covering the pot will make the process go faster).

2. Meanwhile, tie the bones, leeks, bay leaves, and thyme up in a piece of cheesecloth so that you have a nice little sachet. Put the sachet in the pot with the chickpeas.

3. When the pot comes to a boil, reduce the temperature to low or medium-low, to maintain a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 2 to 3 hours, or until chickpeas are soft. Remove sachet (so easy!), and enjoy a wealth of chickpeas. (They will freeze beautifully.)

For the Greens:

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Stir in the onion, sprinkle with salt, and cook until just translucent, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute, or until fragrant.

3. Stir in the chickpeas and cooking liquid, and pile the mustard greens on top. Cover the pan, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, at least 15 minutes.

4. Taste, and correct the seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Serve with a lovely drizzle of olive oil for good measure.

Five Minute Photo Shoot: Greens with Tasso and Chickpeas (and a Recipe!)

Since I’ve been neglecting you all lately, here’s a special edition Five Minute Photo Shoot: one with a recipe!

I threw this dish together the other night when some friends came over for dinner.  I was just about to take off for a whirlwind trip to my hometown, New Orleans, and felt I should make room in my freezer for all the goodies I was planning to bring back.  A block of tasso (a highly spiced bit of cured ham used for seasoning in Cajun and Creole cooking) was begging to be used up, and I was craving some serious greenery; this is what resulted.

The flavorful tasso got sautéed with an onion and some crimini mushrooms, before adding in a can of chickpeas and about a million collard greens (which always cook down into oblivion).  A splash of chicken broth, a rind of Parmesan, and a bay leaf tied everything together, and made just the sort of thing I want to eat on these newly-chilly Fall nights.  For dinner, I served it alone with a wedge of Northern-style cornbread; it went over rice for lunch, with a dollop of yogurt on top and some whole-wheat flatbread on the side.

Greens with Tasso and Chickpeas
Makes 6 to 8 servings

I used collard greens here, but you can substitute mustard greens if you like.  Instead of the hard-to-find tasso (and in case you don’t want to make your own), use any spicy, highly-flavored sausage you like, such as Spanish chorizo.  Add extra broth if you’d rather have a more soup-like dish.  Do not skip the Tabasco sauce; it makes the dish.  You could stir it into the pot as it cooks, but I much prefer the random and more potent spice it gives by adding it at the table.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
12 to 16 ounces tasso, cubed
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
3 pounds collard greens, thoroughly washed, ribs removed, and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 rind from a used wedge of Parmesan
3 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and black pepper, as needed
Toasted pine nuts, optional garnish
Tabasco sauce, not optional garnish

1.  In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion, and sauté until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the tasso, and cook until tasso browns, about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, cooking until they release their liquid, about 5 minutes.  Add the chickpeas, bay leaf, thyme, and nutmeg.  Stir and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes more.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare the collard greens, which will take longer than you think.  As you chop them, add them to the pot.  Stir to avoid burning.  When all greens have been added, add broth and Parmesan rind.  Cover loosely, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.  Remove pot from heat.  Remove bay leaf (and Parmesan rind, if inedible).  Stir in chopped scallions and parsley leaves.  Add lemon juice, salt, and freshly-ground black pepper to taste.  Serve immediately in bowls, or over rice, with toasted pine nuts (optional) and Tabasco (not optional).

Roasted Chickpeas, Three Ways

It’s Super Bowl time.

For me, this usually means that I get invited to a party where I care far more about the company, food, and drink than I do about the planned entertainment.  Though I do enjoy throwing parties quite a lot, I usually forget about this so-called “Big Game” until the last minute, and someone else has already claimed hosting duties.

This year, however, is quite another story.  I am from New Orleans, you see; and right now it doesn’t matter if you’ve ever even seen a football game before, if you’re from N’Awlins, you are damned excited about this particular game.  The Saints have never been to the Super Bowl before, and it would be a severe understatement to say that the city is fired up about it.  How excited are we?  This is how excited.  Five thousand men in dresses parading down Bourbon Street can’t be wrong, and you’re sure not going to see that in Indianapolis.

