The Little Garbanzo Bean
The garbanzo, which is thought to have originated in the Middle East, travelled to Spain long ago, where it is still the foundation for many soups. So while I was living there (southern Spain), learning to cook with village grandmas, I recognized early on that garbanzos were everyday fare.
From Spain, the little garbanzo eventually made a voyage across the sea, arriving with the colonizers to the “New World”. Later, it was packed up again and taken up El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro with the Tlaxcaltecas, servants, priests, and others, finding a new home in northern New Mexico. They settled there for some time, and found themselves back in grandmothers’ soup pots. What an epic journey for this little legume.
As some of us try to decolonize our diets of processed foods, pork, beef, and wheat, I think it is also important that we move forward in our healing by embracing the healthy plants that travelled here. Foods that offer us so much healing to our adrenals, liver, and immune systems. Garbanzos have a low glycemic index and glycemic load, making them a useful and inexpensive food for pre-diabetic people and those with type 2 diabetes. I cannot imagine going a week without garbanzos or foods like garlic, Indian spices, celery, and cucumbers.
The following recipe is a healing winter soup I served at my former restaurant, which incorporated many healing foods of the Americas that travelled TO Spain such as chiles, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. Gazpacho, Basque piperade, Tortilla de Patata…are all classic Spanish dishes made with our indigenous ingredients.
For the recipe: Quelites can be found in many Mexican markets, if you can find them, use them! And although it will still taste great, don’t be tempted to use regular sweet paprika for your sopa. Smoked paprika (made from smoked red peppers) gives this dish an air of mystery and offers a nice subtle, deep flavor that I loved when I was in Spain.
1 ½ C. dried garbanzos (soaked overnight)
1 whole garlic head
3 bay leaves
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch spinach OR quelites
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, diced in 1” cubes
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
1 – 2 small dried red chiles, crushed (I used chiles de arbol)
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 quart vegetable stock
4 C. water
1 lime, juiced
sea salt to taste
Prepare the garbanzos:
Drain soaked garbanzos and place in a large saucepan with the head of garlic, and bay leaves. Cover with plenty of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 – 2 hours or until the beans are soft, but still firm to the bite, adding more water if necessary. Remove bay leaves, garlic, and drain.
Prepare the soup:
Place a large soup pot over medium heat and add olive oil. When hot, add diced onion and minced garlic. Stir a couple of minutes, then add cumin, Mexican oregano, smoked paprika, and chile, and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add vegetable stock and water, turning up heat to bring to a simmer. Add garbanzos, diced potatoes, and sea salt (about 1 tsp). Allow flavors to marry and potatoes to cook, about 25 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Once the potatoes are cooked, add the spinach and lime juice. Stir. Taste, and adjust seasoning.
Serve with a crusty bread or tortillas of your choice.
You can find garbanzo beans grown by the Akimel O’odham here: http://store.ramonafarms.com/Our-Garbanzos-Kalvash/products/6/