Brothy Chickpeas with Garlic Croutons
In addition to some very sweet memories (and plenty of specialty foods stashed in my suitcase), I returned home from a recent trip to Sicily with a whole lot of cooking inspiration. Having spent two weeks mining the culinary riches of this vibrant Italian island, I returned home with a laundry list of dishes to tackle in my own kitchen. Top among them were the tender chickpeas I ate at a buffet lunch on an olive grove one sunny afternoon. The chickpeas didn’t look like much on the table, particularly placed next to fat handmade ravioli and glossy vegetable antipasti. But they tasted like comfort in a bowl, lapped in a flavorful broth with a rich sheen of olive oil along the top. I went back for seconds, taking mental notes with every bite. These Brothy Chickpeas with Garlic Croutons are my best attempt to bring that dish home.
A Simple Pot of Chickpeas
The recipe is built on very simple ingredients: chickpeas, onions, carrots, celery, and seasonings. When working on the recipe, I was tempted to lean on the spices I so often use for chickpeas, such as cumin, curry paste, hot chiles, turmeric, and paprika. But the dish I ate in Sicily was more subtle than that, which was so much of its appeal. So I kept it as basic as I remembered and the finished chickpeas didn’t disappoint. The onions and carrots, fennel seeds and fresh basil provide plenty of flavor. The garlicky croutons give it pleasing crunch.
It Starts with Good Broth
The key to this dish is to start with good broth. Even though I routinely used boxed broth in my cooking, I think making your own is worthwhile for this recipe. And it is truly easy to do. For this dish, I did up a big batch of broth, storing the leftovers in my freezer. I bought three pounds of chicken bones from the butcher, piled them into the Instant Pot, added a quartered onion, several garlic cloves, a stalk of celery, a carrot, and a few bay leaves. I covered it with water and set it for 30 minutes. Once done, I strained the liquid and ladled it into jars. You could do the same thing on the stovetop, simmering it in a large pot for a couple of hours. If you would prefer a more detailed recipe, head here. And those following a vegetarian diet can certainly use a vegetable broth instead.
Croutons for Crunch
Truth be told, the chickpeas served in Sicily didn’t have croutons. But plenty of other pastas and other dishes we ate while we were there did. They add wonderful texture and a hit of flavor to this dish. You’ll need a baguette or other type of crusty loaf to make them. But the whole process will take you just a few minutes of extra time. Beware: they’re very tasty on their own, so you may want to make extra to munch on while you cook.
Assembling the Chickpeas
To assemble this cozy meal, spoon the chickpeas into shallow bowls and drizzle each one lightly with olive oil. It adds a depth of flavor and richness to an already tasty dish. From there, give the chickpeas a light shower of fresh black pepper and roughly chopped basil. The croutons go on just before serving, so they keep their crunch. Serve these Brothy Chickpeas with Garlic Croutons as a main dish, maybe along with a simple arugula or baby kale salad. Alternatively, enjoy as a side dish along with a roast chicken or top with a simple filet of fish drizzled with olive oil and lemon.
If you like Brothy Chickpeas with Garlic Croutons, check out:
Brothy Chickpeas with Garlic Olive Oil Croutons
Tender and tasty, these chickpeas are the essence of comfort in a bowl. They’re seasoned with fennel, a hit of chile, and fresh basil. Crunchy garlic croutons adds pleasing texture to the finished dish. Serve them as a main dish alongside a simple salad or as a side along with roast chicken or fresh fish.
Garlic Olive Oil Croutons
- 1 baguette or other loaf (such as levain, sourdough, or crusty whole-grain)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling on the finished dish
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (two 15-ounce cans)
- 2 cups chicken broth, ideally homemade (or vegetable broth), plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
Cut the bread into cubes that are about 1/3 to 1/2-inch until you have 1 1/2 cups.
Heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes to infuse the oil with flavor.
Turn the heat to high and add the fresh croutons. Saute until golden brown all over. Transfer to a plate.
Remove the garlic cloves from the pan you used to cook the croutons. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium in the pan. Add the onion, celery, carrots, sliced garlic, fennel, chile flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and vinegar. Adjust the heat so the liquid simmers and cover the pan loosely with foil or with a large lid that is slightly askew so the pan isn’t completely covered. Simmer until much of the liquid is absorbed and the chickpeas are very tender, 20-25 minutes. If the pan becomes dry, add more broth. You want this to look loose and brothy, but not like soup. Taste and add salt as needed (the amount can vary significantly depending on the saltiness of the broth).
Spoon the chickpeas into shallow bowls. Drizzle each bowl lightly with olive oil. Add fresh cracked pepper, fresh basil, and garlic croutons. Serve warm.