Hara Chana or Green Garbanzos

Hara Chana, Garbanzos, Green Chickpeas

Until then I had seen them only naked, brown and dry; but on Saturday I got to see them dressed, green and fresh! How on earth did I miss seeing fresh chickpeas in their full regalia until  that day? I am a little embarrassed to admit to it, but as the French saying goes: un moment de honte est vite passé —a moment of shame is soon over! & the excitement makes up for the embarrassment!

We had planned to meet our BlogoBung friends Larry Litt and Eleanor Heartney for a food tour in Jackson Heights, Queens —their neighborhood for 10 years, and often called one of the most exotic places in New York City. After a delightful & tasty two hour aperitif of talking, munching — on Larry’s appetizing homemade Hummus & Salmon patés — & sipping Lillet at their house we went out for a wonderful Indian meal at Mehfil a Gujurati style restaurant.

Dhal

I had Dhal Makhini —creamy black lentils sautéed in butter with freshly ground spices— a restorative dish full of flavors with wonderful fresh coriander overtones that helped me get over my jet-lag. I got a taste of Eleanor and Larry’s delicate Tandoori Salmon & of Pierre’s rather bland Lamb Pasanda. Then we went for a walk and stopped at Patel Brothers —37-27 74th Street, (718) 898-3445 —“the granddaddy” of Indian groceries as quoted by the New York Times. That is where I discovered the fresh chickpeas. First, I saw them in the freezer, I grabbed a bag as I had never seen them green before, but Larry said “Wait! they’ll have them fresh in the produce section”. Larry knows the store like the palm of his hand and sure enough, here were the little green pods of hara chana —green chickpeas.

repackaged

I filled up half a bag while Pierre, guided by Larry’s expertise, selected Garam Masala & Curry powders. We also got mustard seeds, fresh turmeric, black lentils & Arrow Root flour—I like it  to make beurre manié, it is much lighter than wheat flour and gives the sauce a smoother consistency (a good option for my friend Anne B.!). Anyhow we took leave of our friends, our minds —and stomachs— filled with colors & scents.
Tuesday I finally got around to shell the peas for lunch. I am glad Pierre assisted me because unlike any other shell beans I know of, chickpeas have one pea per pod, only very occasionally two! A time consuming task that I would recommend doing while watching a good documentary or hire your guests while having aperitifs! (the fresh chick peas take no time to cook at all)

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Once shelled,  it turned out to be a small quantity so I decided to improvise a version of  a Hara Chana (green chickpeas), Aloo (potato), Patha gobi (cabbage) and Gajar (carrots) curry that turned out to be best vegetable stew I ever made. I think I was still very inspired by the tastes of the lentil dish I had. The fresh chickpeas are very tender with a subtle nutty flavor and a very smooth texture. Enhanced by the fragrant –medium hot—spices, this combination brings up a remarkable and specific savor. Once again I have to say that the decision of what to put in was made by default! Except for the chickpeas and the spices I literally gathered what was left over in the fridge and that was:

Vegetable

½ onion, diced
1 big carrot , diced
¼ cabbage, cut thick julienne
1 potato, diced
2 garlic cloves, slivered
½ bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 small piece of fresh turmeric, minced),
1 small piece of fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon of Garam Masala
1 tablespoon of Curry powder
Salt/Black pepper
/Water or vegetable broth.
Coat a skillet with olive oil —ghee would have been better but I didn’t have enough butter in my fridge to make clarified butter,— and under medium heat sauté the onions until soft.
Add all the vegetables including turmeric, ginger and garlic, sauté for a couple of minutes.
Add the garam Masala & Curry powder, salt and pepper. Mix well and add water to barely cover the veggies.
Once the liquid starts boiling, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15/20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
I served it with brown rice —Indian style rice would be obviously better, but that is what I had available— and garnish with fresh cilantro.  Namasté to Larry  Eleanor!

Nicole's Vegetable curry

Purple Cabbage & Gromperen Plaâ

Red Cabbage Salad

When we took off for France in mid-July I left a purple cabbage (red cabbage is actually never “red”) in the fridge. I was pretty confident it would keep until our return. It was a beautiful purple cabbage from our CSA share and I actually wrote a post and took pictures about that particular share — click here for details. It was a very firm,  bright, shiny and freshly picked purple cabbage.  I must say I was a little surprised to find it in the CSA box so early in the season.  When we returned mid-August, the cabbage was holding great, no obvious signs of aging. It was not wrapped, or in the crisper, but just decorating the middle shelf of the fridge. I still was not ready to eat it; summer veggies were still plentiful and I assimilate cabbage more with a fall/winter food. I became so used to see it in the fridge that I almost forgot to eat it.  But a few nights ago I pulled it out of the near empty fridge to accompany Pierre’s Bay Ridge version of a Luxembourgish dish: the Gromperen plaâ. Only the first layer of the cabbage leaves where a little limp, the rest was still crisp. Before I tell you a little more about the Gromperen  plaâ this is how I made the cabbage salad:
1/2  red/purple cabbage head sliced thinly
1 diced onion
1 diced apple
1 diced celery rib
Chopped walnuts and/or almonds

Moisten all the ingredients with olive oil. Drizzle with vinegar — it can be: apple cider, or rice or light wine vinegar. Add a dash of sesame oil —very little, the goal is to use it to outline the ingredients  not to really taste it (do you  know what I mean?). Then add  fresh  chopped Italian parsley, salt & pepper to taste.

