Chickpeas, an ancient staple of Middle Eastern and European cooking, were fairly exotic in Richmond when Michael King used them in his Luna Pâte at Grace Place, likely the city's first vegetarian restaurant, which was open from 1973 to 1996 at 826 W. Grace St. You can still find that customer favorite on the menu at Good Foods Café (1312 Gaskins Road in the Gayton Crossing Shopping Center).
Canned or Dried
If you use dried chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), they need to be soaked overnight before you cook them in a stew or bring them to a boil and simmer until they're soft enough to purée. King notes, "With the high-quality organic BPA-free beans available now, using canned beans makes it both quick and easy. But we used organic dried beans way back then." (Bisphenol A is a chemical found in epoxy resins used to coat the inside of some cans.)
The protein content in chickpeas makes them a good alternative to meat in sandwiches, soups, salads and pasta. They're also a good source of fiber, and they're low in cholesterol and saturated fat.
Theresa Barry, a Northern Virginia-based copy editor who worked as a waitress at Grace Place in the 1970s, recalls that "organic foods and cooking were in their infancy then, relative to today's cooking — lots of mung-bean sprouts and carrots in nearly everything." She adds, "Also, no one stared at long-haired, sandal-shod, jeans-wearing folks considered weird or threatening elsewhere in what was otherwise a very conservative town."
Grace Place Luna Pâté, circa 1979
Contributed by chef Michael King of Good Foods Grocery
4 cups of cooked (or canned) chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup of red onion, diced
1 cup of celery, diced
1/2 cup of green pepper, diced
1/4 cup of scallions, diced
1/4 cup of parsley, diced
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of tamari sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of dried basil
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of sea salt
Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until blended. Do not over-blend. King notes that Luna Pâté is great as a dip for raw vegetables or to use as a sandwich spread "or broil open-faced with cheese on top like we did at Grace Place."