Friday, January 11, 2013

Vegetarian Harira Stew


My husband requested chili last night. This means vegetarian (bean) chili like my mom makes every time we go to Vermont to visit. The objective tonight was something healthy and filling - in response to his elevated cholesterol, and our fatigue from overdoing it the previous night at dinner in Manhattan.

When I went to the pantry, all the cans that I thought were various beans were not. I had assumed that my "bean section" was full - but apparently the hearts of palm, coconut milk and chickpeas had migrated into the empty space. So my husband suggested, "What about that soup we had at Bodouin Tent one time?" (a Middle Eastern restaurant here in Brooklyn). It turns out the soup was Harira, and I have a recipe for that... and all the ingredients!

Vegetarian Harira is extremely healthy. There's nothing remotely bad about it, except maybe the salt. Chickpeas and lentils provide tons of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. The various spices have many positive health effects, and add deep, rich flavor. And tomatoes may be the biggest asset of all, with all their vitamins, folic acid and cancer-fighting lycopene.

This stew is best served with flatbread, but I only had sourdough rolls - which are the least healthy component of tonight's meal. I also served a simple salad of avocado with lime and salt for another health boost that helps lower bad cholesterol. All in all, the stew was a success. It was richly flavored, filling and healthy. This ought to balance out all the unhealthy choices of the day before!



VEGETARIAN HARIRA STEW
2 small onion , quartered
2 T olive oil
2 ribs celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cardamom
¾ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
3 C Vegetable stock
1 14oz can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
3/4 C green or brown (French) lentils- rinsed
1 28oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
½ C cilantro

  1. Roast the onions, drizzled with a little olive oil, on a sheet pan at 425F for 15 minutes. Chop and set aside.
  2. In a stock pot, heat 2T olive oil and sauté celery 5 minutes, until tender. Add onion, garlic, spices, salt and pepper 2 minutes. Add stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
  3. Add chickpeas and lentils. Cook over medium-low heat 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Adjust seasoning as needed and add cilantro immediately before serving.




Brussels Sprouts and Clementines


My latest experiment: roasted brussels sprouts with clementines. It sure was pretty. I had this big box of clementines, so I threw one in the pan of sprouts just for the heck of it.

The verdict? Meh. Clementines get very bitter when roasted. Stick to lemons and you'll have a winner, but this particular seasonal citrus is a "nope", in this case!

Anyone have creative ideas for using up this box of clementines? 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Lemon-Chili Asparagus Spears


Sometimes a busy day doesn't hold much room for creativity. So you have to find unique ways to exercise your right brain. Just a small experiment or miniscule project each day helps battle the numbness of routine. Something as simple as adding a new spice to something plain, like a vegetable, can be enough to brighten up a quick dinner. It only takes 15 more seconds to add some flavor, so why not play?

One night this week, I made a hands-off, oven-only dinner, so that I could manage baby and other tasks while cooking. I decided to make it more interesting by spicing up some asparagus. It came out pretty good, giving it a little kick in contrast to the rest of my bland-ish dinner. I'd definitely do it again, as it may even convert my asparagus-hating husband to give it another try.

Lemon-Chili Asparagus Spears

1 bunch of asparagus spears, trimmed
1 lemon
olive oil
salt 
pepper (I used white pepper for more spice)
red pepper flakes
cayenne pepper

Heat oven to 425F. 

Trim asparagus and arrange on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and juice from 1/2 the lemon. Sprinkle as lightly, or as heavily, as you like with salt, pepper, red pepper and cayenne. Toss together. Top with thinly sliced lemon.

Bake 15-20 minutes until tender.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Roasted Zucchini with Capers



Tonight we ate a very healthy dinner: mushroom barley risotto and roasted zucchini. I find that squash of any kind compliments risotto. It's also best if the side dish is cooked in the oven, since the stove top gets pretty busy with stock and the pot of risotto needing constant attention.

I decided to slice up a zucchini and bake it with some lemon and capers as an acidic contrast to the earthy risotto. It worked very well, especially with a dash of balsamic vinegar to finish. We polished off the whole pan!

Roasted Zucchini with Capers
2 servings

2 T butter (*use oil for vegan)
2 T onion, diced
1/4 tsp garlic, minced
1 medium-large zucchini (about 8" long), sliced into 1/4" thick rings
2 T capers
1/4 C lemon juice
olive oil
salt, pepper
cayenne 
2 T Italian seasoned bread crumbs
Balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 425F. Meanwhile, lightly saute onion and garlic in butter for about 5 minutes until tender. 

Spread the onion/garlic butter in a casserole dish and top with zucchini slices. Evenly distribute the capers and pour lemon juice over the zucchini. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Season by sprinkling a little salt, pepper and cayenne. Top with a dusting of breadcrumbs. 

Bake 25-30 minutes, checking tenderness with a fork. Turn heat up for the last couple minutes, or broil for 1-2 minutes. Serve with just a dash of balsamic vinegar. 
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