Last weekend my friends Max and Davina (of Pig on a Spit fame) rented a house on the Russian River. There were about 15 of us, a handful of which I consider culinary magicians.

In the midst of the revelry, while sipping on our newly concocted “River Wine Spritzers” (oh, don’t knock it til you try it…it’s a refreshing mixture of Sauvignon Blanc, ginger beer, pomegranate syrup, and a squeeze of lime), my friend Laurie whipped out a couple cans of chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) and transformed them into something otherworldly.

Who would have thought of deep-frying chickpeas? Well, I suppose you can deep fry just about anything. But this is a transformation. The crisp exterior encases an ultracreamy interior and tastes something like popcorn meets bacon. Dusted with smoked paprika (which can be purchased at many well-stocked markets, but it’s most fun to purchase it from one of my absolute favorite stores, The Spanish Table) and sea salt, these little treats barely made it from frying pan to the serving dish before being gobbled up by the crowd. A few guests were out playing in the river and sadly missed the entire spectacle, but I have to say that none of the partakers was very apologetic about not saving them any.

Fried Chickpeas
2 cans chickpeas (preferably organic)
Canola oil
Sea salt
Smoked paprika

Drain the chickpeas in a colander, rinse, then dry on paper towels. Blot the beans dry. You want to try to get these as dry as possible to reduce the amount of oil splutters when you add them to the hot oil.

In a cast iron skillet, heat about 1 inch of oil over medium-high heat until very hot (nearly smoking). You will want to do these in batches to avoid overcrowding and steaming. Add about 1 cup of the chickpeas. Be very careful when adding the beans as they will splutter (and Laurie got a few nice little burns doing this). Using a heat-resistent slotted spoon or a spider, move the chickpeas around in the oil until they are nicely browned and crisp, then transfer them to layered paper towels. Immediately dust them with pinches of smoked paprika and sea salt. Transfer to a bowl and try not to burn your tongue as you pop them into your mouth. Repeat with the remaining batches.

  • shuna fish lydon

    Your mind is reading the mind of my refrigerator! I have been soaking the organic chick peas from Short Night Farm for a few days now and went looking for recipes from Paula Wolfert and Claudia Roden. But here one was, hiding in my computer, thank you!

  • Kim Goodfriend

    oh yum! and fresh chickpeas no less. You are in for a superb treat. Can I come over?

  • Anonymous

    Does “falafel” mean anything to you? With a little tahini sauce? Yum Yum — chi chi beans rock!

    Judy J —

  • cucina testa rossa

    what great ideas for an aperitif – one of my favorite french customs :-)

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