Meatless Monday: Sicilian Chickpeas with Escarole and Caramelized Onions

Gluten-Free, Italian, Main Courses, Meatless, Vegan / Monday, February 21st, 2011

So, I’m going vegan for a week.

I agreed to do this with my friend Karen Beth several weeks ago, but things kept coming up. Birthday dinners. Valentine’s Day. Mom’s French onion soup with delicious-delicious beef broth.

There’s never a good time to break up with meat and cheese. But this is my week to do it. Just to see what it’s like. Will I wake up feeling like a golden god with lightning bolts coursing through my veins? Will I crack mid-way and snort a line of pepper jack?

Time will tell.

Actually, I’m really looking forward to trying a lot of new (to me) ingredients and recipes. Case in point: these Sicilian Chickpeas with Escarole and Caramelized Onions. I’ve flipped past this recipe dozens of times, thinking it just wasn’t for me.

I was so wrong.

There’s nothing bland or boring about a big, warm bowl full of creamy chickpeas tossed with wilted escarole, caramelized onions and raisins. Raisins! I almost left them out, but those little pops of sweetness make total sense mixed in with the bitter greens and nutty chickpeas. It was good enough to steal an extra bite or two before I put the rest in the fridge.

Since this is a one-dish meal made in one skillet, I kept things simple and used canned chickpeas. However, if you prefer dried beans, you’ll find Jack Bishop’s method for preparing Basic Chickpeas right below this recipe.

OK, so I’ve got two vegan meals down, 19 to go.

If you have any favorite vegan recipes, products, cookbooks or blogs, please let me know about them in the comments section. Karen Beth has already told me about an avocado pasta recipe that sounds incredible, so I’ve got to catch up!

Sicilian Chickpeas with Escarole and Caramelized Onions

Adapted from Jack Bishop’s “The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook”

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 large escarole (or endive) (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark raisins
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups drained Basic Chickpeas (recipe below), plus 1/3 cup cooking liquid reserved OR 3 cups canned chickpeas with 1/3 cup canning liquid reserved (recommended: Eden Organic Garbanzo Beans)
  1. To Prep the Escarole: Discard any tough leaves. Trim and discard the core and any tough stems. Wash the leaves in a large bowl of cold water. Tear the leaves into large pieces, and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the sugar, and continue cooking until the onions are golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the raisins and escarole. Cook, turning the escarole occasionally, until the leaves are tender, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Stir in the chickpeas and their liquid. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have blended, about 3 minutes. Adjust the seasonings, and serve immediately.

Basic Chickpeas

Makes about 6 1/2 cups

  • 1 pound dried chickpeas (2 1/2 cups)
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt
  1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl, and add enough cold water to cover them by several inches. Soak them for at least 8 hours or overnight. (Or, bring the chickpeas and water to a boil in a large saucepan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 2 minutes. Then, turn off the heat, cover and set aside for 1 hour.)
  2. Drain the chickpeas, and transfer them to a large saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover them by several inches. Add the garlic and bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the chickpeas are still a little firm, tender but not falling apart, 35 to 60 minutes, depending on the freshness of the chickpeas and how long they were soaked.
  3. Add salt to taste, turn off the heat, and let the chickpeas cool in their cooking liquid. (The cooled chickpeas and cooking liquid may be poured into a large airtight container and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Or, divide the cooled beans and cooking liquid among several smaller airtight containers, and freeze for up to several months. Thaw before using.)
  4. Reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside before draining the chickpeas. Discard the garlic and bay leaves. Use the chickpeas and cooking liquid in recipes or season as desired.

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51 thoughts on “Meatless Monday: Sicilian Chickpeas with Escarole and Caramelized Onions

  1. Sounds fantastic! And I try to do vegan about once a week. Middle Eastern and Italian-inspired foods are actually easy and satisfying. Which reminds me, I need to make some minestrone!

  2. "…snort a line of pepper jack?" – that almost made me spit coffee all over my computer.
    And this recipe looks delicious! I love anything with chick peas and caramelized onions. nom nom.

    1. This is really good. You couldn't have paid me to believe I'd crave anything with chickpeas, but I'll be making this again soon.

