Before this week I never thought I could ever find dried chickpeas let alone fresh chickpeas. I've been meaning to make a chickpea curry using dried ones, but still haven't been able to find them at any of my local markets. I even checked my local Asian grocer, where instead I was surprised to discover fresh green chickpeas. I quickly bagged almost two pounds while other customers stared at the beans wondering what they could be used for. I love chickpeas, or garbanzo beans as they are also called, so I wasn't worried about what I could make, but what I would make.
The first thing that came to mind was hummus. And who doesn't like creamy hummus? I love bright green hummus made from soybeans, so I could have made some using fresh chickpeas. But instead I wanted to make something unique and different. I discovered a great recipe for chickpea kebab much like Middle Eastern falafel, but made in a tandoor rather than fried. Falafel is generally made with dried or canned chickpeas. In Egypyt, falafel is made with fresh fava beans. This falafel-like Indian kebab was a great way for me to try fresh chickpeas in a new way.
Chickpeas have been grown since ancient times throughout the Middle East, India, and even in Italy and Greece. Fresh chickpeas are really beautiful beans. They grow on a low bush much like regular garden peas, but they don't climb. There is usually one bean per pod, but oftentimes two, and rarely three. Generally chickpeas are sold dried or in cans, cooked from dried. For a short period in early spring, fresh ones can be found in farmers' markets or Asian grocers. Some specialty markets may also sell them frozen from fresh. The fresh ones taste much like fresh peas with a true verdant flavor. Eat them fresh tossed in salads or sauté them with a little garlic for a side dish.
Indian cuisine uses a lot of chickpeas and also grinds the dried beans to make flour known as gram or besan. The flour is used to make savory and sweet dishes, one of my favorites being laddoo, sweet buttery balls formed from a thick batter of gram flour. The great thing about chickpeas and why they were and are so important to many cultures is that they are a great source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are exceptionally important to the vegetarian diet. This dish is perfect as an appetizer to share among vegetarian friends and meat-eaters too. They're hot, spicy and packed with the flavor of spring.
For this recipe, I cook the fresh chickpeas along with shallots and a green paste made mainly of green chiles and ginger, before mashing them and forming them into patties. Since I don't have access to a tandoor oven, broiling is the best option. Some Indian ingredients may be hard to find, like fresh curry leaves. Dried can be substituted. Dried shredded coconut can be used instead of freshly grated. And instead of strained Indian yogurt, I used Greek yogurt. Gram flour can be found in Asian grocers, but I used garbanzo bean flour, which is the same. It can be found in health food markets and supermarkets in the gluten-free or health food section.
Fresh Green Chickpea Kebab
Recipe adapted from Tandoor: The Great Indian Barbecue by Ranjit Rai.
Note: Fresh peas, fava beans, or soybeans would also work well in this recipe.
6 green finger chiles, coarsely chopped
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
4 fresh curry leaves, torn
1 tablespoon freshly grated coconut or shredded unsweetened coconut
fine sea salt
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for brushing
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 cups shelled fresh green chickpeas
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons garbanzo bean flour
Combine chiles, ginger, cumin, curry leaves, coconut, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until very finely chopped and a smooth paste forms. A mortar and pestle can also be used.
Warm oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sauté until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add green paste and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add chickpeas and mix to combine. Cover and lower heat to medium-low. Cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add yogurt and cook, uncovered, until liquid evaporates, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Preheat oven to broil with rack in upper third of oven.
Transfer chickpea mixture to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until mashed. Stir in bean flour. Let cool slightly before handling. Form mashed chickpeas into about 6 football shapes. Bake them as they are or thread onto metal skewers. Place chickpea kebabs onto pan and brush them lightly with oil. Broil for 15 to 20 minutes, turning kebabs often so that all sides brown. Yield: 6 appetizer servings.