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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cilantro, Veggies, and Beans--the Perfect Vegetarian Combo


If you are one of those people who find cilantro an herb to be avoided at all costs, you will probably want to move along. However, for the rest of us, this will be a refreshing spring vegetarian feast.

With lovely big bunches of cilantro on sale at a local chain, 3 for 99 cents, it was time to indulge. All colors of bell peppers were also on sale, and I had dried garbanzos already cooked and in the refrigerator, waiting for inspiration. The result was this colorful, quick, and inexpensive vegetarian main dish. As a nice plus, it also served as a vehicle for a few other leftovers--hence the small amounts of cabbage, frozen peas, and broth. Make your own variations with your own leftovers and enjoy.


Cilantro Chickpeas

1 to 2 t canola oil OR chicken fat (I had some at the top of the refrigerated broth so used that for a little more flavor)
1 c sliced carrots (2 small)
1/2 c chopped onion (1/2 medium)
3/4 c coarsely diced green bell pepper
3/4 c coarsely diced red bell pepper
1/2 c shredded cabbage
1/2 c frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c chicken broth (convert this to a vegetarian/vegan dish with vegetable broth)
1 c chopped cilantro--leaves and stems
1/2 t Cajun seasoning (or red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to taste)
seasoning salt to taste
2 c garbanzo beans, with liquid

Optional toppings:
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
Salsa
Plain yogurt or sour cream

1. Saute the carrots and onion in the fat for about 5 minutes, until the onions are just beginning to turn translucent.

2. Add the peppers, cabbage, and garlic, and simmer at medium heat another 5 to 10 minutes, until the peppers are just barely tender.

3. Stir in the cilantro, beans, and seasonings, and cook just until the mixture returns to a good boil. Stir in the frozen peas, remove from heat, and serve as is or with optional toppings as desired. Serves three to four.

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As given in the recipe, this will be a little "soupy," perfect for serving in bowls like a thick stew. If you'd rather have it a little thicker, use less of the bean liquid or let the juices simmer down a little (not too long--this is best with the veggies just barely done). This could be served with rice, good crusty rolls, or warmed tortillas. Add a tossed salad and perhaps some fresh fruit of the season for a really fast, really healthy meal...and for a very reasonable cost as well.

Frugal note: The total cost of this dish, due to the sales this week and the use of home-cooked beans, was less than $1.50. If peppers are not on sale, you could substitute Trader Joe's frozen pepper strips (just add a few minutes after the cabbage) and still have a main dish well below $2.00. The cheese will add more to the cost, but using a dollop of yogurt (or just glasses of milk) to add the complementary amino acids will mean a lot of nutrition for not a lot of cost. (The broth was virtually free, since I just saved the juices from some chicken breasts that I had sauteed for another dish earlier in the week.)

Fast note: With the beans already cooked, the prep time for this includes washing the carrots and peppers and doing the chopping, not at all the big production that it may seem. (For more information on cooking dried beans, scroll down to my September 2010 post on this topic.)

Dump all the vegetables to be washed in some water, scrub well, and drain. (If you are tossing a salad and/or preparing some fresh fruit, wash it all at once--and no need to wash the onion; you'll just have a mess trying to get the peelings off!)

Then use one cutting board and one knife and just chop one thing after another. No need for washing the board or knife in between.* As for measuring, you can just guestimate and chop about the amount of each that looks like what you'd like. If you do want to measure, use the same cup, with no need to rinse between. At the end of the process, here is the stack of what you will have to clean up:




















*Some notes on cutting boards

I keep one cutting board just for onions, peppers, and garlic, even some herbs and some of the fresh veggies from the garden--it's the one in this photo. According to my mother my great grandfather made this for my great grandmother early in their marriage back in the 19th century. Still going strong after all these years, it's a little hollowed out in the middle, but it's the perfect size and I use it almost every day. To care for it, I usually just swish some plain water over it and let it drain dry. If it needs a little more attention, I wipe it with a soapy cloth and quickly rinse, but that's about it. There is something very comforting to knowing that there is so much heritage in such a simple piece of kitchen equipment, and it holds a place of honor on my counter top.

And yes, I never, ever, let this board be used for meats or anything that might provide unwelcome contamination. For meats or anything that could lead to contamination problems, I use dishwasher safe boards.

This is also not the board for cutting up pineapple, melons, etc., either, not because of the cross-contamination problem. Rather, the old "onion board" is all too likely to impart just a hint of the strong flavors of the things it is used for, so I have another couple of boards of different sizes for these foods.

Do you need a whole set of cutting boards? Of course not. But I strongly recommend having at least two--one like my heritage board for cutting the strong flavored foods you'll be cutting and another that can be washed in the dishwasher or otherwise well-sanitized.

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