Chickpeas, Provençal Style


Chickpea-cooking liquid is so delicious you need bread to soak it up.
TIME 1 to 2 hours, mostly unattended
MAKES 4 servings
1½ cups dried chickpeas (about 12 ounces), rinsed and picked over
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thick slices French or Italian bread (day-old is fine)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
½ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish


Method
1 Put the chickpeas in a large, deep pot and add enough water to cover them by about 3 inches; bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat so the beans bubble gently and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, then taste a chickpea to check for doneness. If the chickpeas have begun to soften, add a large pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper; if they’re still hard, return the lid to the pot, keep cooking, and check them every 10 or 15 minutes until it’s time to add the salt.

2 Continue cooking, checking and stirring every 15 minutes or so, until the chickpeas are quite tender but still intact, anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes after you’ve added the salt. If at any point when you check the beans they look dry, add enough water to keep them covered by about 1 inch.

3 While the beans cook, heat the oven to 400°F. Roughly tear or cut the bread into bite-sized pieces and spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake the bread, turning once, until it’s lightly toasted, 10 to 15 minutes. It doesn’t have to be warm when you serve it, so just let it sit until serving time.

4 Meanwhile, keep checking the chickpeas every 15 minutes or so. When they’re fully tender and just starting to break apart, stir in the garlic and the olive oil; taste and adjust the seasoning. To serve, put the bread in shallow bowls and spoon in the beans and some of the cooking liquid; drizzle with about 1 tablespoon more olive oil if you like and garnish with the parsley.

Variations
  • 4 Ways to Vary These Chickpeas
1 Add 4 ounces chopped prosciutto, smoked ham, or cooked sausage or chorizo to the pot when you add the garlic in Step 4.
2 Garnish with chopped almonds or hazelnuts instead of or along with the parsley.
3 Sprinkle the top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
4 When you add the garlic, add ½ cup dried tomatoes to the pot.

Tips
  • You can make the components for this dish up to 3 days before you’re ready to assemble and serve it. Refrigerate the beans in their cooking liquid and store the bread in an airtight container. Reheat the chickpeas and broth just before serving. And like all beans, chickpeas freeze perfectly for months.
  • The cooking time for chickpeas can vary even more than most beans. I’ve cooked some that were tender in 30 minutes, while older ones can take well over 2 hours. Taste frequently and be patient.

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