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    Taking a Pulse

    The United Nations General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, but will U.S. consumers feel it?

    It’s officially the year of legumes and beans (i.e., pulses), according to the United Nations, so what better time to pump up the craveability factor for these versatile, nutritious and inexpensive foods.

    “Pulses do have a reputation as ‘peasant food,’” says Michael Holleman, director of culinary development at Minnesota-based InHarvest and chairman of the Whole Grains Council advisory board. “But they also have the authentic, heirloom food stories that appeal to today’s consumers.”

    Jessie Hunter, director of domestic marketing for the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, agrees that pulses and beans support U.S. regional cuisine and the local, simple food that consumers want. 

    “In on-trend, independent restaurants, we’ve seen a lot of on-trend pulse or bean salads served in Mason jars. Our Cooking with Pulses website includes a Mason Jar Mediterranean Chicken Salad with lentils,” Hunter says.

    Pulses also fit nicely with another humble, hearty food trend from the last few years: Whole and ancient grains.

    “Grains mixed with pulses create a complementary protein,” Hunter says. “Matching regionally grown grains with the same region’s pulses or beans is a nice way to build off people’s interest in local and regional foods.”

    In fact, the right mix of grains and pulses can win more fans to this food group, notes Holleman. “Soaking can be a hurdle for operators and home cooks, but there have been a lot of advances in Individual Quick Frozen [IQF] mixes, which make usage easy.”

    As with any neutral carrier, it’s all about the seasoning. Luckily, pulses can take on anything from Mexican spices to Indian masala flavors. “Use on-trends flavors, like Sriracha and harissa, and you add some glamour,” Holleman says.

    Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

    • Oven-baked garbanzos or edamame for crunchy toppings in salad bars
    • Fresh sandwiches with a side of lentil chips from the snack food shelves
    • Colorful, full-flavored lentil and edamame prepared side dishes

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