Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
I love a good snack. This time of year is perfect for a cozy evening in, binge watching Netflix while the temperatures take a nosedive outside. But a good comedy or a moving drama without a little something to nibble on is sort of lackluster, if you ask me. I’m usually quite particular about what I eat, but for some reason when I am staying in and staring at a screen, I suddenly have the snacking habits of a college sophomore. Potato chips? Sure. Chocolate chips straight from the bag? Yes please! Graham crackers slathered in store-bought frosting? Don’t judge; it is delicious.
I blame my shameful television snacking on the fact that I’m usually wearing something, uh, forgiving (read: yoga pants) when I’m having a couch potato marathon. Sadly, the days when I could eat endless amounts of junk without paying the price are long gone. So advancing adulthood has sent me in search of snacks that keep calories in check, provide some nutrients and also give me something tasty and satisfying ... and crunchy. It is tough to find a healthy snack that gives the same crispy, crunchy sensation that chips or crackers do. Yes, I know veggies are crunchy, but they are a really poor substitute for chips.
In honor of Valentine’s Day and the observance of February as Heart Month, I set out to find a snack that would meet all of my criteria and stumbled upon a nifty kitchen trick. Beans in a can, rinsed and drained, can be roasted to crunchy perfection and then seasoned with whatever your heart (see what I did there?) desires. Many different types of beans work with this method, but garbanzo beans (also known as chick peas) work especially well since their mild flavor provides a blank canvas for savory or sweet flavorings.
I roasted several batches of garbanzos in my kitchen in order to determine my favorite method, and discovered a few pitfalls along the way. First, it is vital to get the beans fairly dry before you roast them. If they are too wet before you put them in the oven, the results will be tough on the outside and a bit gummy on the inside. After several tries, I also determined that the best results could be obtained by first dry roasting the beans, then coating them in oil and seasonings for just the last few moments. Some recipes call for the beans to be coated in oil from the beginning, but I found those beans cooked too hot, and there was no way to get a crunchy texture without burning them. Oil added in the final phase of roasting crisps the exterior and helps the seasoning adhere without burning the beans.
Once you have mastered the basic technique, don’t be afraid to coat these babies in just about anything you can think of. I have included a recipe here that has a fairly long list of ingredients, but the result is a snack that provides a good balance of sweet and savory, just the kind of thing that won’t leave you wanting something else to snack on when you’re finished. If you’re more of a purist, keep it nice and simple by roasting the beans in just the ½ teaspoon of oil listed on the ingredients and add a judicious sprinkle of salt. If you opt for something sweet, keep a close eye on the final moments of roasting, since sugar can go from nicely browned to unpleasantly black in the blink of an eye.
Roasted garbanzos made using this method will stay crunchy for a day or two after in a tightly sealed container at room temperature. Make a batch and put them in a cute red bucket for your valentine. Chocolates are so last year, and your heart and theirs will thank you for sharing this unusual treat.