I heard that the medical journal The Lancet published a large series of reports on the obesity epidemic last week, then forgot to go foraging for the articles until today’s little memory jogger from The New York Times. On the series page, The Lancet makes the series executive summary and some related content available for free (basically everything down the right side of the page), but for the really good stuff, you have to have a subscription for access. Fortunately, I was able to find four of those seven reports for free online by plugging the titles into Google. Probably aren’t supposed to be posted anywhere for free, but my motto is: If I can find it, I’m gonna read it.
I’m still reading my way through them, but they are so far nicely dealing with the complexities of what is a global epidemic. In extremely simplistic terms, it looks like society went off the rails in the 1970s. Great…those were my formative years.
Speaking of The New York Times, one of the kajillion books I have out from the library right now is The Essential New York Times Cookbook. (This came out almost a year ago, and in the crush of published-in-time-for-the-holidays cookbooks, it wasn’t one I ended up perusing at the time.) Once my temporary copy was at home and in hand, I made a beeline for the meat chapter, looking for some interesting-but-simple ways to prepare all the beef and pork cuts in my freezer. Page after page went by, and nothing really called out to me. “Well, this is a bust,” I thought. Then I turned another page and found a perfect recipe! And then another, and another! Then I went to the soups chapter (you know, looking for freezable meal ideas), and while many of the recipes are not something I would ever make, there were a huge handful that looked so amazing that I want to make them all right now. And several more that I would definitely like to try sometime.
“Uh-oh,” I said to Jeff. “Looks like this is going on my Christmas list.”
One recipe that jumped right into my lap and begged me to cook it was “Crispy Chickpeas with Ground Meat.” When I saw that this was a Mark Bittman recipe, I scooped his cookbooks (I have three) off my shelves and started searching. I found slight variations of the same recipe in The Food Matters Cookbook and Quick and Easy Recipes from the New York Times. Excellent! One recipe I don’t have to photocopy to tide me over until Santa comes.
So Crispy Chickpeas it was for dinner last night. It was quick, delicious, and one of those recipes that needs minimal prep, doesn’t take long to cook, and most of that cooking time needs only occasional stirring, giving you time to make a salad or side dish, or do some dishes, while you keep an eye on it. It was savory, comforting goodness. And not too spicy, so I think it would be pretty kid-friendly (if your kids like taco meat and don’t mind chickpeas, they should like this). The recommendation is to serve it with rice or pita bread, but I served it with a side of sauteed yellow summer squash from my garden. The recipe below is how I made it, after looking at the three variations. I’ve included notable variations below, for your customizing pleasure.

Crispy/Sauteed Chickpeas with (Ground) Meat
Serves 4

1 pound ground beef (can use as little as 1/2 pound; can substitute other ground meats)
2 14.5-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 4 cups home-cooked chickpeas)
2 cups water, broth, or a mixture (or 2 cups reserved cooking liquid if you cooked your own chickpeas)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons minced garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded spinach (or chopped veggies like squash or green beans)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
minced fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish (optional)

  1. Turn heat to high under a large, deep skillet and add the meat, breaking it up into small pieces. Stir and break up the meat a little more, until there isn’t much pink showing. 
  2. Add the chickpeas. Keep the heat high and continue to cook, stirring only occasionally, until the chickpeas begin to brown and pop, about 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t worry if the mixture sticks a bit, but if it begins to scorch, lower the heat slightly.
  3. Add the cumin, chili powder and garlic; cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the 2 cups liquid and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan if necessary to loosen any browned bits that have stuck. Season with salt and pepper, then turn the heat to medium-low. 
  4. Add the spinach or veggies. Continue to cook until the mixture is no longer soupy but not completely dry.
  5. Stir in the olive oil, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Garnish (if you like) and serve immediately.