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.