Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mea(t) Culpa

Dear Marg,

Meatless Monday, less meat, more whole grains and beans, better for your body, better for the planet - everyone knows the litany. Granted, not everyone cleaves to it, or even wishes they cleaved to it. But on some level I buy it. I get that (in general and excepting athletic animals raised strictly on pasture that is too steep and rocky to support anything with less than four legs) meat production requires more resources than plant production. And I believe that variety is the spice of life and moderation in all things is best and countless other aphorisms that seem inane only bc we've heard them so often that we've blocked out the fact that the reason we've heard them so often is bc they are true.

All of which is a very long winded way of explaining my forays into vegetarian cooking. Trouble is, I suck at it. I don't have the instinctive feel for how to make vegetarian meals that I have for meat based meals. I understand braising and browning, how long it takes, what the meat should look like, how it should sound when it's almost done, and how it should smell. I've learned over the years which spices go with pork and which with lamb (curry or rosemary, for example, but not both). But put me in front of a CSA box and I'm stumped.

In my mental cookbook, vegetables get steamed, sauteed or roasted. Usually alone, sometimes with a close friend and some spices. And almost always as an accompaniment to meat. Excursions outside of this realm usually result in what Amos refers to as Vegetable Swamp. Healthy, dammit, but no one's arguing over the leftovers. There are always leftovers.

Last Meatless Monday witnessed another attempt, and shockingly, it was really good. Even the leftovers didn't last long.

I started with small green and brown lentils. I didn't have enough of either so I mixed them. Same size, same bean, same, same. I'm not so sure. One of the things that was great about this dish was that the lentils didn't cook into a homogenous mass. I'm wondering if one of the varieties took longer to cook than the other and so retained it's shape.

Sauteed some onions, garlic and fresh ginger. Added curry spices, then lentils, coconut milk and water, cooked a while, then added chopped sweet potatoes and right before lentils were done, chopped  zucchini.

Served it on a bed of rice topped with chopped fresh kale, then lentils and then fresh corn (leftover from a traveling neighbor's CSA box).

It was a tasty Monday. Today is Sunday and I'm making braised pork shoulder. Mea culpa.



  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1 T finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1/2 t ground coriander
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 1 t salt
  • about 1/2 of a  fresh serrano chile, finely chopped, no seeds or white parts
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups dried lentils
  • 1 (14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 medium zucchini cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 large sweet potato cut into 1/2 inch chunks
Saute the onion in the OO until soft. Add garlic, chili pepper and spices and cook a minute or so until fragrant. Add lentils, water and coconut milk. Cook about 5 minutes and then add sweet potato. Cook another 15 minutes and add zucchini. Cook another 5-7 minutes until zucchini is done and keep your fingers crossed that the lentils and sweet potatoes are on somewhat of the same time schedule.

Serve over brown rice with some finely chopped kale on top of it. Top dish with leftover corn if you have any laying about.

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