Stewed Garbanzos and The Art of Meal Planning

With the summer abundance finished it’s time to shift gears and plan meals for cold, busy weeks. Summer is easier, with lots of fresh produce, garden offerings and the punishing heat that suggests lighter meals, lots of rosé and mint water, preferably in the backyard under tree shade. Fall and winter are a different game, I’m extra hungry as the weather cools and the days shorten, and fuller meals are in demand.


Meal planning is key to my budget, and my sanity. It helps me prepare quick meals as my life runs faster than I can, and it keeps me from wasting food. In a country where 40-50% of the food produced goes to waste it’s difficult to take food waste serious, until it has a personal impact. After all, part of what I teach is meal planning and mindfulness around food, which makes me more aware of my own shortcomings.


Every Saturday, I fill bowls with beans, lentils and grains, of any color and shape, cover them with water and soak them overnight. On Sunday, I cook them all, as I mosey around sipping my morning coffee and reading The New York Times. At home, we are not vegetarians, but we use pulses, grains, and many vegetables to stretch animal proteins. Luckily, I’m a trained Colombian who grew up on beans and rice, so diversifying using lentils, beans and vegetables is familiar, if not comforting.

Once cooked, pulses and grains are an easy and reliable base for many meals through the week, with or without meat. Sometimes I’ll make bigger batches and freeze finished meals for the following week, if I know I’ll be extra busy. This weekend we worked on a batch of lentil-oat bars for Mr. Thomas, as he’s always bouncing around town and in need of nutritious snacks. We also worked on black bean and farro tacos for a lazy Sunday lunch; garbanzos to stew with tomatoes and fennel, to make hummus, and for falafel patties; and white beans for Cassoulet and Minestrone soupwhich I froze in two-portion containers, and are perfect for a snowy night, like tonight, when traffic is horrid and stressful, and I can relax knowing that a hearty dinner is ready to heat up.


This weekly ritual acts as a way to inventory what is in our fridge, pantry and freezer, and to find recipes for produce, or other perishables. I’m mortified anytime a lonely turnip or carrot, forgotten underneath a pile of mushrooms or lettuce, gets soft and moldy and I have to dispose of the dead evidence. How much did I pay for that turnip?

Putting a “food wasted log” on the door of your fridge, writing down everything that goes from the refrigerator to the trash and adding a dollar amount, plus any unfinished plated meals, is a scary proposition. Yes, that includes leftovers. My brother has an aversion to leftovers, he won’t eat them, so what could he do to avoid waste? Cook smaller meals? Serve smaller portions? Leftover and pre-made meals rescue me at lunch time, without them I’d have to buy lunch out every workday – talk about expensive.

Do I still waste food? Yes, I do. Just today I drowned my sink with a pint of heavy cream I purchased back in August thinking on making ice cream but I never got around to it, that was $3 dollars and 0.25 cents. Sometimes, I might compost items that went soft or got a bit moldy, like the aforementioned turnip, but really that’s just a more ‘environmentally’ friendly way to trash food, either way I paid for it, only to put it in the trash a while later.

I struggle with this concept. 

The average American family throws away between $1300 and $2200 dollars a year, or about $175 dollars a month worth of food. How many hours of work is that? I scorn myself for trashing my time mindlessly, $2200 dollars a year equals a vacation somewhere, Christmas shopping, or more time off to enjoy with my loved ones.

There’re many ways to prevent food waste, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an extensive list of tips and ideas to help us do just that. Starting with “shop in your fridge first,” a simple way to use what we already have at home before purchasing more, or planning your meals and creating a shopping list before going to the store, and sticking to it. Their tips can help reduce food waste and the stress of last-minute dinners after a busy day of work, while saving money and eating healthier home cooked meals.

Part of my planning includes finding recipes and new ideas. I draw inspiration from books, food magazines, or the internet, to prepare meals using the same ingredients in creative ways. Like this week and garbanzo beans. First stop hummus. After making hummus at home I never bought hummus again. It’s a fast dip to prepare, even if you cook your own beans, and the best way I’ve found to cook garbanzo beans is in the slow cooker. You can soak them all day, then rinse them and put them in the slow cooker with water, salt, pepper and spices, like cumin, paprika and oregano, and cook them overnight on low.

