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Vegan chocolate mousse whips up beautifully with aquafaba

The award for most compelling actor in an utterly unexpected role goes to … the chickpea.

The legume, which also works under the stage name garbanzo, stars in such classics as falafel, hummus and three-bean salad. Vegetarians praise its protein power. Carnivores go for its nutty appeal. The bean has even taken bit parts, subbing for flour in pasta and potatoes in chips.

Late in such an illustrious career, the chickpea might have been a candidate for a lifetime-achievement award. No one expected a box-office smash. No one expected aquafaba.

The plot, based on a true story, goes like this: Software engineer Goose Wohlt pries open a can of cooked chickpeas. As he’s about to toss the viscous goo, he does a double take. Strangely, he pours the liquid into a bowl and whips it like egg whites. Strangely, it acts like egg whites, billowing into glossy meringue.

In a flashback, we see his inspiration: French tenor Joel Roessel and other early bean-water pioneers. As the music swells, the camera pans over a vegan baking a crisp meringue, a pregnant chef folding fluffy mousse, a burly bartender shaking up a fizzy cocktail. All smile with relief: no eggs, no raw-egg worries. In the final scene, the miraculous bean water is renamed aquafaba, which means bean water.

It’s a moving story, revealing the talent, tenacity and transformative range of the chickpea. No doubt it deserves the academy’s highest honor for work well done.

Aquafabulous Mousse

Prep: 20 minutes

Chill: 2 hours

Makes: 4 servings

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (60 percent cacao)

1 can (15.5 oz.) chick peas (aka garbanzo beans; I like Goya brand)

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Melt: Break up chocolate. Melt in a double boiler. Scrape into another bowl and let cool a bit.

2. Drain: Pour chickpeas through a strainer, catching liquid in a wide measuring cup. Save chickpeas for another recipe. (We¿ll have one here next week.) Measure 3/4 cup liquid (this is aquafaba) into the bowl of an electric mixer.

3. Fluff: Whisk cream of tartar into aquafaba. Using the electric mixer, whisk until white and foamy, about 1 minute. Slowly cascade in sugar, whisking constantly, to glorious sturdy peaks, about 4 more minutes. Whisk in vanilla.

4. Fold: Using a soft spatula, gently and thoroughly fold chocolate into meringue. Heap into a serving bowl. Cover and chill 2 or more hours.

5. Serve: Scoop into small bowls. If you like, garnish with orange zest, a few candied nuts, or, if no vegans are looking, whipped cream.

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