Legume in spot­light dur­ing In­ter­na­tional Year of Pulses

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FOOD - Mar­garet Prouse Mar­garet Prouse, a home econ­o­mist, can be reached by writ­ing her at RR#2, North Wilt­shire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at mar­garet@is­land­gusto.com.

Pulses are the ed­i­ble dried seeds of legume crops, and in­clude beans, peas, lentils and chick­peas or gar­banzo beans. They have been cul­ti­vated for cen­turies and are con­sumed through­out the world.

The United Na­tions has de­clared 2016 In­ter­na­tional Year of Pulses, in recog­ni­tion of the con­tri­bu­tions that they make to global food se­cu­rity.

Canada is the world’s largest pro­ducer and ex­porter of both lentils and dried peas, with the largest per­cent­ages of th­ese crops be­ing grown in Saskatchewan and Al­berta. We ex­port pulses to over 150 coun­tries, and yet many Cana­di­ans could ben­e­fit from us­ing more of th­ese ver­sa­tile foods in our own meals.

Foods that are easy on the bud­get, suited for use in dishes from ap­pe­tiz­ers to desserts, and good for the health of the soil they are grown in and the peo­ple who eat them de­serve a place at the ta­ble.

You can sign a pulse pledge, a com­mit­ment to eat pulses at least once a week for 10 weeks, and find recipes and other re­sources at http://pulse­pledge.com.

Eat­ing them weekly is a way to get fa­mil­iar with many types of pulses, learn new ways to pre­pare them, and get com­fort­able cook­ing them. It is also a great way to add some va­ri­ety to win­ter meals.

Chef Michael Smith has long been as­so­ci­ated with Lentils Canada, and has de­vel­oped a num­ber of lentil recipes. As Canada’s Am­bas­sador for the In­ter­na­tional Year of Pulses, he will be spend­ing the year ed­u­cat­ing Cana­di­ans about us­ing lentils and other pulses, and pro­mot­ing their use.

He de­vel­oped a recipe for Pulse Tacos for the oc­ca­sion, in­spired by the foods and flavours of Mex­ico.

We tried it last week­end and found it en­joy­able. Some­times peo­ple back away from us­ing pulses be­cause they have heard about soak­ing beans overnight be­fore cook­ing them and feel that they do not have time for that. Be­cause this recipe in­cor­po­rates lentils, which do not have to be soaked be­fore cook- ing and canned beans or chick­peas, no ad­vance prepa­ra­tion is re­quired.

That’s not to say that you can­not do some of the work in ad­vance, to man­age your time. You could chop the onions and gar­lic, up to a day early, and keep them re­frig­er­ated in air­tight con­tain­ers un­til you’re ready to cook them. Or you could pre­pare and cook the fill­ing, chill and re­frig­er­ate it overnight, and then re­heat be­fore serv­ing.

You could even soak and cook dried beans or chick­peas in­stead of us­ing canned ones. Some peo­ple pre­fer the tex­ture of home­cooked pulses over that of canned ones.

Pulse Tacos

Chef Michael Smith, 2015

For the pulse fill­ing

30 mL (2 tbsp) canola oil

2 onions, thinly sliced

6 gar­lic cloves, thinly sliced 18 mL (1 heap­ing tbsp) chili pow­der

5 mL (1 tsp) ground cumin

250 mL (1 cup) green lentils 1 540 mL (19 oz) can of favourite beans or chick­peas, rinsed and drained

500 mL (2 cups) wa­ter

2 mL (½ tsp) salt

2 mL (½ tsp) your favourite hot sauce

For the taco top­pings 1 head Bibb or ice­berg let­tuce 12 hard taco shells Few hand­fuls grated ched­dar or taco blend cheese Your favourite salsa 1 large bunch, fresh cilantro 2 limes Make the lentil bean fill­ing. Splash the canola oil into a large skil­let or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions, gar­lic, chili pow­der, and cumin. Saute un­til the veg­eta­bles soften and the spice flavours brighten, 3 or 4 min­utes. Stir in the lentils, beans, wa­ter and salt. Bring to a slow, steady sim­mer. Cover tightly and con­tinue slowly cook­ing un­til the lentils are ten­der, 35 min­utes or so. Stir in the hot sauce. Assem­ble the tacos. Fit a full leaf of let­tuce into a hard taco shell. This will hold the fill­ings in when the hard shell inevitably breaks. Fill each taco with a heap­ing spoon­ful of the lentil bean fill­ing. Pack with cheese, salsa and cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges and share. Makes 12 tacos, serves 4 to 6. Note: The length of time it takes for the lentils to soften will vary; it took about an hour for the ones in my taco fill­ing to cook.

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