A Week of Veg

After a weekend of unrestrained gluttony, I declared this week a vegetarian one. Please note that rules will be bent for fish. On Sunday afternoon, with pen and paper in hand, I scoured my vegetarian cookbooks for inspiration. My plan of attack at the grocer was quite simple. Vegetables and herbs galore. Watercress? I will find a way by which to employ its peppery bite. Big bunches of parsley, cilantro and the ever elegant dill. A head of crisp romaine, wrapped cauliflower and a sizable bunch of broccolini. I carefully selected onions, scallions, knobs of ginger and garlic. From here I moved onto the tomatoes, a bag of lemons and limes and two grapefruits as they are the toast of the season. I then methodically moved down the aisles in pursuit of coconut milk, lentils, dried beans and broth, both chicken and vegetable. Unfortunately, no time to make my own before the great reveal. Perhaps next weekend. Matthew guardedly eyed the bounty of mounting rabbit food and disappeared. A few moments later, he returned with a case of something cold and packet of organic chicken breasts that he quietly added to the loot. Oh ye of little faith.

The weather this past Monday was fantastic and most encouraging for a long run after work. It was my first al fresco run of the season and it felt spectacular. My cousin in London has taken up a running regimen and her emails have been most inspiring. I am sure I was quite the spectacle on the road but who cares. It was a bit of me time to be savored. I relish in changing seasons and especially enjoy this time of year. Warm and sunny days that call for a cardigan in the coolish evenings. We have begun eating dinner outside as well as sitting in the kitchen with the sliding glass door wide open. Humming birds will soon be visiting our feeder outside the window. Leaving the house in the morning, my bare legs still feel the chill. It will warm up later I tell myself but any excuse to wear a skirt I take. I am so sick of pants and tights. This time of year, before we begin burning the AC, we go to sleep with the windows open. This warmly invites all the sounds, chirps, barking dogs and sometimes sirens from the outside in.

I am a big fan of lentils and often use them in my cooking. As outlined before, our cupboard is chock and block full of all sorts. Red, black, brown and green. Lentils give life to most dishes and are beyond simple to prepare. Just take note that different lentils mandate varied cooking times. If you are crunched for time, the red lentils cook fastest of the lot. My favorite way to prepare lentils is as follows: chop 1 leek and 1 clove of garlic, add to 2 TBS olive oil or schmaltz over medium heat, sauté for a couple of minutes, add 1 cup of Puy lentils and a squeeze of tomato paste, stir for another minute, add 2 cups of chicken stock, a generous pinch of kosher salt, bring to a boil, partially cover and let simmer until tender. You’re looking at around 45 to 50 minutes. Add a dash of soy sauce once you’re ready to tuck in or a drizzle of good quality olive oil. Some fresh chopped herbs and a shaving of a salty hard cheese are also magnificent. Lentils are sound additions to soups and stews, mix beautifully with vegetables and add a bit of bulk to work lunches, especially salads. In the context of vegetarian fare, they are outstanding in that they are a superb source of protein.

I found the below recipe from the cookbook Honestly Healthy. This marvelous read came to my attention thanks in part to a British newspaper I follow online. A celebrity who is married to a world famous soccer player advertised the benefits of alkaline eating and more specifically, this book. When a touted book about diet or nutrition becomes a hot ticket, I am always easily sold. Luckily, having parents living in Germany worked to my advantage as I ordered the book via Amazon in the UK, had it shipped to Wiesbaden, Germany and picked it up during a business trip. It served as exceptional reading material for the trip back across the pond. The book offers practical guidance in terms of what to eat and prepare. Do you have a yen to make nut milk, smoked tofu, gluten free bread or quinoa and cranberry burgers? If yes, this book is for you. The gourmand vegetarian and lactose free recipes are enticing, delicious and easy to prepare. The following Indian inspired dish, shaped by the most basic of ingredients, was a cinch to pull together. The flavor finale was outstanding and I promise, with the substantial Portobello mushrooms, you will not even miss the meat. I can confirm that Matthew certainly didn’t!

Mushroom and Tomato Dhal
Adapted from Honestly Healthy 

Please Pick Up

2 TBS olive oil
2 garlic cloves – chopped
1 white onion – chopped
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
5 medium sized tomatoes – I bought the lot on a vine
2 Portobello mushrooms – sliced
4 cups of vegetable broth – you could also use chicken if you’re cool with this not being wholly vegetarian
2 cups of split red lentils
1 red chili – chopped and I left the seeds in because we like it client
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
1 bunch of fresh parsley
4 cups of fresh spinach – chopped
Kosher Salt
Yoghurt – I like Redwood Hill Farm Goat Milk Yoghurt

To Prepare

1. Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil on medium heat for a few minutes.

2. Now add your spices, tomatoes and mushrooms with 1/4 cup of the broth. Let this sit for a while until the broth is absorbed. You want to sweat the tomatoes until they begin to burst at the seams, literally.

3. Once the tomatoes begin to split, stir in the lentils, red chili and 2 cups of broth. Continue to cook over medium heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring regularly and adding a splash of the remaining liquid every now and then. Basically, if your mix begins to look dry, add some liquid. You want the lentils to cook and reduce to a soft consistency but still have a semblance of normalcy to their appearance.

4. Now add a generous pinch of salt as well as the chopped cilantro, parsley and spinach. Continue to stir for a couple of minutes until the greens have wilted.

5. Dish up your dhal in a bowl with a dollop of yoghurt on top.

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