Pulse Day

Alberta chefs trade jackets for lab coats at the Leduc Food Product Development Centre

by Mary Bailey


2016 has been designated the International Year of Pulses (IYP)

Chances are that can of chickpeas or bag of split peas you picked up at the grocery store contains pulses grown an hour away. Nutritious, tasty and cheap, pulses (beans, peas, lentils) are eaten the world over. So why do they have such a low profile here?

Canada is the largest exporter of pulses in the world. Peas are ideally suited for the Peace region and central Alberta, where millions of tonnes grow across two million acres of farmland. But even though pulses are considered a commodity crop—it’s unlikely you’ll find them at the farmers’ market for example—local growers want to make sure they are on our radar. What better way to do that than to invite chefs to create some delicious dishes?

The Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance along with Alberta Pulse Growers set up a professional development day for 10 chefs; a visit to a farm to see yellow pea seedlings (three inches high, just starting to unfurl their tendrils) followed by lunch at Eco Café (tasty beet/chickpea hummous, lentil flatbreads) and an afternoon at the Leduc Food Product Development Centre (FPDC). The purpose? To introduce the chefs to the idea of creating a food item featuring pulses that could be scaled up and sold far beyond their restaurants.

One of the chefs, Brad Smoliak, is a research chef who has worked on several projects at FPDC.

“There is nothing like the product development centre in Canada. It’s world class,” says Brad. “Edmonton and Alberta could be a food processing capital. We have everything here, we have the chefs, we have the university, we have this plant, we have the environment for business and we have entrepreneurs. We just need to start working together.”

The chefs did not disappoint. Doreen Prei, Get Cooking, crafted a sophisticated pea soup with quail egg; Christine Sandford, Staff Meal and Acme Meat Shop, a deeply-flavoured split pea miso soup; Brad Smoliak, Kitchen by Brad, created a bright quinoa and bean salad and Lindsay Porter, El Cortez, a toothsome chicken and black bean enchilada.

Melanie Hennessey from Calgary’s Winsport brought the gluten-free chocolate cookie created by their executive chef Liana Robberecht. Andrea Harling, Made Foods, a red lentil cracker, with smoked hummus and a sprouted lentil salad; Kerry Bennett, Care Bakery, a gluten-free chocolate coffee macaron; Maria Besuijen, Salad & Fork, pulse pyrohy and Sean Cutler of the Kensington Riverside Inn Chef ’s Table made a savoury duck cassoulet.

Chef Sandford’s miso was a most intriguing dish—fermentation being a source of fascination for many these days. Leduc’s food scientists thought it might be too gnarly for them; the six-month fermentation required for traditional miso being beyond the scope of the facility at this time. Another dish that resonated was chef Bennett’s gluten-free macaron, which she made with the leftover liquid from cans of chickpeas, another buzzy culinary topic. (See sidebar.)

After the tasting and tour of the facility, FPDC’s food scientists walked the group through what it takes to commercialize a product. A few days later each chef received an evaluation of their dish, how suitable it might be for scale-up or what they would need to do to make it suitable, based on food safety, shelf life and freezability, packaging and equipment necessary.

Not all chefs want to make food products for the grocery store, but it was a fascinating look into how it’s done.

“I was really blown away by the experience,” said Lindsay. “I had no idea a production plant of this magnitude was right outside on our doorstep and the pulse program was impressive to see. It’s a great opportunity and I want to seriously take a look at pursuing it.”

Doreen Prei, Get Cooking; Christine Sandford Staff Meal; Lindsay Porter, El Cortez
Doreen Prei, Get Cooking; Christine Sandford Staff Meal; Lindsay Porter, El Cortez

Black Bean, Pinto and Chicken Enchiladas with a Creamy Verde Sauce and Homemade Garbanzo Bean Tortillas

Lindsay Porter, el Cortez

Chef Porter made a savoury chicken enchilada with black and pinto beans as well as garbanzo beans in the tortilla. Wouldn’t you love to be able to pick these up in the frozen foods aisle!

