Monday, July 18, 2011

Green Market Find: Fresh Chickpeas

Every year at the Green Market I make it a goal to bring home at least one thing that I am either unfamiliar with or have never used before. That has become more of a challenge every year, as the list of items with which I am unfamiliar is shrinking thanks to this very project.

But so far I have been able to find something. This year was no exception, thanks to Nichols Farms, who decided to start growing garbanzo beans.

Garbanzo is the Spanish name for what many people call chickpeas. Growing up in Texas, I knew them as garbanzo beans and thought they were one of the most disgusting foods around. That is probably because I only ever saw them in salad bars, mostly in health food stores. I never saw anyone ever take any, not once.

My first taste of hummus helped change my mind. I still didn't like the beans themselves, but I loved hummus. And when I found out that falafel was made with chickpeas I was even more of a convert and even bought some so I could make it. And once I discovered how easy it is to make hummus, I always had them around.

But I still did not care for the beans themselves. They were so big and mealy to me that I couldn't imagine ever wanting to eat them just for themselves. But somewhere along the way that changed too, and now I love their solid nutty goodness and have been known to eat them in all kinds of soups, stews, and even all by themselves.

So when I saw these green little pods at the market this week, I was curious. One thing that makes them stand out from other beans I have seen is that there is usually only one bean per pod, sometimes two. Just looking at them, I would never have known what they were.

But once I held one in my hand, there was no mistaking them. I peeled off the thick skin (that dries into thin shell that surrounds the dried versions) and popped one into my mouth. It was sweet and fresh, and while it did not taste like a chickpea, it was delicious.

I thought I would post this picture of some dried chickpeas for comparison. They are as hard as wood and need to be soaked overnight before they are ready to be cooked. And even then, they seem to take forever to get tender.

They taste so much better to me than the canned beans, though, that I do take the trouble to cook them myself.

After I got the fresh pods home I got to work shucking them because I knew it would take some time to work through all of those pods. I bought about one-and-a-third pounds, thinking that would be enough to give me about a pound of the beans. But I quickly discovered that some of the pods, the darker ones, didn't have any beans in them. There weren't too many, but there were enough that I noticed. All told, by the time I had them shucked I was left with about two-thirds of a pound. Which, at 3 cups, was no small amount.

It wasn't until after I had shelled them that I did a little online reading, and one site said to boil the pods for a minute or two, then peel them. I do not know if that was necessary - I just boiled the shelled beans for about 2 minutes. They were a pale green when I first took them out of the pods, and you could clearly see the skins around them, much like the skin on a fava bean. I considered peeling them but decided to boil them first, and the boiling must have tightened up the skins because they are still there but you can't really see them.

But you can see what a beautiful bright green they are, nothing like their usual drab, tan color. It was a little weird because they feel like chickpeas, and they have a similar texture, but they don't taste the same as the dried. They taste faintly of regular peas, but just barely. They mostly taste fresh. That's the best way I can think of to describe them.

The guy at the market said they had been making a lot of hummus with them, but it made more sense to me to do something that would leave them as unchanged as possible, so I decided to do something that would leave them whole. I have quite a bit of fresh rosemary growing in a pot on the windowsill, and I have a lovely recipe for chickpeas simmered with rosemary and tomatoes that I had grown tired of and taken out of rotation a few years ago. It seemed like a good idea.

And it was a lovely idea, along the lines of of an Italian succotash. The garlic, rosemary and tomato were the perfect foil for the beans, flavoring them but not taking over.

But oddly enough, I think I prefer the dried version. Maybe it's because I am more used to them.

I was sure I had posted this recipe before, but I just looked for it and I'm not finding it. Maybe I took it out of rotation before I started this blog. If that is the case, I am doubly glad that I decided to make it. It's just as delicious with dried chickpeas.
Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables


Makes 4 side servings

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium cloves minced garlic
2 tsp minched fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3/4 cup crushed tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 cups cooked chickpeas
2 Tbsp minced parsley

From The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, by Jack Bishop (Houghton
Mifflin, 1997)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a three-quart saucepan. Add the garlic and saute until it is lightly covered, about 1 minute. Stir in the rosemary and the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste and simmer just until the sauce thickens a bit, approximately 5 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and parsley and simmer just until the flavors have blended, about
10 minutes.

Adjust seasonings and serve immediately.

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping

I've been in a bit of a cooking slump lately. I'm still cooking, but most of my experiments have not been coming out as well as I had expected (or hoped, more specifically). My cooking tends to run in phases. I will have a burst of creativity where everything comes together exactly how I wanted it to, or at the very least, it is a tasty deviation.

But then there are those times when nothing comes together exactly as I had planned. I try to look at these as learning opportunities. It is all edible, just not something I would share with anyone. Add to that (or maybe because of it) the fact that I am working on my apartment and that is taking a lot of my time. I'm hardly even knitting these days.

It's a good thing overall, but I can feel myself itching to get in the kitchen. I do have some projects in the works there, which I will share as they occur, but I haven't really had time to sit down and work out any kind of cooking plans so everything is kind of a mishmash and nothing is going together. Which is making for some interesting meals.

Whenever I get disorganized in the kitchen, I tend to fall back on old tried-and-true standards. If they are long-time standards, I might play with them a little, but nothing too far outside the box.

