Did you know that “pulses” are the nutritionally-dense, inexpensive, edible dried seeds of legumes?
Until recently, I had no idea. Pulses? Neither did I know that 2016 is the United Nations’ International Year of Pulses.
What I do know (despite the name “pulses”) is that meals made from dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas (also known as garbanzos) are good for you. And the variety of ways one can use these dried legumes is impressive.
In the Palouse region of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, garbanzos and lentils are big crops. Drive through the wheat fields and you’ll see them tucked into spaces between the rolling hills. About 18 percent of lentils grown in the U.S. are from the Palouse.
In fact this past month, the 28th annual National Lentil Festival in Pullman put on a big cooking demonstration by chefs who showed that lentils and garbanzo beans can be used for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper. And even in desserts.
“Lentils and garbanzo beans are easier to cook and more delicious than most people realize,” said Kim Davidson, of the Pacific Northwest Specialty Food Farmers Co-Op.
Check out the following facts from Washington State University, the Idaho Bean Commission, the USA Dry Pea &Lentil Council, the American Pulse Association and Pulse Canada.
Pulses are a good source of:
Protein — lentils have more than quinoa.
Fiber — more than brown rice.
Antioxidants — red beans have more than blueberries.
Iron — black beans have even more than a small steak.
Potassium — peas have as much as a banana.
Folate — chickpeas have more than kale.
Pulses enrich the soil where they grow, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, they are drought-tolerant and frost-hardy and they use less water per pound than a pound of meat.
It takes about the same amount of time to prepare lentils and split peas as it does to cook pasta, quinoa or rice. Dried legumes have a long shelf life and look cool in glass jars.
Pulses are a staple in most countries. They enhance crop diversity and they decrease the risks that farmers face with environmental and market fluctuations. In our country, a serving of lentils costs about 10 cents, whereas a serving of meat ranges from about 60 cents to $1.50.
So, how does a home cook use those pulses?
Here are a couple of recipes to get you going, courtesy of the Pacific Northwest Specialty Foods Farmers Co-Op.
Chickpea salad sliders
1 1⁄2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (3⁄4 cup dried)
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1⁄4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tablespoons capers and 1 tablespoon caper juice
1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro (or dill, basil, parsley, tarragon)
1⁄2 cup mayo
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
10 slider buns
A bit of lettuce or arugula
In a medium bowl, fold the first eight ingredients together, add salt and pepper as desired.
Place a generous spoonful of the mixture on a bun, top with lettuce or arugula, skewer with a pickle if desired.
Honey sesame chickpeas
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 cup honey
1⁄3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄4 cup water
1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 1⁄2 cups cooked dried chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed
Cooked rice for serving
Bring the first 10 ingredients to a boil, reduce to simmer about 5 minutes until slightly thick.
Add the chickpeas/garbanzos, bring back to a boil, reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes until sauce is thick.
Serve over rice with sesame seeds and sliced scallions if desired.