Pierre was supposed to give me the detailed recipe of the Gromperen plaâ but as you can check on his blog he is not home very much these days. In Luxembourgish Gromper means potato & plaâ means dish —plat in French. This is the first dish Pierre’s sister Michou makes when we visit. All the ingredients go into a terrine or a lasagna type dish. As I indicated I don’t have an exact recipe but I think I am right to say that Pierre never really follows one either. This is the kind of dish that is adjustable to what you have and how you feel. I personally encourage this kind of cooking and would like to have the guts to write such a cook book! Now here are the indications for you to make your own potato dish:

Butter  the bottom of the pan.
Line with one layer of sliced parboiled potatoes.
Sprinkle with  diced sautéed onions.
Cut slices of Mettwurscht the “national” sausage of Luxembourg.
In Bay Ridge we don’t have Mettwurscht so Pierre decided to make the Gromperen plaâ with the Turkish sausage sujuk— a beef sausage usually spiced with cumin, sumac, garlic, paprika and other red pepper —we always get it at Aunt Halime’s Halal Meat Market on 3rd avenue and Ovington in Bay Ridge.
Repeat layers until there is no more room in the dish.
Then fill the dish with seasoned
heavy cream—with salt, pepper and a touch of freshly grated nutmeg—  until the top of the pan is barely covered.
Top with a generous layer of shredded
cheese – can be Swiss , Emmental , Gruyère or even cheddar! 
The result was superb; I had forgotten to take a picture of the dish before we started digging into it and next thing we knew is that the three diners around the table cleaned it up in a flash! The combination of the textures and tastes were perfect. Thanks Pierre and this menu is a keeper! The only disappointment Pierre had is that he thought he was going to have some left over for lunch. Sorry!

Gromper Pla

Cabbage: a Winner for the Winter! (I)

Brassica capitata alba

“Brassica capitata alba”

The culinary & healing possibilities of cabbage are endless, and they are not a new trend!
The Greeks and Romans were using cabbage mainly as medicine rather than food. Greek doctors like Hippocrates (who lived circa 460 BC. and is considered the father of medicine ), and Roman doctors like Pliny the Elder praised cabbage very highly. Hippocrates recommended cabbage for kidney diseases, dysentery as well as increasing the amount of milk in nursing mothers. Pliny, who lived in the first century AD and wrote a 37-volume Natural History mentions cabbage as an ingredient in 87 remedies.

The ancestor of our cabbage is believed to be what is called today sea kale (crambe maritima) also called “wild cabbage” or “sea cabbage.” It resembles a loose-leafed cabbage with an extensive core bearing very small leaves. This theory can be supported by the findings of Judith Hiatt in her book Cabbage: Cures To Cuisine; she suggests that cabbage didn’t form a head until after the time of Charlemagne, i.e. the 9th century AD. Until then it was more like kale and collards. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, kohlrabi belong to the same specie, Brassica oleracea. The different plants evolved by encouraging the development of elements already present in the original plant.

“Medicinal workings of cabbage rely on the balance of all its nutrients and the way they interact with each other in the body,” says Judith Hiatt. Cabbage contains vitamins A, B-1, 2, 6, C, K, U and very valuable minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium. One cup of raw shredded cabbage contains 43 mg of vitamin C, or 100% of the RDA for children. In the 80s the virtues of cabbage and its family were finally being rediscovered by the medical scientists. An article published in 1982 analyzes the result of studies which show that cabbage and its related family could prevent certain kinds of cancer:

“The committee believes that there is sufficient epidemiological evidence to suggest that consumption of certain vegetables, especially carotene-rich (i.e., dark green and deep yellow) vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts), is associated with a reduction in the incidence of cancer at several sites in humans. A number of non nutritive compounds that are present in these vegetables also inhibit carcinogenesis in laboratory animals.” (extract of a study compiled by the National Academy of Sciences entitled Diet, Nutrition and Cancer. 1982. National Academy Press, Washington DC)

I personally do use cabbage as a medicine often. For burns, I immediately slightly crush a leaf of cabbage take the core off and roll the leaf around the burnt area, attach it with kitchen string if possible. It relieves the pain and heals the burn really fast. At the beginning change the leaf often, you will notice that the leaf does absorbs the heat. I have wrapped cabbage leaves around my neck when I had sore throat or around limbs for rashes. Now, that might become trendy to walk into your office or job with cabbage around your neck!

The benefits of cabbage can most of all be experienced through our every day diet & there is so many different ways of eating cabbage and related members of its family.
As the first of a series of cabbage recipe I choose an American favorite: Cole slaw . Cole slaw came into the New World with the Dutch settlers and was then known as Kool Sla, meaning cabbage salad in Dutch. It is important to note that for maximum health benefits, cabbage should be eaten raw as vitamins C and U do not survive the heat. So voilà for today and stay tuned for my incredible Cabbage Roll with Ginkgo nuts recipe!

Ni-Cole Slaw
4 servings
1/2 Cabbage or the heart of a small cabbage
1 Carrot
1 small white Onion or 2 or 3 Scallions
1 tender Celery rib
1 small tart Apple
1/4 cup of Walnuts
1/4 cup Raisins
1/4 cup Fresh minced Parsley

Dressing:
1/2 cup Olive Oil
2 Tbs Apple Cider vinegar

1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
salt, pepper

COMING SOON: CABBAGE ROLL