So, of course, I can’t let this one slide by without a celebration.  But typical fare at a Super Bowl party tends towards the “bar food” end of the spectrum; me, I usually serve something a bit more soigné than, you know, hot wings.

Not wanting to make my guests uncomfortable, though, I’m reluctant to serve the sort of food that I would normally turn to, things like precious canapés or anything with an adjective-laden name.  I mean, who wants to watch football with a cup of chocolate mousse balanced on his knee?  No, for this party, I need something that goes with beer.

Of course, there will be a main entrée, but people are going to want something snacky, something that can sit out all night, something starchy and bite-sized.  Chips or cocktail nuts would certainly fit the bill here; but they’re so incredibly salty.  I find that football goes best with a steady infusion of beer, and if I want to be standing at the end of the night, I don’t need anything to make me want to drink more.

Enter the recent darling of the food blogging world: the roasted chickpea.  Endlessly adaptable to any flavor you put with it, these little gems are just what I’m looking for: bite-sized, crunchy, starchy, addicting, and they can sit out for ages.  Oh, and did I mention that chickpeas are incredibly cheap?  Could it get any better?

Of course, I could never settle on one flavor, so I’ve narrowed it down to three.  I’ve chosen a range that I think will please all my guests, one way or another.  The first is inspired by the flavorings of a traditional béchamel sauce, using onion, white pepper, and nutmeg.  The onion is caramelized, bringing a dark sweetness, while the abundance of coarsely ground white pepper has a sharpness that cuts any stodginess.  In the background, the nutmeg scents more than it flavors, with a warming and seductive spice.

The second seasoning blend is a bit more familiar, a tried-and-true combination of lemon and thyme.  I use lemon zest for its floral qualities, which accentuates the citrus notes of the fresh thyme, while lemon juice blends with olive oil to make a sort of savory vinaigrette that soaks into the hot roasted chickpeas.  A bit of black pepper adds depth, but not enough is used to bring any heat.

For those who like a sweet-savory combination, the third seasoning combines smoky cumin, toasted lightly before grinding, with cayenne and hot paprika for heat, and cinnamon and brown sugar for depth and a light caramel flavor.  A pinch of salt here makes the flavors pop without turning things savory.

This is not the extent of my Super Bowl menu; I will talk about other foods as I’m able, but this might be early enough for you to get some use out of it for your own party.  Whether or not you use these flavor combinations, you can hardly go wrong with this idea.  Simple, endlessly customizable, and tasty as all get-out, roasted chickpeas are an excellent (and healthier) substitute for the typical cocktail nuts or chips that you’d otherwise be tempted to resort to.

Roasted Chickpeas
Makes about 2 cups


  1. 1.  Drain and thoroughly rinse 2 cans of chickpeas.  Lay out in a single layer on a kitchen towel, and gently dry by hand, or let sit until dry.  Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. 2.  Spread chickpeas in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast for about 1 hour, shaking occasionally, or until crispy and lightly brown.  Immediately remove from oven and toss with desired seasonings (variations follow).


Onion and White Pepper Seasoning

  • 2 teaspoons whole white peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced small
  • 1 large pinch salt


  1. 1.  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add peppercorns, and toast until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Remove from pan, and crush in a mortar and pestle, or with the flat side of a large knife.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add nutmeg.
  2. 2.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the same pan over medium-low heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until onion has caramelized, turning brown and soft, 15 to 20 minutes.  Add to bowl with peppercorns and nutmeg.
  3. 3.  Toss hot roasted chickpeas with the mixture in the bowl, adding salt, and remaining olive oil (if needed).




Lemon-Thyme Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large pinch salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (to taste)


  1. 1.  Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add hot roasted chickpeas, and toss until coated.

Sweet and Spicy Seasoning

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  1. 1.  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add cumin seeds and toast until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, and grind to desired coarseness in a mortar, or electric spice grinder.
  2. 2.  In a large bowl, mix ground toasted cumin, cayenne, paprika, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, and olive oil.  Add hot roasted chickpeas, and toss until coated.


1.  For the most part, roasted chickpeas can sit at room temperature in an airtight container for several days.  (The onion-laden ones, maybe store in the refrigerator.)  If they go soft, just re-crisp them in a 350º F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they’re crunchy again.