North African Berbers claim they developed the art of culinary steaming, which then spread throughout the Mediterranean world. If true, they made a huge contribution! Steaming has been used to cook innumerable dishes, not only couscous, but also vegetables, fish, lamb, chicken, fava beans, and soaked chickpeas.
Chickpeas steamed over boiling water, then dusted with coarse salt and ground cumin are a revelation. You taste the nuttiness without any toasting. The trick is to start with perfectly swollen chickpeas, requiring a full 12-hour soak. Steaming will then create moist and pure-flavored chickpeas with a fine creamy texture. Steamed chickpeas are best served hot. Cool, they lose all their charm. Eat them as you would nuts, a few at a time.
Though the soaking is long, the steaming is quick. This recipe works best for small amounts.
The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert. Copyright © 2003 by Paula Wolfert. Photographs copyright © by Christopher Hirsheimer. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.