Kale, Asparagus and Chickpea Pesto

by Kris on May 18, 2012

Have you ever tried a fresh chickpea before? I’ve had plenty of canned and dried chickpeas, but I honestly had no idea what they looked like raw until a few days ago. While picking up some kale and asparagus at the farmer’s market, I came across a booth with a box of little green pods. They were a beautiful shade of light green and soft to the touch. I asked the farmer what they were and he told me chickpeas!

I never would have thought a chickpea could be so pretty. For something that I eat quite often, I began to think how far removed I’ve been from the process of this bean. Never in my life had I eaten one fresh. They’ve always been either dried or straight from a can. With no clue how to prepare them, or if they could even be eaten raw, I walked away from the market with a very large basket.

When I got them home I began to examine them. A green shell, almost the same thickness as the leaf of an endive, surrounded the bean. When I broke it open, it reminded me of popping bubble wrap, only much more exciting because inside laid a prize! The first one I opened contained a large, bright green chickpea. The next one was small, almost the size of a pea. A few shells later I came across one with two beans inside! It made me think of Forest Gump, and his saying about a box of chocolates. As I ripped through more beans I said to myself “life is like a raw garbanzo bean, you never know what you’re gunna get”. I found this amusing at the time, Greg stared at me blankly.

After over an hour of shelling I finally had a bowl of green chickpeas. Unsure what to do with them, I questioned popping a few in my mouth right then and there. Before doing this I double checked online that they were indeed safe to eat raw. The last thing I wanted to do was inadvertently poison myself right before dinner. Sure enough they were safe to eat and many people described the raw taste as earthy. I’ve always hated that description. It irks me the same way as when someone describes the size of hail as marble sized. There are many sizes of marbles, just as the earth has many flavors!

Not knowing what to expect I popped one in my mouth and bit down. The consistency was that of a chickpea, but it tasted like grass. While my cat may enjoy that flavor, I’m not really a fan, so I decided to cook them before eating any more. I boiled them for about 5-10 minutes and when they were done, the color had shifted to a shade halfway between green and beige. Oddly enough, while they were cooking the smell reminded me of corn on the cob. I tried one again, but this time the grass flavor had been replaced by the best chickpea I had ever eaten. They were full of flavor and they popped in my mouth. They weren’t at all mushy and they definitely didn’t have that tin taste that the canned ones have.

During this whole experiment, I had also been making pesto with the kale and asparagus I bought that day. On a whim I added a cup of the freshly cooked chickpeas to the pesto. It added the right amount of creaminess to the dish and I was blown away by the rich flavors! Usually I include some parmesan cheese to my pesto, but with the addition of the chickpeas, it really didn’t require it. I didn’t intend to make a vegan pesto, but I guess it was in the cards!

Have you ever eaten a fresh chickpea? What did you think? Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Kale, Chickpea and Asparagus Pesto

  • 1 bunch of kale, washed and stems removed (about 5 cups)
  • 1 cup asparagus, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • juice from one lemon
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pasta of your choice
  • 1 cup steamed asparagus for serving

Place kale in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add one cup of asparagus, minced garlic, pine nuts, chickpeas and kosher salt and continue to pulse until pureed.

While the food processor is running, slowly add lemon juice and olive oil. Process until smooth and fully combined. Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, toss pesto on pasta of your choice; I used whole wheat fusilli. I served the pesto pasta with one cup of steamed asparagus mixed throughout the dish.

Serve warm.

Yield 2 cups

*Note: If using fresh chickpeas, shell the beans from their pods and rinse under cold water. Bring two cups of water to a boil in a medium pot and add chickpeas. Boil for 5-10 minutes until they are beige in colour and no longer green. Drain and add to the food processor. Continue with recipe as directed.

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