Eric Akis: Dried legume seeds are so hot right now

Eric AkisThe United Nations has proclaimed 2016 “International Year of Pulses” and that recognition is good news for Canadian farmers.

Pulses are the nutritious, dried, edible seed of a legume, such as chickpeas, beans, peas and lentils. And we grow a lot of those legumes in Canada, in places such as the Prairies and southern Ontario and Quebec.

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The Pulse Canada website, pulsecanada.com, says in our country, more than 2.3 million hectares are seeded to pulse crops each year. It’s no wonder that during a road trip around Saskatchewan, a major growing area, last summer, I saw countless fields of them, stretching as far as my eyes could see.

Because there’s such a buzz around pulses this year, I’ve been motivated to do a series of columns and recipes using them. Recently, I wrote a story on cooking baked beans in a slow cooker. In my column this Sunday, I have a pulse-rich veggie burger recipe. I will also do stories on pairing pulses with seafood, and another one where pulses are tossed into summer salads.

Today, though, I wanted to provide a solution to a dilemma some folks might have when invited to a party and asked to bring a simple appetizer. That dilemma, of course, is what to make, especially if time is tight.

My solution?

Take a can of your favourite pulse and quickly whirl it into a dip perfect for snacking on.

Today, I offer three recipes that do that.

The first is a chickpea-rich hummus with a twist. The twist is that ripe avocado and cilantro are also whirled into it, giving the hummus added body and a light and fresh-looking green hue. You can serve the hummus with warm pita or your favourite crisp dipping chip.

My second dip is a southwest-style one where sautéed onions and jalapeño peppers are blended with canned black beans and spices into something great for dunking taco chips.

My last dip blends canned cannellini beans (white kidney beans) with sun-dried tomatoes, feta and mint, yielding a Mediterranean-style creation you can serve with grilled or toasted rounds of baguette.

All my dips can be made hours in advance and kept refrigerated until needed. All could also be served with a selection of crisp raw vegetable.

Avocado Hummus

This hummus gets a Tex-Mex twist by blending in fresh avocado, cilantro and hot pepper sauce. Serve it with warm pita or your favourite type of crisp chip.

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: 2 1/4 cups

 

1 large ripe avocado

1 (398 mL/14 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed in cold water and drained well

3 Tbsp tahini

3 Tbsp lemon juice

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling

1 large garlic clove, chopped

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

1/3 cup packed cilantro sprigs

• salt to taste

• a few fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

 

Quarter the avocado lengthwise, pull apart and discard the pit. Remove the peel from the avocado. Cut avocado into pieces and set in your food processor.

Add the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, 3 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, cumin, hot pepper sauce and packed cilantro leaves. Pulse until smooth. Taste the hummus and season with salt.

Transfer the hummus to a decorative bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Hummus can be made hours before needed.

When ready to serve, uncover, garnish with cilantro leaves, drizzle with olive oil and enjoy.

Southwest-style Black Bean Dip

In this recipe, nutritious black beans are whirled into a Southwest-style dip flavoured with onion, garlic, jalapeño and spices.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: About six minutes

Makes: two cups

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small to medium onion, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 large fresh jalapeño pepper, halved, seeded and thinly sliced

2 tsp regular chili powder

1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 (19 oz./540 mL) can black beans, rinsed in cold water and drained well

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp lime juice

1/3 cup packed fresh cilantro sprigs

• splash or two hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

• salt to taste

• sour cream, cilantro leaves, and diced red bell pepper or sliced Fresno peppers, for garnish

 

Heat the 2 Tbsp oil in a skillet set over medium, medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeño pepper and cook until softened, about five minutes. Mix in the chili powders, cumin and oregano and cook 30 seconds more.

Transfer mixture to your food processor. Add the beans, 3 Tbsp oil, lime juice, 1/3 cup cilantro sprigs and hot pepper sauce. Pulse ingredients until well combined. Taste and season dip with salt and pepper.

Transfer dip to a decorative bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Dip can be made many hours before needed.

When ready to serve, uncover and set a tablespoon or so of sour cream in the centre of the dip. Decorate the dip with a few cilantro leaves and bell or Fresno pepper slices and serve.

Cannellini Bean Dip with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Feta and Mint

Serve this rich and tangy Mediterranean-style dip with grilled or toasted rounds of baguette.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: 2 1/4 cups

 

1 (19 oz./540 mL) can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed in cold water and drained well

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling

3 Tbsp lemon juice

3 Tbsp orange juice

8 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained well

2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup packed fresh mint leaves

1 tsp dried oregano

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

100 grams feta cheese, crumbled

• salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• a mint sprig and bit of crumbled feta, for garnish

 

Place the beans, 1/3 cup oil, juices, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, mint leaves, oregano, cayenne and all but 1 Tbsp of the crumbled feta in a food processor. Pulse ingredients until well combined. Taste and season dip with salt and pepper.

Transfer dip to a decorative bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Dip can be made many hours before needed.

When ready to serve, uncover and drizzle the top of the dip with a little olive oil. Decorate the dip with the reserved 1 Tbsp of crumbled feta and a mint sprig, and serve.

Eric Akis is the author of The Great Rotisserie Chicken Cookbook. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

eakis@timescolonist.com

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