Hey, did you know that the UN has designated 2016 the International Year of Pulses? Of course you didn't! Do you even know what pulses are? Bet not. I'm not talking the throbbing on your wrist, or the thing you do on the food processor to pulverize nuts. Pulses are dried members of the legume family that include beans, chickpeas, lentils and peas. This does not include fresh beans or peas, soybeans, or peanuts. Got it? Good.
I had the privilege to be invited to the gorgeous Culinary Institute of America Greystone a few weeks back to learn more about pulses, and get inspired on how to use them. During this weekend intensive, we heard from experts on the virtues of pulses, and then went into the kitchens to work with instructors to get our pulses racing.
Why pulses? Simple. Pulses are:
- Renewable and sustainable. Pulses actually fix nitrogen in the soil, adding rather than depleting nutritional value like many other crops do.
- Healthful. Pulses are high in protein and low in fat. Increasing pulse consumption has been demonstrated to aid in weight loss, even without making other dietary change. They are heart-healthy, and help regulate blood sugar.
- Oh yeah, delicious. If you're not already in love with them, you haven't had them prepared right. And about that farty thing: Research has shown that once you integrate more pulses into your diet more regularly, that little problem tends to go away.
To get more people to enjoy pulses as part of their regular routine, they've launched the #PulsePledge, where you commit to eating at least one serving of pulses a week. In our household, that's a no-brainer. We eat beans on the reg, most especially the fabulous ones from Rancho Gordo.
We were split up into two groups; each group would work first with either the pastry department or culinary arts, and then switch out the next day. On day one I got assigned to pastry, which struck dread in my heart. You know I'm a cursed baker, right? If you don't believe me, just look at what I did to this pound cake on that day.
To be fair, the chef confirmed this was not my fault. It was a gluten-free pound cake, and the formula was not suited to the size of the pan. It over-rose, and broke tension, causing that nuclear crater effect. But still, this is not outside the realm of what I'm capable of under normal circumstances.
Yet I did have some successes, like this ham and cheese bread with chickpeas. YOU GUYS, I BAKED.
And on the second day I made falafel, very good falafel, with some cracking baba ghanouj and hummus.