You could buy 6-inch tortillas if you don’t want to make your own.

Black Beans, Pinto Beans and Chicken Mixture

½ c black beans
½ c pinto beans
2 oz sweet vermouth
2 whole chicken breasts
1 t chili powder
1 t ancho powder
2 T canola oil
2 oz sweet vermouth
1 red pepper, chopped into large chunks
1 jalapeño
6 cloves garlic, whole
½ red onion, chopped into large chunks
1½ c Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
¼ bunch cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper

Soak the black beans overnight, drain liquid and rinse with cold running water. Cook on the stovetop with water, 1 tablespoon of oil and salt for 45-60 minutes. Once finished, strain and mash until half of the beans are mashed up and half are still intact.

Rub the chicken with the chili powders and salt, and sear off in oil in a hot cast iron pan. Add jalapeño, red pepper, garlic cloves and red onion to the same pan and cook until chicken is cooked throughout and vegetables are soft and slightly blackened on the outside.

Once beans are mashed and chicken and vegetables are cooked, let both cool down enough to handle. Chop the chicken and vegetables altogether, leaving jalapeño seeds inside the mix for a bit of spice.

Mix the chicken mixture into the beans with 1 cup of cheese and cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Creamy Verde Sauce

½ c cream cheese
¼ c cream
3 cloves garlic
3 stalks mint
3 stalks parsley
4 stalks cilantro
1 jalapeño, seeds taken out
2 tomatillos
4 green onion
2 T of honey
salt and pepper

Rough chop all vegetables and herbs and place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Season to taste. Reserve.

Chick Pea Tortillas

⅔ c Bob’s Red Mill garbanzo (chick pea) flour
⅓ c wheat flour
1 T lard
2 t salt
½ c warm water (may need extra)

In a mixing bowl combine the two flours and mix together with salt and lard. Combine until just mixed and there are no large clumps of fat.

Slowly add the water and mix until a smooth ball forms and starts to pull away from the bowl. The dough needs to be wet enough so it doesn’t fall apart and crack but not wet enough that it doesn’t ball together and pull away from the bowl. Either add more water or add more flour depending.

Take the dough ball from the bowl and make 6-7 balls (or use a 2-oz scoop). Using a hand-held tortilla press, place two saran wrap strips or parchment paper over the presses with the ball of dough between. Press to a size of approximately 6 inches.

Heat a fry pan on medium heat. Place the pressed tortilla on the pan and cook until it just begins to puff. Reserve until all tortillas are cooked.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 350°F. Fill the tortilla shells with the chicken filling and roll the shell as tightly as possible. Place enchiladas in a baking dish or a large pan and top with verde cream and remaining cheese.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. Take out of the oven and using an offset spatula, scoop enchiladas onto a plate.

Makes 6-7 enchiladas.

Bean-o-ua Salad

Brad Smoliak, Kitchen by Brad

“This recipe is more of a method than a specific recipe. Use whatever is fresh from the market, green onions, tomatoes, peas, green beans, squash, fresh herbs. Basically, use an equal amount of beans by volume; 1 cup each chickpeas, black beans, navy beans or whatever your favourites are. Make sure to soak and cook separately as beans cook for different times.” – chef Brad Smoliak.

Soak beans overnight, drain and cook for 1½-2 hours or until tender

Drain, rinse, then chill.

Make equal amount of quinoa according to package directions.

Make honey mustard dressing (below). There may be more than you need. It will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Mix dressing, vegetables and dressing together, season with salt and pepper. Let sit for an hour in the refrigerator before serving.

Honey Mustard Dressing

½ c sherry vinegar
¼ c honey
1 T fresh garlic
¼ c grainy mustard
¼ c chopped rough fresh dill
1½ t salt
½ t pepper
1½ c sunflower oil
¼ c water

Place vinegar, honey, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons fresh dill in a blender. Blend for a few seconds. Slowly add sunflower oil in small drizzle until dressing becomes emulsified. Add water and blend for a few more seconds.

