Fresh Chickpeas: Green, Good, and in Season


Maria Robledo

To try Sally's technique for cooking fresh chickpeas in the style of edamame, click here.

One of my favorite house gifts (to give or to get) is an of-the-season treasure from a good local market—perfect cherries in early summer, bunches of lemon verbena for tea in August, Meyer lemons in late winter. Finding these gifts requires an eye on the market and a bit of luck, which is part of their great charm to people who like to cook. Recently, I discovered an unlikely treasure in a normally risk-averse Whole Foods produce section: fresh chickpeas, for a few bucks a pound. They look like a cross between a fat, blunted pea and edamame (soybeans in their shells). Standing in the aisle, I shucked one and ate it, to discover its vegetal pea-like flavor and crunchy texture. I realized I never considered what the fresh form of a chickpea might be.

I scooped some into a bag and took them to a friend's dinner party.

We steamed the chickpeas for a few minutes to eat them out of the pods sprinkled with salt, like edamame. They were tender and subtly nutty, with the mild green flavor of spring: a perfect hors d'oeuvre. Hugh Merwin at Gothamist prefers to slather the raw pods with oil and blister them in a searing hot skillet for a minute or so, then salt them liberally before eating them out of the shell. You can, of course, shuck them like peas and add the raw chickpeas to any number of dishes (they take only a few minutes to cook). They have an affinity with cured pork (ham, bacon, pancetta); spring alliums (chives, spring onions, leeks); and butter or good olive oil, as well as Indian and Middle Eastern flavors.

Spring is green chickpea season; by mid-June, they will have developed into the tougher yellow garbanzo beans that are meant for drying. They can also be found here and there at some ethnic and farmers' markets, and frozen, already shucked, in some supermarkets.

Recipe: Green Chickpeas, Edamame-Style

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.

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