SLOANE'S FIVE INGREDIENTS OR LESS COLORFUL VEGETARIAN MEDLEY
As someone with food allergies since birth, I'm acutely aware of what I am eating every moment of every day. Embracing that awareness/food-fear and transforming it into a love of food fostered a deep respect and love for the art of cooking. I started getting serious about cooking when I was 16. I had become a vegetarian because of palate fatigue (I just couldn’t eat another burger) and immersed myself in the then current literature about being a healthy vegetarian. My first two bibles were Moosewood and Diet for a Small Planet. Moosewood was especially freeing. Every page was filled with a call to arms: “Here’s the recipe, but change it if you like; go, play.”
I became the family cook because no one knew what a food allergic vegetarian could eat. I read cookbooks for fun and watched PBS shows like The Frugal Gourmet instead of doing homework. I went to culinary school to learn French culinary technique. I threw elaborate dinner parties and brunches; I baked my own bread and made my own preserves. I stayed a healthy vegetarian for 17 years. (NB: I added meat back into my diet recently.)
Even though I have food
allergies (or perhaps because of), I love to talk about, think about,
read about and learn about food. Some of
my happiest childhood memories involve cooking. I loved to watch my
bubby as she deftly poured pancake batter so it would cook in the shape of
a bunny or Mickey Mouse. What a master! When I was a little older I was sous
chef for my father as he made pounds of “Daddy Pasta” in his loft on 18th
street: fusilli pasta, ground veal, peas, sautéed garlic and onions,
sesame oil and cups of Parmesan cheese. For so many of us, cooking and
togetherness go hand in hand.
For my blog, Allergic Girl and my food allergy coaching and consulting business, Allergic Girl Resources, Inc, I dine out between five and ten times a week. But when I dine at home, I want colorful, attractive, nutritious, healthy, low fat, whole food and inexpensive dishes made with as few ingredients as necessary. These recipes use little-to-nothing processed industrially, highlight local, seasonal produce and you can make them within about 30 minutes from walking in the door.
Like Moosewood, I say, add and subtract flavors or components as you see fit. No chard? Use purple kale or spinach. No apples? Pears are fab. No rice? What about quinoa, barley, amaranth, or buckwheat noodles. No sweet potato? Pumpkin or any winter squash totally works. Spicy chickpeas not your thing? Here are five other chickpea versions from the New York Times. Don’t like spicy? Just warm beans and add more olive oil and some kosher salt and pepper (even some lemon works). Don’t like beans? Sub another veg protein like tofu. See how it easy it is?
MISE EN PLACE
First, get your mise en place. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees for the sweet potato fries. Chop garlic,
set out Kosher salt, pepper, olive oil, raw brown sugar, spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes). Wash, core and slice apples evenly, set aside (it’s okay if they brown as they will be cooked and turn brownish because of cinnamon). Chop washed chard stems into half inch pieces and chiffonade leaves in half inch pieces.Wash and dry your sweet potato and cut into 3-4 inch sticks/fries. Rinse and drain canned chickpeas. Plump raisins either in hot water or cold OJ or don’t plump them. Set out your knives, cutting board and serving dishes. The dishes below are listed from longest cooking time to least.
RICE - Make your favorite steamed rice recipe.
SWEET POTATO FRIES - 25 minutes in pre-heated oven
Toss potato sticks with olive oil, a dash of kosher salt. Throw into hot oven, when fries are cooked through add dashes each of cinnamon, cloves to taste and some raw brown sugar if you want. Add them back into oven until spices are warmed and fragrant; do not let burn.
COUNTRY APPLE SAUCE -- 25 minutes on stovetop
Apples, liquid (about 2 inches) and cinnamon go into a pan. Cook on low to moderate heat until apples soften, cinnamon mellows and liquid is absorbed. For liquid, I use water and cinnamon only and honestly it’s pretty perfect that way but here’s where you can play. You could add OJ, cola, black cherry soda, nutmeg or cloves. Once cooked, transfer to serving dish and set aside. Can be served hot with pouring cream (English style) or ice cream, so decadent. If lactose intolerant or casein allergic, soy dream, rice dream or coconut based ice creams would be delicious as well. I’ll be using this as a side dish, served warm, sans cream.
Warm olive oil in pan, add stems and cook on medium heat until softened and bright. Add raisins to stems and stir 1-2 minutes, then add garlic last for a quick warming through (you never want to overcook garlic). Add leaves last and sauté all for a few minutes more,1-2 minutes only. The leaves are delicate, the raisins can burn so don’t walk away. They should be bright. Adjust for seasonings.
SPICY CHICKPEAS -- 5 minutes on stovetop
Warm olive oil. Add dried spices to olive oil for 30 seconds to release flavors. I use paprika, cumin, garlic powder and red pepper flakes to taste. Once warmed, added chickpeas until cooked through.
Assemble plate: rice, chickpeas, sweet potatoes fries, chard and apple sauce in a pleasant way on your plate. Invite the photographer to sit and join you after he takes the last shot.