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Shades of green: Green garbanzo beans are a fresher, tastier chickpea

Shades of green: Green garbanzo beans are a fresher, tastier chickpea

I’m sure most of you have eaten — or at least seen — garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) in your lifetime. The small, beige, dried legumes are soaked and boiled (and are often packaged in a can) and used in a variety of dishes from all over the globe — most notably hummus and falafel — or tossed in vegetable salads and pasta dishes.

But you might want to forgo the dried and canned mature garbanzos for their younger, tastier counterparts: the green garbanzos. Green, or “fresh” garbanzos are little legumes that have been picked earlier than their older sibings, blanched and flash-frozen instead of being matured on the vine and then dried.

Green garbanzos are fairly new to the American food scene, having been introduced to consumers in 2010 by Clearwater Country Foods, and can now be found in some grocery stores in the frozen aisle for a few bucks a bag. I recently discovered these verdant beans and am in foodie heaven, as they have a wonderful flavor and a number of culinary applications.

The flavor of these little green beauties has been compared to that of fresh peas; the taste is nutty and more buttery than that of their dried counterparts. The green garbanzos are also higher in protein, folate and fiber, and they’re chock full of antioxidant vitamins A and C, phytonutrients, iron and minerals.

“It’s just an immature garbanzo bean that is picked in its fresh state, and consequently its nutritional values are higher and it’s much more flavorful,” Doug Moser, founder of Clearwater Country Foods told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “The simple reason is that the natural sugars haven’t turned to starch.”

Green garbanzos can be used in place of standard garbanzos, peas and edamame (soy beans) in a variety of dishes, like the green garbanzo hummus recipe I’ve shared below. They’re fine being heated up on the stove top or in the microwave — just make sure not to overcook them, as they’ll lose some of their wonderful color and texture — or simply thaw them and throw them into a dish as is.

My prediction is that green garbanzos will make their way into home kitchens and onto restaurant menus in a big way this year because of their uniqueness, flavor and nutritional benefits.

Here’s my recipe for green garbanzo hummus with Asian flavorings. It’s a quick, easy and incredibly tasty addition to any party spread, or great as a simple snack with some crudite and crackers. If you’re feeling really ambitious, whip up some fried or baked wonton chips to accompany it.
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Braised red cabbage with apples is a simple and versatile addition to any meal

Braised red cabbage with apples is a simple and versatile addition to any meal

Now don’t turn up your nose right away. I know, I know — sometimes the word “cabbage” brings up images of bland cole slaw or bitter and flaccid boiled green cabbage. Yecch. Luckily, I’ve got the perfect recipe to change your mind about this cruciferous vegetable, and lend color and dimension to your holiday table.

Red cabbage, in my opinion, is green cabbage’s more attractive and flavorful sister, and she’s cheap and easy to boot — inexpensive to buy and easy to cook, that is. Besides using it in the obvious slaw, red cabbage is also great when braised and served as a side to just about any chicken, pork or meat dish, and lends a punch of fuchsia to a table otherwise filled with drab browns and greens.

It’s all about playing with the flavors to pair them with the rest of your meal. Typically, many of us serve Americanized versions of European dishes during the holidays — spiced roasts, herbed vegetables, etc. So for this particular flavor profile, I’ve kept this German-style braised cabbage fairly simple, seasoning it with tart apples and apple cider vinegar, red wine, caraway seeds (often seen in rye bread), sugar and a hint of cinnamon. If you’re planning an Asian-inspired feast, I’d suggest going with flavoring agents like rice wine vinegar, five spice powder, ginger and sesame seeds; for a Latin American fiesta, go with cumin, garlic, chile powder and lime juice.

To kick this dish up a notch (and to please the carnivores), fry a few slices of bacon in the pan and use the drippings in place of the oil or butter. If you’re expecting vegan or vegetarian guests, start the dish with canola or vegetable oil as I’ve done in the recipe below. And any diners with gluten allergies will also be plenty pleased with this edible offering.

Best of all, braised red cabbage is even better the day after it’s made and would make a tasty addition to any leftover turkey sandwich.
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Bi-curious: ‘BLTT’ bivalves in white wine broth

Bi-curious: ‘BLTT’ bivalves in white wine broth


It’s Friday night and you’re: a) wanting to cook up something special for your significant other, b) having friends over and need to whip up something that’s easy to prepare but looks impressive, or c) will be staying in solo with your PJs and your DVR and need something quick and tasty that doesn’t involve greasy takeout.

The dinner solution for all scenarios: Bacon, lemon-thyme and tomato bivalves. It’s a loose interpretation of the BLT — mussels and clams steamed in a broth of white wine, bacon, onions, garlic and lemon-thyme (I needed an ingredient starting with L, and I’m not crazy about leeks) and finished simply with fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of parsley. Oh, and of course there has to be crusty bread served alongside to soak up that tasty broth. Best of all, it’s done in a jiffy and only requires one pan to cook.

Obviously, this isn’t the most prim and proper dish to be eating in front of strangers whom you’d like to impress, which is why I recommend eating it with people who will forgive you for using your fingers and making loud slurping noises (or alone so you can have it all to yourself).

Some quick bivalve purchasing tips: When buying clams and mussels in the seafood section, they’ll typically sort through your bivalves before handing them over to make sure they’re all closed. (Closed bivalves are still alive — which is a good thing.) If you’re picking them yourself or have just thawed a frozen pack, discard any that are open. To double check, tap them on the side of your counter — if they close, keep ’em; if they remain open, chuck ’em. Eating dead mussels could potentially result in food poisoning. Reversely, you’ll want to discard any that don’t open after they’ve been cooked, as they’re either really stubborn or dead.

As for cleaning them, give them a good rinse before throwing them in the pot and “debeard” the mussels. No, they’re not ZZ Top wannabes, the “beard” is actually a byssal thread that mussels use to cling to surfaces in the water.
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