Tuesday 15 March 2016

Cool beans: U.N. declares 2016 the Year of the Pulse

Black lentils, along with other dried beans, peas and chickpeas, are pulses.
This year, the United Nations is promoting a food that’s easy to grow, earth-friendly and can alleviate global hunger. Yet while most Americans have eaten it, they wouldn’t be able to name it.
The U.N. has declared 2016 as the International Year of the Pulse, a family of legumes that includes dry peas, lentils, chickpeas and beans. Heart-healthy, filling and even drought-tolerant, these beans have always been seen as completely virtuous, and a little bit boring. Suddenly, though, they might also be cool, swept up as they are in the frenzy of plant-based and gluten-free cooking. Will pulses be the new quinoa, which had its U.N. International Year in 2013?
Because they are a foundation of many traditional cuisines, it’s not so hard to find delicious ways to cook pulses, be it white beans marinated in a salad or garbanzo beans simmered in a silky North African harira.
The most exciting new ways to use pulses are in baking, pastry and even cocktails. In black bean brownies — the new gluten-free vegan potluck standby — or Rich Chocolate Lentil Cake, cooked and pureed pulses add a surprisingly un-beany complexity. Garbanzo bean cooking water, dubbed “aquafaba” by its vegan devotees, can be whipped up into something almost identical to a meringue, an incredibly stable stand-in for egg whites in everything from macarons to Pisco sours. Eggless lemon meringue pie, anyone?
Pulse flour is another new way to experiment with these plant proteins. At a recent cooking workshop for media at the Culinary Institute at Greystone in St. Helena — hosted by the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council — baking instructor Steven Isaac showed off Pulse Sourdough Breads that he had made by adding black bean, green lentil and garbanzo bean flours to sourdough starters. The resulting loaves still had great structure from long fermentation, with the pulses adding extra nutrition and flavor, not to mention subtle color.

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