Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Green Kitchen: Fresh Garbanzo Beans and the Excitement of New Vegetables

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

Don't get me wrong – a good chunk of my love for the greenmarket is love of, and belief in the goodness of, local eating. I like meeting my farmers, I like minimizing my food's road trips, I like the dirt on my kale that comes from nearby. (Okay, I did not love the cocooned caterpillar that came along with that local kale and its local dirt this weekend, but that's my own problems with squeamishness. In theory, I loved that caterpillar.)

But I also fell in love with the farmers market because, during our early courtship, everything was so new. Kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, lambsquarter, Brussels sprouts still on the stalk – my first couple of greenmarket years, I took home something new and strange almost every weekend. I hit the internet and hit the books, and almost every time I added a new and delicious veggie to my repertoire.

I still love the greenmarket, lo these many years later, but things have become a little... predictable. A few extra bucks in my wallet this summer are opening a few new doors – berries, grapes (that actually taste like something!), and endless varieties of stone fruits – but the veggies are all familiar territory. As each veggie comes back into season, sure, there's a weekend or two of excitement, but true vegetal strangers are few and far between.

So I hope you'll allow me a digression from the agricultural bounty of the greater New York area (love you, Pennsylvania peppers!), as I allowed myself when I met an international temptation too strange and exciting to ignore.

Fresh garbanzo beans.

The bin of fuzzy green pods was nestled between portabellos and quail eggs in the Whole Foods produce aisle, and I could not resist. At $4/lb I thought my few experimental handfuls would cost me a buck or so. These beans are so light, though, that my bag rang up at a mere twenty-nine cents. Score one for the beans.

I hit the internet, and hit the kitchen, and here is what I learned:
  1. Fresh garbanzo beans can be eaten raw. Popped out of the pods they look just like their canned and dried cousins, just green. They have a fresh, not particularly strong taste, like starchier edamame.
  2. The internet will tell you that they should be steamed in salt water in their pods. This works, but the pods are so roomy that they become little saline capsules, which then burst in your mouth or in your hands. The beans are still tasty, but they get lost in the saltwater, and it doesn't really work. So, fresh garbanzos edamame-style: technically works, but not so awesome.
  3. If you use the same method, though, but shell the beans first, well bingo, there you go. A quick boil in salted water gives you bright, salty, tasty little beans.
The internet is full of more elaborate preparations, but I like to get to know a new veggie simply, at first. (Okay, I often end up sticking with those most basic preparations – salt, and sometimes oil, usually make veggies taste like their best versions of themselves.)

Next time – if I even see them again, because their appearance was sudden and they may vanish as quickly and with as little fanfare - I may try some sort of pan-frying, with cumin and other chickpea-friendly spices. I bet the green flavors of the fresh beans would play nicely with that. But for now, for my new friend the fresh garbanzo, simple and quick is the way to go.


If you enjoy this, you might also enjoy:

Fresh Garbanzo Beans
Serves 2

1/2 lb fresh garbanzo beans (about 1 cup shelled)
1 T (or so) salt

1) Shell the garbanzo beans. They usually pop out easily, but scissors can be helpful.

2) In a sauce pan or small soup pan, bring a couple of inches of salted water to a boil.

3) Add the garbanzos. Boil, covered, for about a minute.

4) Drain, and eat warm or cooled.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Cost Per Serving
134.5 calories, 2.1g fat, 6.3g fiber, 7.3g protein, $0.26

1 cup fresh garbanzo beans: 269 calories, 4.2g fat, 12.5g fiber, 14.5g protein, $0.50
1 T salt: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
TOTAL: 269 calories, 4.2g fat, 12.5g fiber, 14.5g protein, $0.52
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 134.5 calories, 2.1g fat, 6.3g fiber, 7.3g protein, $0.26

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