Remove from blender and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped dill.

Chocolate Cricket Lentil Cookie

Liana Robberecht, executive chef of Winsport, developed this cookie after a challenge to use cricket flour. “I had a vision of creating a cookie or bar that would be healthy, gluten-free and with the additional protein of the cricket flour. Cricket flour is a growing niche market as people are looking more and more for alternative protein sources.” –chef Liana Robberecht.

2 c chickpea flour
½ c cricket flour (optional, if unavailable use another ½ cup of chickpea flour or brown rice protein flour
½ t baking soda
½ c dark cocoa powder
1½ t salt
2 t cinnamon
½ T allspice
⅛ c ground flax seeds
⅛ c salted hemp seeds
½ c pumpkin seeds
½ c dark chocolate chips
½ c raisins
½ c cranberries
1 c soft dates (microwave for 2 minutes to soften, then mash while still hot)
2 c cooked and pureed red lentils
1 c maple syrup
1 t ginger
zest of 1 orange
1 c dark chocolate Callebaut callets

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, ground flax, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips in a bowl and mix.
Add the raisins, cranberries, dates, lentil puree, maple syrup, ginger, orange zest and callets. Mix until combined.

Use a 1-oz scoop or weigh scale to portion the batter. Place the mounds of cookie dough onto a parchment-lined or non- stick baking sheet, ½-inch apart.
Press the top of each cookie to flatten a bit and bake for 7 minutes.

Remove the cookies to a rack and cool. Store in an airtight container if eating within a few days, otherwise, they freeze well.

Makes 65 cookies.

Find lots more pulse recipes at pulse.ab.ca –ed.

Sidebar: The Fabulous Aquafaba

That thick greyish substance you have been putting down the drain every time you opened a can of chick peas? Turns out it is a simple-to- use egg substitute, coming soon to a food product near you.

Bean water as egg substitute started with an experiment by French tenor Joël Roessel. American software engineer Goose Wohlt furthered the idea and coined the word aquafaba. The food scientists at Leduc say the way the proteins and starch are suspended in the liquid is what makes it all work. Now, people are using it for mayonnaise substitutes, in baking, anywhere you would use an egg. An American company is making a vegan mayonnaise from the waste bean water of a nearby hummous manufacturer. Kerry Bennett of Calgary’s Care Bakery is developing a gluten-free vegan macaron. Do try this at home:

Aquafaba Meringues

Follow the same rules you would for egg-white meringues to make the aquafaba version. Start with room-temperature chick pea liquid and add the sugar slowly. Recipe courtesy The New York Times.

1 15-ounce can of chickpeas at room temperature
⅔ c granulated sugar
2 t almond extract

Heat oven to 250°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the bean liquid (aquafaba). You should have about ¾ cup liquid. (Save chickpeas for another use.) Pour liquid into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high speed with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form, about 15 minutes. Add the sugar, one heaping tablespoon at a time, and whisk until the mixture is glossy, then add the almond extract.

Use a tablespoon to scoop the aquafaba mixture into mounds on the baking sheets. Bake for 1½ to 2 hours or until the meringues are dry and firm to the touch. Let meringues cool before serving. Meringues will keep in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

DIY Vegan Mayonnaise

Recipe courtesy The New York Times.

1 15-ounce can of chickpeas
1 t white vinegar
½ t fine salt
½ t sugar
1 t lemon juice
2 t dry mustard
¾ c sunflower oil

Drain the chickpeas, reserving the bean liquid. (Save chickpeas for another use.) Measure out ¼ cup of the bean liquid in a large glass measuring cup or bowl. Add vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice and dry mustard.

Using an immersion blender, mix until combined. With the blender running, very slowly drizzle in the oil in a thin stream. It should take 4 to 5 minutes to add all of the oil. The mixture will emulsify and thicken.