Take this chicken pot pie with a biscuit topping. Some might say it looks more like chicken and dumplings, and they wouldn't be far wrong. They aren't quite as dense as dumplings are (at least the dumplings I have had - although I am from the south chicken and dumplings was not a standard in our house). I think one of the differences is that this dish is baked, and dumplings are usually cooked in a dutch oven, whether in the oven or on the stove top.

One of the last times I made this dish, I used turkey that I needed to get out of my freezer, and I forgot the baking powder so the topping, while tasty, did not rise at all. This time I remembered baking powder, but I forgot the sesame seeds. Because it was a spur of the moment decision to make it, I did play with some of the ingredients.

It came about because I needed a pot of chicken broth, but not the meat. I used several chicken quarters for the stock, so I had a lot of chicken for which I had no plans (and little inspiration). So I decided to make a version of my chicken pot pie.

The only problem with that recipe is that it makes a small pie, to serve 2 people, and I had a lot more chicken on my hands than just enough for two. So I doubled the recipe and changed around the ingredients a little. I did not have celery, but I had some beautiful cremini mushrooms, which made a lovely substitute. I threw in some celery seed to replicate the flavor, and that worked.

All told, the result was delicious. I am always pleasantly surprised by how flavorful this is. It's comforting and satisfying enough for a quiet night by yourself, and flavorful enough for company.

The topping did not rise quite as much as I had expected it to rise, but in looking back I am thinking I did not double the baking powder. What is it with me and baking powder? No matter, it was still delicious.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Serves 4 to 6

4 chicken quarters
Water to cover
3 Tbsp butter
2 large carrots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8-oz crimini mushrooms, quartered
3 Tsp flour
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp celery seed (optional)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp butter (half a stick), cut into thin slices
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Place the chicken in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add water until chicken is barely covered (at least 3 cups). Bring to a boil and lower heat immediately. Simmer the chicken over low heat for about an hour. Remove the chicken from the liquid, let cool, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Pour the liquid into a bowl, reserving 3 cups.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F.

Melt the butter in the saucepan. Saute the carrots for 5 minutes, then add the onion and saute for 3 more minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir for about 2 more minutes, until the mushrooms have darkened a little and have absorbed some of the oil.

Add the flour and stir to make a roux. Cook for about 2 minutes to cook out the taste of the raw flour. Gradually stir in the 3 cups of broth. Add the thyme, celery seed, and salt and pepper to taste. When
the sauce has thickened enough that you draw a line through it on the back of spoon, remove from the heat. Add the peas and chicken.

Pour into a greased 8 x 12-inch baking dish and set aside.

For the topping, place the dry ingredients into a bowl and whisk together. Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers. Add the milk and toss briefly but thoroughly until a sticky dough is formed. Drop by heaping tablespoonsful onto the chicken mixture. Sprinkle the sesame seeds evenly over the top.

Place on a middle rack in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, or until the topping is browned and the chicken mixture is bubbling.

Let rest about 15 minutes before serving.

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Monday, July 04, 2011

Black Bean, Corn and Radish Salad

Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, other times it is desperation that inspires.

Take this salad. I had all the makings for a delicious black bean, corn and mango salad. I made the beans using a new technique that I am excited about and will share after I have tested it a few more times to make sure it really works and wasn't just beginner's luck. The corn was fresh off of a truck (which, to be honest, I suspect had to drive quite a way to get to Chicago, but was sweet and delicious regardless of its provenance). Unfortunately, the mango did not seem to want to cooperate. While it was soft on the outside and smelled nice and ripe, it was actually as hard as a rock and not sweet at all when I cut into it. Not quite ripe I don't mind, but this was too hard even to cut.

I love the flavors of black beans and corn together, but they work best to me when they are played against a third equally strong ingredient that plays the two off of each other. Mango and tomato are my two favorite items to achieve that effect, but the mango wasn't going to work and I did not have any tomatoes. What was I to do?

I had brought home too many ingredients from the Green Market the weekend before, as usual. One of the items I could not resist was a bunch of beautiful Japanese red radishes, which I had never before seen. Since one of my goals is to bring home something with which I am not familiar or which I have never before used, they had to come home with me. I used a few of them to make a Russian red kale and Japanese red radish frittata (doesn't that have a lovely ring to it?), but I still had quite a few left and no real plans for them.

They are quite delicious, and slightly milder than the globe radishes whose bite makes for a delicious addition to a garden salad, but they still have that lovely radish flavor. The minute I thought of them I realized they would be up to the task and would balance out the black beans and corn beautifully.

And I was right. They add a crisp, juicy, slightly earthy flavor to the salad that frames the beans and corn, neither overpowering nor being overpowered. In a word, delicious.

Oh, I also didn't have any fresh jalapeno or serrano on hand. Cayenne added the needed heat nicely.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


3 cups cooked black beans, drained (if using canned non-organic, drain and rinse)
3 cups fresh or frozen corn, cooked or defrosted
6 large radishes, quartered and sliced
1/4 of a medium red or white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or grated
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or ground smoked cumin)
dash of cayenne or red chili flakes
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Combine the first eight ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a small jar, combine the lime juice, honey and olive oil. Cover tightly and shake well. Add to the salad, along with the cilantro, and stir gently until everything is well mixed. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Best when made ahead and brought to room temperature before serving.


Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (
Japanese Red Radish photo from Local Seasonal Eats
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