Garbanzo Pita Pockets - Paradise Edition!

Here's where we are staying this week!!!! Not that I'm excited.... :)

My husband and I make a trip to Bokeelia, Florida every year, along with the rest of my husband’s family. We love hanging out here. The beautiful weather (it has been in the 80s most days!), beautiful scenery, and the never-ending fun things to do make it a perfect vacation spot.

Meet Poppy the potbellied pig who lives with my husband's cousin!

We took the kayaks out to explore Jug Creek for a while. They were super fast because they had pedals in them too.

Meal times are always interesting as we try to feed 13-19 people. Simple food is always the most popular - fresh squeezed orange juice, guacamole, refried beans… Yesterday for lunch I made Huevos Rancheros for the crowd. Many people weren’t super excited about the runny eggs, but when eaten with the beans, tortillas, and ranchero sauce they found it to be good. 

I also made a vegetarian Spanish rice for our burrito night and a shell pasta dish with an artichoke cream sauce. Yum! 

I’m hoping to make some Beets Gone Wild and Feisty Green Beans before we leave in a few days. Before we left on our paradise vacation, I made these Garbanzo Pita Sandwiches. 

I usually have a good idea of what I want a dish to taste like before I start cooking it: not so with this dish.

I’ve had dried garbanzo beans in my cupboard for a few months just waiting for the right time for me to experiment with cooking them. I’ve always used canned garbanzos and heard about the superior taste of dried garbanzos.

On days when I’m home anyway, cooking dried beans is super simple. I used to be really intimidated by them, but now that I’ve cooked them a few times I feel much more confident.

For the most part, from starting the soaking to finishing the cooking dried beans take about 4-6 hours. You don’t need to soak beans overnight. In fact, I like to soak them just for a few hours during the day to prevent them from getting too soft.

For the garbanzos, I washed the dried beans and put them in a large soup pot. Then, I covered them with cold water; I aim for about 2-3 inches of water above the beans. It doesn’t matter if you have too much water, but it does matter if you have too little. Set the pot aside. It doesn’t have to be refrigerated, but it can be.

After about an hour of soaking, I test the bean to see how soft it is. Obviously, it’s still raw, so you aren’t testing to see if it is ready for your dish. Instead, you want it to be soft enough to bite through and not too soft that they are starting to fall apart. I like to think about al dente pasta. The bean will still have a bite to it, but most of it will be soft.

When the beans are done soaking (the length of time depends on the freshness of the beans; my garbanzos soaked for about 3 hours), discard the water and rinse the beans. Place them back into the soup pot and cover with cold water (about 1-2 inches above the beans). Place a large onion cut into quarters into the soup pot. If you have some kombu (or kelp), add a 2 inch piece of it to the pot too. (Sea vegetables make the beans cook faster and increase their vitamins.) Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook until the beans are soft yet still hold their shape.

After cooking for about an hour, I start tasting a bean about every 30 minutes or so to check for doneness. If I remember, I’ll add some salt when the beans are almost done. Adding salt too early will make the beans tough, but the salt enhances their flavor.

When the beans are done cooking, scoop out the onion pieces and the kombu and discard. Reserve some of the flavorful cooking liquid to use with your dishes and to store the leftover beans in. The beans can now be used like you would canned beans. If you have extras, just place it in the reserved liquid and freeze them until you are ready to use them.

The texture of the dried garbanzos was better than canned beans. And I liked the flavor much better. I’m not a big fan of garbanzo beans, so I was surprised at how much I liked the taste of the freshly cooked beans. These pita sandwiches are super simple to make and once the beans are cooked, come together very quickly!

Unfortunately, the internet at our place is temperamental on a good day and nonexistent most days, so you probably won't see another Florida vacation post.  :(  However, let me leave you with a picture of my in-law's new round house!

Garbanzo Pita Pockets
4 generous servings, 30 minutes (longer if needing to soak and cook the beans)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped into 1 inch chunks
1 leek, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups garbanzo beans, cooked (see notes above on cooking dried garbanzo beans)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cucumber, minced
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
1-2 pinches salt
4 pitas
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the bell pepper and saute for a few minutes. Stir infrequently to get blackened marks on the outside of the pepper. When soft, remove from pan and set aside.
  2. While the bell pepper is cooking, chop the leek and garlic. Once the peppers are done and removed from the pan, add the leek and garlic to the pan and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Stir in the beans, garam masala, salt, and pepper (to taste). Drizzle in the last 1 tablespoon of oil and let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Taste, adjust seasonings, and set aside.
  3. Add the cucumber and vinegar together in a tall container (like a liquid measuring cup). Using an immersion blender, blend until most of the cucumber chunks have been pureed. Alternatively, you can use a blender or a small food processor to do this. Taste. Add a couple pinches of salt and, if needed, another splash of vinegar. The sauce should taste decidedly like cucumbers, and the vinegar and salt should enhance the flavor, not hide it.
  4. To serve, warm the pitas (or better yet, make them from scratch and serve them straight from the oven!). Cut the pitas in half and open the pocket. Stuff each pocket with the garbanzo beans, and a couple red bell peppers. Drizzle the cucumber sauce on the top. Enjoy!
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