Rice with Chickpeas

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 30 minutes with cooked beans

Chickpeas are a great way to boost the flavor and texture of a rice dish; they add richness to the cooking liquid and don’t turn to mush. (And, with the rice, they provide complete protein.) Add some more vegetables or firm tofu to any of these recipes (especially the curried variation) and you have yourself a lovely little one-pot meal.

Other grains you can use: couscous, bulgur, pearled barley, and quinoa (see The Basics of Cooking Grains for cooking guidelines).

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium bell pepper, any color you like, cored, seeded, and finely chopped

11/2 cups chopped ripe tomato with the juice (about 6 ounces whole or canned; don’t bother to drain)

11/4 cups vegetable stock or water

2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)

1 bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

11/2 cups long-grain rice

1 cup cooked or drained canned chickpeas (see The Basics of Cooking Legumes)

Put the oil in a medium pot with a lid over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato, stock, sherry if you’re using it, bay leaf, some salt, and plenty of pepper; bring to a boil.

Stir in the rice and chickpeas, cover, and turn the heat down to low so that the mixture bubbles gently. Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork, taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve hot or at room temperature or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days (reheat or bring back to room temperature and stir in a little olive oil just before serving).

Variations

Spiced Rice with Chickpeas and Almonds. Nicely North African: Omit the bell pepper and sherry. Stir in a tablespoon or so of chili powder, garam masala, or curry powder (to make your own, see Hot Curry Powder) with the cooking onions and proceed with recipe. Sprinkle with toasted almond slices before serving.

Curried Rice with Chickpeas. Richer and spicier: Omit the sherry and replace the stock with unsweetened coconut milk if you like. Stir in a tablespoon or so of curry powder (to make your own, see Hot Curry Powder) to the cooking onions and proceed with recipe. You can also throw in a handful of peas (fresh or defrosted frozen) during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Saffron Rice with Chickpeas. Gorgeous color and exotic, lovely flavor: Omit the bell pepper, garlic, and sherry; replace the chopped tomatoes with an additional cup of stock or water. Add 1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads and a teaspoon of julienned lemon or orange zest along with the stock in Step 1; proceed with the recipe. Sprinkle with zaatar just before serving.