Thursday, October 14, 2010

Meatless for-the-Man Day

So, my husband is a carnivore. He just is. And for a while, my vegetarian leanings were a source of strife. But finally, he realized it was good for me in a lot of ways, and we found a measure of peace.

On the other hand, though we sort of live and let live with our diets, he is Greek, and for him food is love. So if I don't cook for him he sometimes feels I don't love him! But that doesn't mean I'm going to make meatballs. That kind of thing is up to him. Also, I worry for his health! And if I'm trying to love him up, I'd rather do it in a healthy way. Enter, "Meatless for-the-Man Days," or days I cook him a veggie meal with no meat on the side. Now, I'm not allowed to tell him "this is vegan!" He doesn't want to know. It makes it sound too healthy and he has no interest in healthy food just for health's sake. Mind you, he'll eat healthy things, and all he wants to know is that it's good.

Last night's meatless meal is an all time favorite for both of us. Inspired by the Millenium cookbook, it combines chickpeas, wine, sun dried tomatoes and apricots in a slightly moroccan stew. The original recipe calls for making chickpea crepes as well, but somehow I never get around to those. Too "puchkey" as my dad would say. So sometimes I serve it with quinoa, sometimes with papadum for dipping, and sometimes just in a bowl. They're incredible all on their own. And pair them with a rich, red wine and it's a gourmet meal to beat any vegetarian restaurant I've ever been to.

This was the first meal I've really cooked since I've broken my foot, by the way, and I found a great way to do it. We got a cheap rolling chair and I put my knee on it and push myself around with my other foot, freeing my hands to carry and chop veggies with. Maybe I should rename myself "the gimpy chef!"

Here are the details:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 leeks, white part only, cut into small dice
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
2 cups Sangiovese or any dry red wine
4 cups cooked chickpeas
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup coarsely choppe sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
Freshly Ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water (optional)

This is me adding the wine. Make sure you use enough!

➢ heat the olive oil in a deep skillet or heavy-bottomed braising pan over medium –high heat.
➢ Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, or until it just begins to brown.
➢ Add the leeks and carrots, and sauté, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the leeks just start to wilt.

➢ Add the rosemary, cumin seeds, and bay leaf. Sauté for another minute.
➢ Add 1 cup of the wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
➢ Add the remaining 1 cup wine and the chickpeas, stock and sun-dried tomatoes, apricots and salt. Simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by one-half. Salt and pepper to taste.

This is the whole schear pre-simmer, but it cooks down to a much thicker, yummier consistency.

It can be sort of a runny stew or more viscous. I tend to add extra wine, then more chickpeas and leeks, then I have to add more cornstarch, and finally I give up and just serve it in a bowl. The topper is a sprinkling of toasted, slivered almonds for amazing crunch and a really nice extra hit of flavor.

Unfortunately, I can't make the rest of the pictures loads, so you can't see the beautiful presentation with collards from our garden, braised with coconut oil and garlic, and a piece of zucchini bread from a neighbor. Also, there was such a cute photo of the man with his beautiful deep red Nero D'Avola.

I usually use Primitivo or Sangiovese to cook this dish, but this time it was Nero D'Avola, a dark, Italian grape that never fails me. So we also opened another bottle, by Cosumano, for drinking. Dark, pruney, with medium body and just enough tanin to stand up to the stew, this one's an everyday winner. Mind you, if you had to splurge, a Chateauneuf du Pape wouldn't go wrong either!

Next up for "meatless" days, a challenge: vegan, gluten-free, soy and alcohol free cooking for a friend!

What's your favorite fall veggie meal? Will your partner eat it too, or are you on your own?

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