Fresh garbanzos: An unusual treat

BlogHer Original Post

I’m just going to go ahead and lay my lack of deep thinking right out before you. Garbanzos or chickpeas? Before last year, I never thought of how they got from plant to can. I just assumed the choices were organic or not, store-brand or Goya or whatever else was available on the shelf.

Then I discovered a bulk aisle with dried chickpeas, which became a revelation. Soak them and cook them up, and they taste so much better than the canned kind. As easy? No, but still…an improvement over what I’d assumed was the status quo.

But this year? I had fresh garbanzos on my mind. I’d read about them last year, and friends this year had already used them (and blogged about them) in one of their recent meals. I wanted to get my hands on some and see what I could do with them.

Fresh garbanzos, which are a little less mature than what ends up in the can at the store, can be found at farmers’ markets. I found some in the Berkeley Bowl, a grocery store near me that offers, well, just about everything. Though the little garbanzo pods are really thought of as a spring vegetable, they can be found from May through September, and can be found in farmer’s markets and specialty produce markets, and some Indian and Mexican grocery stores.

Because I had never tried them before, I only bought about two cups worth of the fresh pods, which yielded about a third of a cup of fresh beans. They’re labor-intensive to pop open, but with a good DVD and a glass of wine, it’s not that big a deal. Of course, this from the girl who didn’t buy very many, right? I only had to feed myself, after all.

I wanted to do something fairly simple but flavorful with them, so I shelled them and blanched them (just toss them in boiling, salted water for about a minute, then drain them and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process). Then I heated about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and tossed them in to sauté. When they were starting to brown up a bit, I tossed in 10 quartered cherry tomatoes and about a ¼ cup of roughly chopped kalamata olives. I let that all cook for about two minutes before tossing in about a ½ cup of dry white wine. Then I stood back and let it work its magic, the wine absorbing into the vegetables, until all the liquid had cooked off. Salt and pepper to taste, and voila: a side dish big enough to share with one other person. Of course, since it was just me, it meant leftovers for the next day.

At Erin’s Kitchen, Erin and her cooking partner found fresh garbanzos at the farmer’s market still attached to their stems. After destemming and shelling the beans, they used them in a smoky panzanella.

Heidi Swanson’s first attempt at cooking fresh garbanzos led her to boil the pods. “Next time I will try steaming,” she reports. “The pods have holes in them, and filled up with water. This was not a problem until I went to squeeze the bean out of the pod. Their ability to squirt was impressive.”

Sam Breach at Becks & Posh left her fresh garbanzos in the pod when she prepared them, and served them with padrón peppers, which are hitting the market right now. Her charred, salty preparation sounds like a wonderful seasonal snack.

Have you tried fresh garbanzos? If so, how have you prepared them?

Genie blogs about gardening and food at The Inadvertent Gardener, and tells very short tales at 100 Proof Stories. She is also documenting her year in photos at 365 in 2009

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