Did you know that 2016 was named the International Year of Pulses? Personally, I didn’t realize pulses needed a whole year of recognition, but I’m a bit of an addict. In my world, every day is Pulse Day (which, if you follow my Instagram account, is made incredibly obvious!).
Pulses, as celebrated by the United Nations, include lentils, beans, clover, alfalfa, lupins, and more. According to Wikipedia, the word “pulse” is used to denote “…crops harvested solely for the dry seed.” Meaning green peas and green beans are not considered pulses. Also, as Wikipedia tells us, crops grown primarily for oil extraction — think soybeans — are excluded. As are crops used for sowing.
Whew! That’s a lot of exclusions, and what we’re left with are the most delicious foods in the world, in my never humble opinion. Obviously, there are blurred lines here, and, between you and me, we’re not gonna get too picky about definitions from here on.
What we will do is talk about the various types of pulses.
- Beans — This variety of pulse requires no introduction! Sure, there’s some controversy over beans being considered pulses (this is the stuff of life), but they are generally accepted into the category. When it comes to plant-based protein, I rely heavily on beans in all their glory. My acquisition of a pressure cooker has made my bean-cooking even more frequent. From fava to black beans to black-eyed peas to garbanzo beans (or chickpeas), I am huge fan of this food!
- Lentils — Just as I love beans of all types, I adore lentils. Versatile and easy-to-prepare, lentils are your weeknight gluten-free friend. While there are many types of lentils, most of us are familiar with brown, green, and maybe black lentils. However, if you see other varieties, give them a try!
- Lupins — These are likely the least well-known of the pulses in North America, though they are better known in Mediterranean and South American countries. They require a lot more work to prepare than most pulses, due, in large part, to the bitter alkaloids they harbor. In fact, I bought a container of dried lupini beans, planning to make my own snack…then I read the extensive instructions for soaking the beans. Intimidated, I hung my head and went to my local Armenian market to buy a jar of ready-to-eat lupinis. Some day, I will soak those beans and prepare them as they deserve. I swear it!
- Peas — Here’s where the definitions of pulses gets wonky. When the peas are green, they’re not pulses. When they’re dry, they are. Okay then. My favorite uses of dried peas include split pea soup, and, of course, in Indian dishes. I keep yellow and green split peas on hand all the time — like lentils, they cook up fairly quickly.
- Peanuts — So, yes, peanuts are not technically nuts. They fall into the category of legumes and pulses. This does not make peanut butter any less delicious, nor does it take away from the sheer pleasure of munching on peanuts during baseball games. Food is funny.
So, what are your favorite pulses? Favorite recipes featuring pulses?
Tip of the Week
When I discovered a recipe for 10-hour Channa Masala, I was naturally intrigued with the idea of using my slow cooker for bean-based dishes (no soaking! a different way to cook beans!). When I was tasked with red beans and rice for a weekend party, the slow cooker method struck me as perfect. However — and this is extremely important — if you use red kidney beans, you must (MUST!) boil them for 10 minutes before starting the slow cooker process. Kidney beans contain a high volume of phytohaemagglutinin, which can cause intense gastrointestinal illness. While most people recover fairly quickly, do not neglect to cook your kidney beans before adding to the slow cooker.
Gluten-Free Meal of the Week
So, after that warning, it’s back to the birthday party I made the red beans and rice for. Due to timing — a mid-day party on a day where I had a morning commitment — I wanted to use my slow cooker, and I needed to cook my dish overnight. And, I needed to put the whole thing together in a way that my husband could just pack it all up and meet me at the party.
In my world, red beans and rice is comfort food. The best I’ve ever had was at a restaurant called Mouton’s in Leander, Texas, and I tried to recreate their peppery, brothy beans. I think I did okay, but now that my sister has moved from Leander to Chicago, I need to figure out an excuse to get back to Leander!
Note: You can modify this recipe to suit your taste. Oh, and the cornbread recipe is gluten free!