When I was a teenager, I worked as a waitress at a restaurant in Germantown, Wisconsin, called The Country Kitchen. I think the chain is still around, but the Germantown location was replaced by a bank with a newly surfaced parking lot. One of the attractions of The CK was a weekend buffet that transitioned to an evening salad bar. It may not have been fancy, but it was the only place to build your own salad for under $5!  The bar was loaded with pellets of ice, a couple dozen bowls of chilled foods that varied from shredded vegetables and cheeses to the grossest creamiest vat of chocolate pudding that came from a shelf-stable gigantic gallon can from the dry storage room. Chickpeas were also on the salad bar. I never ate them. Ever. The looked slimy and oozed with chickpea juice. I now know that this crazy juice is actually called aquafaba and I cook/bake with it regularly as an egg replacer. Who knew?

The Perfect (slightly) Spicy Crispy Chickpeas

Anyway - chickpeas. Today I can't get enough. I make a great hummus with them, as well as Slightly Spicy Crispy Chickpeas. I would make them full on spicy, but then my kids probably wouldn't eat them. My three-year-old calls peppermint ice cream "too spicy" - so I know I won't get very far by spicing up the chickpeas too much.

I've baked chickpeas in the past, but find that pan frying them is a little quicker and easier on a hot summer evening. The key is making them crispy. Too much oil, they're kind of soggy. Too little oil, they're too dry. I don't add any spice until the very end. It's a really subtle kick. I use cayenne in this recipe. Not too much, but just enough that you know it's there. Balanced with a little black pepper, cumin and sea salt, it's a really simple, but delicious snack.

After these are pan-fried, let them sit out, preferably in a single layer on a paper-towel covered baking sheet or plate. Either will work. If you'd like to store these, don't add them to a container right away or all the crunch will be lost. Let the chickpeas cool down and dry. You don't want excess moisture making things soggy the next time you grab a handful.