Next stop, falafel. I found a recipe in an unassuming  Mediterranean cookbook I rescued at a garage sale years ago, it calls for cooked garbanzos but the mixture is a little too soft and it doesn’t hold as well. I use half cooked and half soaked, but not cooked, garbanzos. The raw, soaked garbanzos give it the crunchy, meaty texture, while the cooked ones help it bind better.


Last stop, stew. I saved 2 cups of cooked garbanzos and made a stew from one of my favorite cookbooks, Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. I love that book. The recipes are easy, fun, creative and delicious. I find myself resourcing over and over again to it for inspiration, especially for vegetarian meals. The two cups of garbanzos turned into 4 cups of stew, and two different meals: dinner with a heavy spoonful of carrot green pesto I had in the freezer, salad and crusty bread; and brunch a couple of days later with an over-medium egg on top and roasted potatoes.

For these dishes, I used two cups of dried garbanzo beans that turned into nearly five cups of soaked beans, and expand further once cooked.

Adapted from Mediterranean: A Taste of the Sun

Falafel is a great substitution for meat, fish, or chicken in any salad. It’s also great with the traditional fixings of pita bread, hummus, and cucumber-tomato salad, or as the patty on a burger.

3/4 cup dried chickpeas {1 1/2 soaked}*
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper

  • Soak the beans for 8 hours, or overnight. Refrigerated half of them after soaking.
  • Cook the other half until soft, in the slow cooker on low overnight, or on high for 4 hours under your watchful eye. Drain after cooking.
  • If you are soaking a big batch of beans, than take 1 1/2 cups of soaked beans and divide them, keeping half in the fridge while the other half cooks.
  • Put all the ingredients in the food processor and pulse until it forms a paste.
  • Shape into 1 1/2″ pebbles – at this point, you can refrigerate, freeze, or cook immediately, based on your planning for the week
  • Pan fry or drizzle with oil and bake at 375F until crispy

Stewed Garbanzos
Adapted from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi

In the book, this recipe is called “Chickpea, tomato and bread soup”, however, I reduced the liquid and rearranged some of the steps to make it a stew rather than a soup. With already cooked beans this recipe comes together in just a few steps, and it simmers while I check my email or catch up with my mother over the phone.

1 large onion, sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 14-oz can tomatoes, diced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • In a medium sauce pan, sweat {a gentle sauté} the onions and fennel for 8-10 minute.
  • Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes
  • Add garlic and cook for one minute
  • Deglaze the pan with the wine and allow to boil
  • Add tomatoes and stock, and bring to a boil
  • Add herbs and garbanzos and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes
  • With a potato masher, mash the garbanzos making sure to keep some whole
  • Let it simmer a few more minutes. Check for salt and pepper to your taste
  • Serve with a dollop of pesto and crusty bread, or with a cooked egg on top

Here are some other resources:

~ Paula




8 thoughts on “Stewed Garbanzos and The Art of Meal Planning”

  1. Oh Paula c’est absolument merveilleux votre BLOG.
    Vos photos sont une vraie reussite.
    Et les recettes si agreable a faire. Vosu etes l’Ange culinaire du BLOG.

  2. It’s criminal that we waste so much food. Your batches sound perfect for busy nights…I’m soaking a batch of black beans now that will hopefully keep us warm for a couple of nights. I also hate to waste and since we don’t have a dog that will eat scraps I have been more conscious about composting…even tea leaves don’t go to waste in our nest. Happy feasting and composting.

    1. Mr. Miles (dog) loves chard stems, carrot and other root vegtable ends, and the occasional morsel of leftovers. Black beans are one of my favorites! How are you going to fix them? 😋

  3. Paula, I always read with great interest your latest recipes, photos, trips etc. it’s refreshing to read that you have Yotem Ottilenghi’s book Plenty and take inspiration from his recipes. My son got me that book some years ago, as he too is very keen on his style of cooking. We were able to see Ottolenghi some time ago giving a food demonstration at an annual food fair in the lovely market town of Abergavenny, not that I can remember what he was cooking!

    You are so keen on cooking with pulses and again no one I know cooks with them. Today I’ve made a pot of pea and ham soup, very hearty on an extremely stormy day. My house smells lovely today what with soup, raspberry jam and a Xmas cake.

    1. Val! thank you for your lovely message. I’m jealous that you got to see Ottolenghi, i’d love to spy on their kitchen and drown myself in his cooking…ahh! And your kitchen sounds like the place to be right now, only if we weren’t so far apart, i have to plan a trip to see you and share cooking stories. XO

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