Have you ever tasted a fresh chick pea?
François brought me a pound of the first Nordic shrimp of the season back from the market today, and since this is my “dada” (weakness), I hardly noticed the bag of green things idling on the counter. When I saw them, I became excited again – what, green almonds?? This was almost too much for one night. When he told me they were chickpeas, I was taken aback.
It is not every day that I am faced with a complete stranger in the kitchen, although I love the feeling – the childlike discovery, engaging all the senses in trying to figure out what to do with a foreign specimen. I slid one little green jewel out of its perfect oval pod. It was so loose in its skin like it wanted out, I popped into my mouth; it tasted fresh and herbaceous in the raw state, crunchy like a regular fresh pea. Very nice, but I couldn’t help but think it might be even better. I wanted to cook the lot.
But I had a few guests sitting in the dining room, and I knew that if I got to shucking these babies, dinner would be served hours later. Besides, I already had the meal planned and on the go. I didn’t want to make my dinner party wait. However, as a chef, I could hardly push such a specialty item aside out of inconvenience; I would feel soo guilty knowing that these delicacies were at their freshest only to be sitting in my fridge, their sweetness turning to starch as we ate our fish.
No, now was the time to serve them. So, I decided to throw them into boiling water for a minute or two, then sprinkled them with some salt and chilli oil, thinking how good edamame are that way. Like with whole peanuts, let the noshers do the work. The “kids” could pick on that, sucking the nuggets from their skins themselves, while I fixed dinner. They turned out great - everyone was surprised!
I now know I love fresh chick peas, but chances are I will never shuck another. For most recipes, I will remain with the naked, dried variety. But in season, the fresh peas make for a sublime snack, especially when you leave the work to your guests, which makes them only taste better and go further anyway.