Legume in spotlight during International Year of Pulses

Margaret Prouse
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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 cooking 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.

- 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.

Organizations: United Nations

Geographic location: Canada, Saskatchewan, Alberta Mexico North Wiltshire

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