Chickpea Anxiety - The New York Times

May 16, 2024
Dining & Wine
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On Monday evening, I entered the most chaotic grocery store in Manhattan armed with something I rarely, if ever, go shopping with: a list.

I needed garlic, red onion, scallions, limes, chiles. But something happens once I leave the produce department for the canned goods aisle: I experience what I can describe only as chickpea amnesia.

Wait, do I have chickpeas at home? I closed my eyes and envisioned my pantry. There are cans on that shelf, for sure. The labels on them, though, came through blurry, a mirage of indiscernible beans. So I did what I do practically every time I grocery shop, and I grabbed a single can of chickpeas, just in case. One can won’t be too heavy in my tote, and what’s $1.39 among friends (or shopper and megacorp)?

When I got home, I had to laugh. I had chickpeas, all right. Cans upon cans of them. “I do the exact same thing, and, weirdly, only with chickpeas!” exclaimed my colleague Becky Hughes, the mind behind our chickpea-topped vegan Caesar recipe. She calls it chickpea anxiety, always picking up a single insurance can. Its affordability — and the fact that a substantial weeknight meal can come from just one can — is justification enough.

When that chickpea anxiety turns out to be warranted, you can still accomplish a lot with that single insurance can. Surround one can of chickpeas with the fresh produce you remembered to put on your list using Lidey Heuck’s recipe for taverna salad, a Greek salad and fattoush hybrid.

Hetty Lui McKinnon’s recipe for fried cheese and chickpeas in spicy tomato gravy calls for just one can as well, and it will use up another pantry staple: a 28-ounce can of diced, puréed or crushed tomatoes. It’s an amenable recipe, especially if you went to the store without a list. Use any cheese with a high melting point: halloumi or paneer is a strong contender, but even queso blanco or queso de freir will work if that’s what you have.

View this recipe.

Here’s something especially topical: My colleague Krysten Chambrot recently spoke to four budgeting experts in search of tips for stretching your dollars at the grocery store. No. 2 on the list? Eat less meat.

Toni Okamoto, who runs the blog Plant-Based on a Budget, recommends cutting out meat at least one or two times a week. It’s the “one thing that comes up over and over again,” Ms. Okamoto said, in the budget cookbooks she has read, both vegetarian and not.

“If you can go meatless a couple of times per week, you can definitely save,” she said. Hearty eggs, legumes and tofu can all serve as sources of protein. And not only are they cheap, they often last longer in the fridge than the average piece of meat, meaning there’s less of a chance that they’ll go to waste when life inevitably gets in the way of dinner.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

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