Middle East Comfort in a Bowl: Tomato Chickpeas Over Dried Fig-Infused Rice


Growing up with a Middle Eastern background has exposed me to a lot of meat. Meat on meat on meat. In fact, I probably had meat every single day of my life until 18 years of age. Living in Istanbul, I notice that it’s quite easy for people to live off of meat for every meal. However, if meat is not on the menu in your world, another story emerges and suddenly the abundance of local, seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables emerges. There are a lot of high-quality, protein-packed beans, legumes and grains that make up the M-East diet and they’ve been a staple in my diet in many ways. Indeed, it’s not all lamb, yogurt, and more lamb. This chickpeas and rice recipe is not as ordinary as it may seem. The chickpeas are in an aromatic homemade tomato sauce and the rice is infused with the flavors of dried figs! The sweet-savory play is simply mouth watering. Enjoy!

With each bite of rice, you get a warm, creamy backdrop of homemade tomato sauce and the nutty taste of chickpeas. This is such a beautiful, Middle East-inspired dish that is more than just a fair share of carbohydrates – there’s protein and fiber in there too to make it glow!

Chickpeas: contain molybdenum, which helps to detoxify the sulfites accumulated in the body from drinking wine and eating luncheon meats, are a great source of iron, copper, zinc and magnesium, are packed with fiber, help to lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar levels and are a low-fat, complete-protein food.

Tomato Chickpeas Over Dried Fig-Infused Rice

Serves 4


For the rice:

  • 1 cup brown or jasmine rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3-4 figs (cut into 4 pieces/each)

For the chickpea tomato sauce:

  • 1 can (16 ounces) garbanzo chick peas (I usually peel the shell off each one, but its not necessary)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1 small green long pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups (20-ounce can) crushed tomato
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A few dashes of paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

For assembly:

  • Freshly chopped parsley 


For the rice, bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan and add the rice. Reduce the heat to a simmer, close the lid and let it cook. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, check to see if the rice needs additional water to cook thoroughly. Note: do not be afraid of adding water, since you can drain it later. After 30 minutes, add the fig pieces and let the mixture simmer another 5 minutes. If there is still excess juice left in the rice, drain the rice and put paper towel across the top of the saucepan and close the lid atop the paper towel. Remove from heat and set aside. The paper towel will absorb excess moisture.


For the tomato sauce, heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and sauté the onion, scallion and green peppers for about 4-5 minutes in medium high before adding garlic. Sautee another minute or so. Add the crushed tomato and stir. When the tomatoes begin to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook another 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, paprika, basil, oregano, coriander and cumin. Taste to make sure the veggies are soft and the spices are to your taste. Add the chick peas and cook another 10 minutes until the mix is thick – not runny – and the chickpeas are softened.


Scoop rice onto a plat and top with desired amount of chickpea tomato sauce. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and dig in!


Well, isn’t this pretty?


Bon Appetit!

xo Aylin

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