  3. I live in Nashville too and have also recently decided to go vegan. I share lots of fun (and easy) vegan recipes on my blog. I tried it solid for a week and now I say that I'm vegan-ish. I think I may do it again for Lent. Either way, I promise that you'll feel better (and you won't even miss cheese THAT much) Check it out and enjoy:

    1. Wow, those brownies look great! I had no idea that you could use flax meal as an egg replacement. They look really fudgy. This would be a great recipe to test on Jeff…

    1. I know what you mean! Maybe you could try it for a weekend. I read that Michael Pollan eats vegan until 6 p.m. and then has what he wants for dinner. Not too complicated. Ha!

    1. OK, both recipes are bookmarked! And I had no idea about Moosewood's Cooking for Health. I've worn out two of their books. Looks like another one is in my near future. Thanks!

  4. Ohhhh, I love vegan food. I don't think I would actually become vegan, but damn are vegan meals delicious (and nutritious!).

    I know absolutely nothing about escarole, so…do you think kale could work instead?

    1. Yes! You could definitely use kale.

      So far, you're totally right about the vegan food. I thought the transition would be hard, but the first two days have been full of good stuff.

  5. I'm going to cheer you on!….But I'm not strong enough to break up with sausage, pork and sharp cheddar. I'll be with you…in spirit! LOL

  6. This looks great. I bought escarole on Saturday and was planning on making pasta with it tomorrow night, but now I think I'll give this a try. I love escarole because, even though it looks delicate, it holds up in the fridge relatively well during the week, so this is almost like a pantry meal.

  7. can't wait to see how the vegan trial goes for you! i have the same thing on my to do list, but cheese and cream and bacon.. you understand why i've put it off. :)

  8. I'm not vegan, but I like to admire from afar, and one of my favorite restaurants in LA is a vegan one, so I guess I can say that I dabble from time to time. Check out if you don't already know about it. All of the recipes are vegetarian, many of them vegan. I have her cookbook and like the recipes that I've made so far. Also, there's a vegan cookbook by Alica Silverstone that I've looked through but haven't bought. Good recipes in there too.

    1. I hadn't checked 101cookbooks. Thanks! And I think Oprah's website has posted some of the recipes from "The Kind Diet," like those chocolate-peanut butter cups. Dangerous.

  9. i was vegan for a month once. one of the easiest things to do is just roast a bunch of veg (like squash, root veg, peppers, onion) in the oven with good olive oil, s+p or balsamic.

    also, soy cheese on nachos is totally vegan friendly :P

    1. Oh, I love roasted vegetables. Good idea!

      I keep hearing different opinions about soy cheese. What brand would you recommend? Because nachos are my friend.

  10. I travel for work a lot and this week I am working from home. I decided to do vegan this week as well since I have more control than being on the road while eating at restaurants. A friend just turned me onto your blog this week when I put out a request for vegetarian or vegan recipes. Thanks for sharing this recipe and LOVE your blog.

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you found the site, especially this week, since we're both doing the vegan challenge. Have you tried any new recipes?

  11. I just made this. It was amazing. Served it up on some orzo tossed in a bit of olive oil and S&P. Thank you for the idea. It's going into regular rotation.

  12. My friend, a former vegan, used to do vegan dinner parties. My favorite was her chickpea salad with red peppers, red onion, cucumbers, and a red wine vinaigrette. She served it with warm bread, perfect for soaking up the dressing. Another fave is her Tuscan white beans with sage. Good luck going cheeseless for a week. I cannot imagine.

  13. I came across your blog about a month ago and completely fell in love with it!

    I'm a meat lover through & through, but I started cutting back to eating meat only 3-4 days a week, so I'm always on the lookout for tasty veggie options. This one is defintely getting added to the line up…can't wait to try it!

  14. I read "Skinny Bitch" and "Skinny Bitch in the Kitch" a year or so ago when I did a cleanse that invovled a vegan diet and not only learned some alarming information (some of it is SUPER scary!) but I got some great recipes for when I remember some of the horrifying statitcs I read. And then sometimes I just eat a cheeseburger and that also silences the voices…. but yeah, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch has some good ones. Good luck- be strong! :)

  15. I'm halfway through the recipe now. The chickpeas are cooked and in the fridge. Tomorrow I will finish it off for dinner! Unfortunately escarole and endive were nowhere to be found (weird for Houston stores not to have something I need) but I decided to just use baby spinach. Hopefully it works out anyway.

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