This post was created in partnership with USA Pulses and Pulse Canada.
By the time this post is up, I will be in Russia. First in Moscow for a few days, checking out a few theaters and museums, then on to my hometown to spend time with family. Besides the simultaneous happiness and heartache that comes with finally getting to see your people after a few years away, here are some other things I’m really looking forward to: staring at the blossoming chestnut trees outside of my mom’s kitchen window, visiting the food market across the street from there every day, fresh sorrel soup, mom’s melt-in-your-mouth zucchini fritters, and a good morel mushroom season, if I’m lucky. All but one food related, what a surprise. I’m also excited to breathe sweet spring air and see the juicy green of newly budding leaves, since spring in Florida is typically only marked by a transition from hot to hotter. All those things that I used to take for granted when living in a four season climate now make me happy to no end. Spring. I miss it. That’s all.
One place where there’s been no shortage of spring is my kitchen. I have to make up for it somehow. I love that spring produce needs very little in order to taste good – a quick steam, a drizzle of oil, a sprinkle of salt, and you’re good to go. A plate with a rainbow of vegetables, tasty sauce and some pulses (also known as chickpeas/beans/lentils/dry peas) has been a common dinner around these parts ever since April rolled around. The pulse component is important, since the addition of those is one of the most graceful and easy ways to make a veggie-forward meal into something truly satisfying and nourishing.
I confessed my love for batch-cooking dried beans in last weekend’s post, so it goes without saying that I’m very excited to partner with USA Pulses and Pulse Canada on sharing some quick and simple pulse recipes here throughout the year. The goal is to hopefully help inspire some of you to include more beans, lentils and such into your weekly meals, and something tells me that a few of you are already on board 🙂 In case you need any convincing, think of pulses as protein, fiber and antioxidant-packed little superfoods, but minus the hefty price tag that usually comes with most superfoods. On top of all that, pulse crops are sustainable, with low water and carbon footprints, and they act as natural fertilizers, enriching whatever soil they grow in.
This colorful plate of barely-cooked, crisp spring vegetables is sprinkled with addictive, smoky and crispy chickpeas that are like croutons, but infinitely more nutritious and a breeze to put together. I’ve been on a real aioli kick lately, and I make it right in my mortar and pestle, since I tend to agree with those that say hand-mixed aioli is the way to go. I wanted a bright and striking sauce for this platter, so I came up with an avocado aioli that fits the bill perfectly. This can be an entirely fork-free meal – just dip the veggies in the aioli and chase them down with handfuls of chickpea croutons. Or chop the veggies up into more bite-sized pieces and serve as a salad with a sprinkling of croutons and dollops of the aioli.
Spring Vegetables with Smoky Chickpea Croutons and Avocado Aioli
for the smoky chickpea croutons
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- ½ tablespoon neutral coconut oil
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 heaping teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
for the avocado aioli
- 2-3 garlic cloves – crushed with a knife
- sea salt
- handful cilantro leaves (optional)
- freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon – divided
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small avocado
- freshly ground black pepper
for the vegetables
- 1 bunch baby carrots – peeled
- 1 bunch asparagus – tough ends trimmed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- sea salt – to taste
- freshly ground black pepper – to taste
- 1 small bunch radishes
- handful chives – chopped (optional)
- handful microgreens (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C). Cover a large baking tray with parchment paper.
- Dry the chickpeas with a clean kitchen towel and remove any loose skins. Place the chickpeas on the baking tray, drizzle with the oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt, paprika and garlic powder and toss to coat once more.
- Place the tray in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, then stir and roast for another 10 minutes, or until golden.
- Place the crushed garlic and a large pinch of salt into a mortar, and partially crush the garlic with a pestle. Add the cilantro leaves, if using, and continue crushing the garlic and cilantro into a paste.
- When the paste is almost done, squeeze about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice into the mortar and work it in with the pestle.
- Begin to add the olive oil, slowly drizzling about 1 tablespoon in while continuing to stir, allowing the oil to emulsify. Continue to add in the rest of the oil by drizzling it in slowly while stirring until all of the oil is incorporated and emulsified.
- Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop the flesh out into a medium bowl. Mash with a fork and mix in the rest of the lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper. Fold the avocado mash into the aioli. Taste and add more salt and chopped cilantro, if desired. Keep refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to three days. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, combine all the ingredients but the olive oil in a blender. Slowly pour in the olive oil with the blender still running to emulsify.
- Arrange the asparagus and baby carrots in a multi-level bamboo steamer or a steamer basket. Steam the asparagus for around 3 minutes, until just tender, and the baby carrots for around 4 minutes. Move the carrots and asparagus to a medium bowl, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix.
- On a large platter, arrange the steamed asparagus, carrots and radishes. Garnish with chives or microgreens. Serve with avocado aioli and chickpea croutons.