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Chickpea? Garbonzo? Balila!

Spring is a season with much allusion to renewal and rebirth, and chickpeas are no exception. The freshly harvested version of this legume has become more available in farmers markets as of late. It can be found starting late spring through the summer, a perfect time to make balila.

Balila combines the fragrance of garlic with the smokiness of cumin and tanginess of lemon, all pulled together by of course, a deliciously pure extra virgin olive oil.

Recently Sarah discovered that chef and author of Palestine on a Plate, Joudie Kalla launched a Youtube channel. Kalla shares step-by-step tutorials of her favorite traditional Palestinian and Levant recipes. The exciting find inspired Sarah to replicate the chickpea-centric Balila dish featured in Kalla’s latest video.

Whether boiling the chickpeas or using cans, making Balila is as easy as pie. Maybe a little easier.

Balila’s main ingredient is whole chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans). A tidbit for anyone planning to use fresh garbanzo beans: once they’re shelled, cleaned and dried, the dry beans can stay solid for up to one year. When the dry beans are soaked in water and then cooked – they can be frozen to be conveniently available for cooking at any time while their nutritional value is preserved.

Serve Balila for brunch, alone or with warm pita bread on the side.

If you’re simply looking for ways to eat less meat without giving up a filling meal, you may want to consider putting Balila in the rotation. It’s rich in both fiber and protein, and since chickpeas are also considered good for stabilizing blood sugar, it’s also a diabetes-friendly, tasty and simple recipe to have handy.

From Sarah’s kitchen to yours, Sahtain! (read: To your health!/Cheers! Salud! Salute!)

Chickpeas, One 15 oz. can (3/4 cup dried chickpeas if you’re boiling)

Garlic, 1 to 2 cloves

Jalapeño, ½ – 1 (optional)

Green onions (scallions), 1 to 2 stalks

Parsley, 1 small bunch

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, ¼ cup

Cumin, 1 teaspoon

Salt, to taste

Lemon, 1/2 juiced + another 1/2 to 1/4 chopped with skin

If you plan to use dry chickpeas, you can boil them in advance and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to prepare the balila. Boil over low heat. Chickpeas can take up to an hour and half to cook, but it’s a good idea to check on them about one hour after they’ve been cooking. By checking the tenderness of the bean, you can gauge how much more time would be suitable to continue boiling.

To begin, chop garlic cloves, green onions, jalapeños, parsley and the small portion of the lemon. Set aside a handful of the green onions and parsley for garnish later, as well as the chopped lemon rind.

Over low heat, combine chickpeas, garlic, and jalapeños in a saucepan. Add the salt and cumin, stirring all the ingredients as you go. If you’re not accustomed to the strong flavor of the cumin spice, it’s a good idea to start with a dash or two to taste, and then work up to an acceptable cumin threshold.

Continue to simmer the ingredients in the saucepan, keeping a close eye to prevent a complete, rolling boil. At this point, you can add the chopped lemon with skin…acidity of the juice with the citrusy bitterness of the rind gives the dish another dimension of flavor. This won’t make the dish bitter, but just as suggested with the cumin, fold in smaller quantities to test, and if your tastebuds are excited, go ahead and add a bit more!

Finally, pour in the olive oil. While you are gently stirring the mixture, no harm in smashing a few of the chickpeas using the back of a spoon to add another texture to the dish.

Transfer the Balila into a serving bowl, topping off  with green onions and parsley for garnish and serve warm.

For more recipes by Sarah, visit When Apricots Bloom​.

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