On Your Mark, Get Set: Do the Chickpea Mash
by Sarah A. MaineBrianna’s polentaland exploration has created an opportunity for me to share a recent kitchen mishap of mine that lead to the invention of what I am calling Chickpea Grits. Grits and polenta are culinary kissin’ cousins – they are humble porridges derived from boiling coarsely crushed or finely ground corn respectively. Rather than relay from an ingredient, my recipe this week will be a variation on porridge, through the lens of the chickpea.
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First I must say that I did not start out trying to re-invent grits, I was trying to make hummus. Ok, to really explain what happened I should back up a little further: in order to better understand the rhythms of seasonal cooking I have been getting acquainted with legumes, or more specifically, beans. Why was it important for me to get to know beans? Well, before the advent of refrigeration and canning, people all over the globe relied on a couple of very basic methods to preserve food outside of the growing season: drying and fermentation. In places where the growing season is limited to only part of the year, these practices were especially crucial. Beans are packed with protein and fiber, they lend themselves especially well to being dried, and when properly stored they can keep for up to six months. Traditional winter dishes from cold areas were characterized by ingredients that keep well: root vegetables, pickled vegetables, grains, cured meats, salted fish, dried fruits and vegetables, and beans. This kind of eating required a huge amount of foresight and planning. That’s what dried beans are: planned food, a staple of a seasonal diet, and one that I didn’t know very much about. If I was going to get serious about seasonal eating, I had to get serious about beans.
I had always been nervous about cooking with dried beans, there seemed to be so many variables: the soaking, the long cooking times, not to mention the potentially flatulent side effects. I avoided them for a long time. This fall I finally hitched up my courage and started with baby steps. After a few undercooked attempts I got the hang of lentils and black beans. Next I embarked on chickpeas, which brings me back to the day of my kitchen mishap.
It had been a day dotted with frustration. Sometimes if I am feeling frazzled, cooking can make me feel better; I thought this would be one of those times. I had some already soaked chickpeas that I needed to do something with, and on the spur of the moment I decided to make hummus for the first time ever – without consulting a recipe. Out came the food processor! In went the chickpeas with some olive oil and fresh garlic! A few energetic pulses revealed… something that was decidedly NOT hummus… it was… garlicky mashed raw chickpeas.
My mood was as mashed as the chickpeas. I was about to scrap the contents of the food processor and give up, but I realized I couldn’t throw potentially perfectly good food in the trash. Spotting some chicken stock in the fridge, the wheels of cooking inspiration started to turn again; I decided to attempt a salvage operation and make my mash work for me. Check back on Thursday for the conclusion of my leguminous adventure!