One of my favorite house gifts (to give or to get) is an of-the-season treasure from a good local market, like perfect cherries in early summer, or a bunches of lemon verbena for tea in August, or Meyer Lemons in late winter… These gifts require 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 Whole Foods’ normally risk-averse produce section: fresh chickpeas, for a few bucks a pound. They look like a cross between a fat, blunted pea and an edamame (soybean in its shell). Standing in the aisle, I shucked one and ate it, to discover its vegetal pea-like flavor and crunchy texture. I realized that I never considered what the fresh form of a dried chickpea might be.
I scooped some into a bag and took them to a friends’ dinner party.
We steamed the chickpeas for a few minutes to eat out of the pods sprinkled with salt, like edamame. They were tender, 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), butter, good olive oil, as well as Indian and Middle Eastern flavors.
Spring (NOW!) is green chickpea season; by mid-June, they will have developed into the tougher yellow garbanzo that is meant for drying. They can also be found here and there at some ethnic and farmer’s markets, and frozen, already shucked, in some supermarkets.
Recipe: Chickpeas Edamame-Style
Flaky sea salt
Place a steamer basket in a pot that just fits and add about an inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and add as the chickpeas. Steam for 3 minutes; then test a chickpea for tenderness every minute or two until they are tender but still slightly crunchy.
Transfer to a bowl and toss sea salt. When cool enough to handle, shuck and eat the chickpeas one pod at a time.
With thanks to Maria Robledo photographing chickpeas in the midst of cooking dinner for eight and even though the light was terrible.