It’s World Pulses Day, a global celebration of beans, and you know how excited I get about beans. For starters, beans offer simple abundance. They’ve been the backbone of every culture and cuisine from Boston to Barcelona, adding inexpensive oomph to dishes and providing us with deep, satisfying sustenance.
Since I’m just I’m back from Spain, I had to remake this plant-based riff on the Catalan classic fabada Asturiana (pork and bean stew). I’d first made it for a party. Everyone asked for seconds, no one could believe it was vegan. A sofrito (easy sauté) of tomato, onions, garlic and spices builds flavor and replaces the animal products. The addition of saffron is traditional and brilliant, adding an earthy richness.
Making this dish from dried chickpeas results in a truly sumptuous and satisfying dish. The beans are more tender than canned and absorb all the spices and aromatics. Serve with crusty whole grain bread, roasted vegetables or a green salad and you’ll never miss the meat.
It keeps covered and refrigerated for the better part of a week and the flavors continue to deepen.
Chickpeas with Saffron
- 1 pound dried chickpeas rinsed, picked over and soaked overnight with cold water to cover plus a pinch of baking soda
- 1 onion peeled
- 1 head of garlic
For the sofrito:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 large ripe tomatoes chopped or 1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 generous pinch saffron threads
- 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- a handful cilantro chopped, if desired
- Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a large soup pot. Drop in the whole onion, head of gar-lic and pour in the beans. Give them a hard boil with heat on high for 10 minutes, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Let beans simmer, covered for an hour.
- Meanwhile in a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, for about 3 minutes, or until shimmering. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Sauté the vegetables for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until they soften and smell fragrant. Reduce heat to medium and pour in the chopped tomatoes. Add the liquid smoke and smoked paprika, crumble in the saffron threads and and add it to the tomatoes. Stir together.
- Continue cooking and stirring for about 8 to 10 minutes or until sauce starts to thicken and dark to a brick color.
- Remove the lid from the bean pot. Pour in the sofrito and stir to combine. Let the beans continue to cook, uncovered, for another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce reduces and coats the beans.
- Remove from heat and let cool. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with the fresh, chopped cilantro leaves, if using.