My curiosity and eventual love for Spanish culture and cuisine began relatively early in life, as I studied the Spanish language under the brilliant and creative tutelage of my high school Spanish teacher, Senora 'S.'. A few years beyond, then in the final stride of my undergraduate studies, and more engrossed in the language and culture than ever, I decided that I wanted to complete the studies for my Spanish minor in the "motherland" herself, Spain.
My arrival in Spain for a summer of study and exploration was the authentic immersion into the culture, people and food that I had long desired. Starting south in Andalusia and landing close to center in Madrid (where I lived and studied throughout my time there), I also relished the frequent day trips and unveiling of such gems as Sevilla, Avila, Granada and Salamanca.
Equally as thrilling were the cultural dalliances gained from everything from riding the crowded metro; to afternoon siestas; to attending a bullfight; to touring museums (who can forget the Prado?!), gorgeous churches, cathedrals and Spanish architecture; to watching Spanish movies; to shopping for Majorca pearls for my mom; to idyllic beaches and boat rides, and so much more. I shared my days and nights with a wonderful cast of fellow students-turned-friends, and learned immensely from Senor 'M.', a true Spanish gentleman and professor, who led our charge.
And then there was the food. It was then and there that I discovered authentic delicacies such as Paella and tapas and extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar dressed salads and espresso (to my late-night studying chagrin) and all the potatoes and pork that I care to remember--a byproduct of the study abroad life at its finest, no doubt.
Several years ago, I happened upon a cookbook that took me back to my beautiful memories of that earlier time and reintroduced me to the flavors of the Spanish kitchen. As I explored the pages, I discovered what has become one of my favorite quick and easy bites--the Spanish tapa known as roasted chickpeas (Garbanzos Tostados). In the book, author Elisabeth Luard shares how these are sold hot from the roasting pan in the villages of Andalusia and are known as the "poor man's salted almond".
I began roasting my own and love adding spice and seasoning blends to round out a flavorful, scrumptious bite--perfect for snacking, as a tapa, atop salads, or any way you like them. I like to roast them at a higher heat for a shorter interval than the author's recipe, but the result is ultimately the same: crispy, nutty, delectable nibbles.
And when I'm back in Andalusia next, I'll be on the lookout for those roasting pans.
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
Freshly ground black pepper
Cajun seasoning blend (or other preferred spice seasoning blend)
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Pour chickpeas onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt, pepper and seasoning blend, to taste. (Cook's Tip: If using a pre-blended spice mix, go sparingly on the salt. Many blends contain sufficient salt.) Toss together to mix and coat the beans.
Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until crispy and golden. Dust with a light sprinkling of the spice blend to finish. Serve and enjoy!