The exaltation of a shriveled bean

| 13 Nov 2012 | 06:00

Consider the chickpea - beige, wrinkled, unassuming. It’s not the most attractive legume in a pod, but it is the most versatile.

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a familiar ingredient in Indian and Mediterranean cuisines and also a staple in vegetarian and vegan diets. They can be mashed for chewy cutlets, pureed with tahini into creamy hummus or chopped with almonds and veggies for a protein-rich sandwich filling. I recently discovered chickpea flour in the grocery store. It’s commonly used to make gluten-free flatbreads and crepes and is the base for this savory frittata, sans eggs or dairy.

Start by sautéing shallots, broccoli florets, cremini and shitake mushrooms with fresh thyme. Reserve the broccoli stems for a future stir fry and the mushroom stems for broth. Any combination of vegetables and herbs works, but you’ll want some crunch and chew to contrast with the creamy consistency of the chickpea custard.

To make the custard, whisk the chickpea flour into boiling water and cook slowly over low heat, stirring vigorously for 20 minutes. Combine with the cooked veggies, pour into a dish and allow it to set in the fridge for two hours before baking. Don’t skip this step (I discovered this after two mishaps) or the consistency will be all wrong. The frittata bakes quickly, then broils to a golden goodness and slices into two-inch high quiche-like wedges, perfect for brunch, lunch or Meatless-Monday dinner.

Remarkable. It all started with a shriveled little bean.