Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

Park Palates: Achiote-Seared Chickpeas

February 9, 2010, 11:41 am

Get a taste of cowboy cuisine with this appetizer from Taylor Ranch in Marfa, Texas, near Big Bend National Park.

We love this recipe, which not only incorporated an ingredient we never used before (annatto seeds), but also helped us discover a new neighborhood store with a fantastic selection of spices.

Before you get started, here are some tips from our office cooking enthusiast Larson, who tested the recipe for us:

  • If you have never tried cooking with infused oils before, remember that less heat is better. Anything you burn in the oil will taste like burnt popcorn.
  • If you are on the run and don’t have a lot of time, replace roasted tomatoes with canned whole peeled tomatoes.  You’ll sacrifice some flavor, but you gain two hours of prep time.
  • If you take out the butter and cheese, you have a healthier vegan alternative that still tastes great. Enjoy!

Achiote-Seared Chickpeas
This is a great snack to put out for guests while you get the rest of dinner on the table. Serve with ice-cold beer or a glass of hearty red wine, along with toasted pita bread dusted with cumin. Look for rusty-red annatto seeds in specialty markets or the Latin foods aisle of your grocery store You can also order them online at Use any leftover achiote oil to rub on pork, steaks, or fish before grilling.

Achiote Oil
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons annatto seeds

Place the olive oil and annatto seeds in a blender and process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan over low heat. Heat the mixture to about 200°F, holding the temperature for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the seeds to steep in the oil for at least 30 minutes. Strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the oil and discarding the seeds. Store in a jar with an airtight lid at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
3 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 225ºF. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a baking pan. Lightly sprinkle the tops of the tomatoes with the olive oil and salt. Roast the tomatoes for about 2 hours, or until the tomatoes are lightly browned and most of their liquid has evaporated.

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch dice
6 tablespoons achiote oil
2 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 cups cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons dark chili powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 oven-roasted tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
3 ounces baby arugula
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 ounces goat cheese
Pita bread

In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft. Remove from the heat and set aside. Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the achiote oil. Drop the garlic into the hot oil and swirl the pan; the garlic will begin to color quickly. As soon as the garlic is lightly browned, add the chickpeas and turn the heat to high. Allow the chickpeas to sear in the hot pan for about a minute before stirring, and then continue to cook until you see a little color and the peas begin to sizzle and pop. Stir in the chili powder and lightly season with salt and pepper. Add the roasted tomatoes and sautéed onion and continue to cook to heat through, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cook for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat and fold in the arugula, oregano, parsley, and half of the goat cheese. Transfer the chickpeas to a serving platter and crumble the remaining goat cheese over the top. Serve with pita bread toasted with olive oil and cumin.

Serves 6

Recipe courtesy Cooking the Cowboy Way: Recipes Inspired by Campfires, Chuck Wagons, and Ranch Kitchens by Grady Spears with June Naylor.