Monday, July 26, 2010

Rosemary Roasted Chickpeas and Cashews

One of the most difficult parts of eating better is avoiding temptation. Unhealthy snacking options abound and their convenience and taste can make them very tempting. It’s all too easy to reach for a handful of wine gums, a few chips, some jujubes or soft eating liquorice, or even “just a triangle” from a Toblerone. I don’t expect anyone to do away with these treats completely, I’m no firm ascetic. It is worth cutting back on them, however. I don’t expect anyone to trade delicious for healthy either. There’s just no reason for it, a healthier diet never need be bland, boring, or flavourless.

The lengths a hungry bear will go to for a snack.

t’s no secret that bears love to snack. These rosemary roasted chickpeas and cashews are the perfect healthy snack: easy to make, convenient, nutritious, and delicious. Cashews are low in cholesterol and rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, and healthy monounsaturated fat. They are also an excellent source of iron -- necessary to maintain a healthy red blood cell count -- and minerals like magnesium, copper, and zinc which promote bone and joint health. Chickpeas in turn, offer much-needed protein, cholesterol-busting fibre, and sulphite-fighting Molybdenum in one convenient low-fat, low-calorie package. They are also rich in tryptophan: an amino acid which the body uses to make serotonin. Serotonin helps the brain to maintain a proper chemical balance leading to more even moods and better, more restful sleep. This is a snack that is good and good for you: high energy, hunger-squashing, and nutrient rich.

Rosemary Roasted Chickpeas and Cashews

Rosemary roasted chickpeas and cashews are simple to make. You’ll need the following:

  • 1 can or about 2 cups of chickpeas
  • 1 ½ cups raw cashews
  • ½ - 1 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • ¾ teaspoon of cumin
  • 1-1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

To begin, thoroughly drain and then rinse your chickpeas. Next, lay them out on a baking tray lined clean dish cloth or paper towel and pat them dry. If you find the chickpeas are still damp, set them out flat on a baking sheet for about an hour or so to finish drying. If the chickpeas go into the oven too damp it will take them longer to roast and the end result is less likely to be the kind of satisfyingly crisp and crunchy pea you want.

Your next step is to infuse your olive oil with rosemary. The original recipe calls for the mix of chickpeas and cashews to be roasted along with two sprigs of rosemary but I find that using an infused oil imparts a fresher, more vibrant and direct herb flavour. Although you’ll only need a few tablespoons of infused oil for this recipe, this is the perfect excuse to make a quick batch of rosemary infused olive oil. The savoury-sweetness and mild minty-pine flavour of rosemary lends it a culinary versatility. If nothing else, you’ll have infused oil ready for when you next make this recipe.

Preparing an infused oil in simplicity itself. Wash, dry, and then bruise two rosemary sprigs by tapping them gently with the dull edge of a kitchen knife. Heat oil and rosemary slowly in a small pot or sauce pan over medium low heat. You’ll want to be stirring the oil and rosemary constantly, it will help to draw out the aromatic compounds from the rosemary and fuse them with the oil. After about ten minutes the oil should bubble a bit and the rosemary will have a bit of sizzle and the smell of rosemary will fill your kitchen. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the oil and rosemary into a bowl to cool.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the chickpeas out over it. Drizzle over with 1 ½ tablespoons of the infused olive oil and toss to coat. Roast chickpeas at 400F for about fifteen to twenty minutes, shaking every four or five minutes to make certain they brown evenly. Precisely how long it will take for the chickpeas to roast will depend on the chickpeas and your oven so be sure to shake often and watch closely. You want them to reach a medium golden brown colour. Once the chickpeas are ready, turn the oven down to 350F. Add the cashews, another tablespoon and a half of the infused oil, the cumin, sea salt, and a couple of twists of fresh cracked pepper and toss to coat. Roast for another ten to fifteen minutes, until the cashews have turned a golden brown and the chickpeas are crisp. Finally, add the last sprig of rosemary to the mix and roast for another five minutes. Remove from the oven, toss quickly, and then set aside to cool for at least an hour. Remove the rosemary sprig before serving.

Store in an airtight container, two to three days at room temperature, two weeks or so in the fridge and a few months in the freezer. Likely though, they’ll have disappeared long before then.

Notes: This recipe really lends itself to variation. The most obvious option would be swapping out the cashews for some other nut, with almonds being the best replacement. Another option might be to experiment with the infused oil, adding garlic or other aromatics along with the rosemary. Your last option is to toss out the rosemary recipe and come up with one of your own. This is a great chance to have fun and be creative, to experiment with all the different flavours you’ve got in your pantry. Using the same basic method of infusion and roasting, you can season your cashew and chickpea mix with any flavour combination you can imagine.