Beans save money, but beans can get boring if we don't keep branching out. Today's Great Garlicky Garbanzo Burgers are close cousins to Middle Eastern falafel, and the assertive shot of garlic and a lemon-mayonnaise topping ensure that even carnivores will crave them.

Garbanzo beans are also called "chickpeas." (They're exactly the same thing.) If you happen to be in Italy, they're known as "cece," or "ceci," and it's "kichererbse" in Germany and "revithia" in Greece. Regardless of the moniker, this member of the legume family is a good source of protein and soluble fiber. Garbanzos are also rich in manganese, vitamin B-6 and folate.

For a change now and then, we like to serve the bean patties tucked into pita pockets. No matter how you serve them, Great Garlicky Garbanzo Burgers definitely aren't boring.

Menu suggestion: Great Garlicky Garbanzo Burgers

Tossed salad with Greek-style dressing


Start to finish: 20 minutes

4 slices bread (for 1 1/4 cups crumbs), see Cook's note

4 cloves fresh garlic

1 small onion (for about 1/3 cup finely minced)

1/4 green bell pepper (for about 1/4 cup minced)

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 sandwich buns, for serving

4 lettuce leaves, for serving

4 tomato slices, for serving

Cook's note: If you don't have any bread slices, you could use a couple of the extra sandwich buns in the package to make the crumbs.

Place the bread slices in the food-processor bowl and process until you have medium-fine crumbs, about 30 to 45 seconds. (It is not necessary to wash the bowl.) Measure out 1 1/4 cups of the crumbs, and pour them into a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside. (Save any remaining crumbs for another use, or use a little more bread to make enough crumbs if necessary.)

Peel the garlic, and drop the cloves through the feed tube of the food processor with the motor running to finely mince them. Peel the onion, cut it in quarters and place them in the food-processor bowl with the minced garlic. Cut the bell pepper piece into quarters, and add them to the processor bowl. Pulse the motor until the onion and pepper are finely minced but not mushy, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the minced vegetables to the mixing bowl with the breadcrumbs.

Open the chickpea can and pour 2 tablespoons of the liquid from the can into the processor bowl. Then drain the chickpeas into a colander, discarding the remaining liquid, and rinse the chickpeas under cool tap water to remove excess sodium. Shake the colander to remove as much water as possible, and add the chickpeas to the processor bowl. Add the egg. Pulse just until the chickpeas are finely chopped but still have some texture. Add the chickpea mixture to the mixing bowl, along with the black pepper and salt. Stir until all of the ingredients are well mixed. Taste the mixture and season with additional salt if necessary.

Begin heating the oil in an extra-deep 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Shape the mixture into patties by first squeezing 1/4 of the mixture in your hands to make a tight ball. Flatten the ball into a patty, making it as thin as you can before it starts to crack. Repeat with the remaining mixture to make three more patties. Pour the 1/3 cup of flour onto a plate, and dredge the chickpea patties lightly in flour on each side. (Discard any remaining flour.) Add the patties to the hot oil, and fry until golden brown on each side, about 3 minutes per side.

While the patties cook, stir together the mayonnaise, lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside.

To serve, remove the patties from the skillet and place each on a bun. Top with lettuce, tomato and 1 tablespoon of the lemon-mayonnaise mixture (or to taste).

Yield: 4 servings.

Approximate values per serving: 495 calories (43 percent from fat), 23 g fat (4 g saturated), 53 mg cholesterol, 14 g protein, 56 g carbohydrates, 8 g dietary fiber, 575 mg sodium.

Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap.Fast.Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at © United Feature Syndicate Inc.