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Column Wed May 05 2010
I've written before about how I love garbanzo beans (or chickpeas). I still love them. So imagine my delight when I went to a local market on Devon that I hadn't been to before and found some fresh garbanzo beans. I of course had to grab a pound of them and rush home to see what glorious things I could do with them--especially when fresh, as they are a great source of fiber and protein. Chickpeas are a bright spring green color, and inside each papery husk is one or two brain-shaped beans. They're quite attractive, so I decided to find a way to prepare them to let them be the visual (and taste) star of a dish.
My one pound of beans gave me about 2 cups of fresh beans, which means I could make a meal for four out of a $1.99 purchase. Not too shabby. And since fresh beans are mostly from California, the growing season results in fresh versions available from April through September --meaning you've got several months left to find and enjoy these on your own.
Their fresh, green flavor is great when sauteed in oil with salt and pepper, a great addition to pasta when mixed with leeks and mushrooms, and they make a fantastic fresh hummus.
Place a skillet over medium heat and add the water and the chickpeas. Stir the contents frequently until the water evaporates. Once the water has evaporated, add the oil and saute the chickpeas for 7-10 minutes. They should start to turn darker and soften. Season them with salt and pepper and serve while warm.
1-12 ounce bag of frozen chickpeas or 3/4 pound fresh chickpeas
2 cloves white garlic
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Leaves and stems from 1/2 bunch of cilantro
1/3 cup water (as needed)
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the chickpeas in the top half of a steamer. Fill the bottom with water and place over medium-high heat for 20 minutes, or until the peas are mostly cooked through. Remove them from the steam and let them cool till you can handle them. Pinch the skins to remove them. Place them in a blender or food processor with the remaining ingredients except for the water. Pluse to puree and add the water as needed to get the desired texture. Taste and season as necessary with salt and pepper.
Makes 2 cups.
Pasta with Fresh Chickpeas, Olives, Leeks, and Mushrooms
1 pound of fresh garbanzo beans in pods to yield 2 cups shelled, fresh garbanzo beans
1 small leek
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup sliced black olives
8 ounces dried pasta
Remove the garbanzo beans from their pods. It's easier to do if they're steamed, but you can do it when they're raw. It will take about 20-30 minutes to shell 1 pound of beans. Place a pot of water over high heat.
Cut the leek in half lengthwise. Hold one end and separate the layers as you run it under cool water to remove any dirt. Repeat while holding at the other end. Cut the leek into thin slices. Place a skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Once it is hot toss in the leeks and stir them frequently for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and sprinkle them with a little bit of salt. Cook this for 5-7 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened, released their moisture and started to turn brown. Toss in the olive and let them cook for 3-4 minutes.
When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and the beans. Let them cook until the pasta is cooked al dente. Drain and add to the skillet. Toss, drizzle with a little more olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
I admit that peeling chickpeas is not very exciting, in fact it is quite boring. But I think you might find that the flavor--and especially the texture difference--is worth the extra work. The pods open more easily if they're steamed rather than if they're completely raw--but they're not hard to open either way. And the brilliant green color adds a nice touch to dishes. And unlike other legumes, if they're not cooked through, the dense texture can be pleasant.