Now and then I find a vegetable that really excites me. So it was a couple of years ago, when I spotted tiny pale-green pods in a small basket, tucked among mountains of green and cranberry beans at my local farmers’ market.
“What on earth are these?” I asked Kwang, my favorite farmer.
“Chickpeas” he replied, with a wide smile…
Needless to say I bought the entire contents of his small basket and couldn’t wait to get home to taste and experiment.
I am a very big fan of dried chickpeas and cook with them quite often. But fresh chickpeas I had never seen. The pods are small and squat. They make a sweet little popping sound when you break them; and to my amazement, each pod contains only 1 or 2 chickpeas.
Shelling fresh chickpeas is best done while occupying your mind with something else — like calling a chatty friend or watching a good program on TV. The task is not accomplished quickly… But the results are so, so worth the effort!
Fresh chickpeas taste a bit like fava beans. They are very tender and have a lovely green flavor to them — enough flavor, in fact, to make me a convert. Since chickpeas are in season at the peak of summer, I decided to create a salad with three beans and heirloom tomatoes — all my favorite tastes of summer, wrapped up in one sublime dish!
Bon appétit and happy summer!
Food & wine pairing: Bandol, rosé with green bean and fresh chickpea salad
A rosé from Bandol, the tiny but distinguished region in Provence, is a stunning accompaniment to this salad… but of course, just about any rosé would do!
Fresh chickpea and heirloom tomato salad with mint
active time: 45 min
For the beans
- 1 teaspoon sea salt for blanching
- 12 oz (340 g) fresh cranberry beans – shelled
- 8 oz (225 g) green beans – stem ends trimmed only and cut on the diagonal in 1″ pieces
- 12 oz (340 g) fresh chickpeas – shelled (fava beans or lima beans are good substitutes – see cook’s note)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- 2 sprigs fresh mint – leaves removed from stems and cut in 1/16” strips (en chiffonade)
For the vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 lb (455 g) mixed heirloom tomatoes (Russian, zebra, green, orange, yellow, cherry, grape, husk, etc.) – cut in 1/2″ pieces (grape and husk tomatoes are left whole)
- baby greens as garnish
- Step 1: Fill a large bowl with cold water and several ice cubes. Set aside. Fill two medium heavy-bottomed saucepans with water and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt to each pot. Blanch the cranberry beans in one pot for 15 minutes until tender. Blanch the green beans in the other pot for 4 minutes until tender. When the green beans are ready, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice water bath until cooled. Drain on paper towels. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Step 2: Using the same water, blanch the chickpeas for 5 minutes. Transfer to the ice water bath until cooled and drain on paper towels. When the cranberry beans are done, transfer them to the ice water bath until cooled and drain on paper towels. Place the three beans in a medium bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil. Add the salt and mint. Toss well and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Step 3: To make the vinaigrette – In a small bowl whisk the balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Divide the beans in the center of 4 plates, top with the tomatoes and garnish with a few baby greens. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, top with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.
- Cook’s note: If using fava beans or lima beans instead of the fresh chickpeas:
– Fava beans: blanch 2 to 3 minutes depending on their size – must be skinned once blanched
– Lima beans: blanch 8 to 10 minutes depending on their size