While my vegetarian phase lasted about three months, my inclination toward whole grains and non-processed foods remained. Even though I never again gave up meat entirely, it gradually became more of an accent to my cuisine rather than the basis of it.
Having grown up in a time where a meal was not considered a meal if it did not contain meat, I had a hard time coming up with vegetable-centered main dishes. (I find that so hard to believe now, but there it was.) For most of my weeknight dinners I would saute some onion and zucchini or other squash in butter and add an egg beaten with curry sauce at the end for a quick scramble. It tasted good, but it quickly got old and I would find myself cooking the chicken or meatloaf or pork chops with rice that had been the staples around our table when I had lived at home.
It did not particularly bother me at the time and I don't know that I even thought about it that clearly or consciously. But what I notice most looking back is how often I was drawn to vegetarian cookbooks, and that many of the recipes that I clipped out of magazines and the paper and copied out of cookbooks were bean or vegetable centered.
These days I usually cook meat maybe once a week, which means I eat it three or four times a week counting leftovers. That seems to be the proper ratio for me. If I have meat more often than that I start to feel sluggish; less often and I feel a loss of energy. This is anecdotal, of course, but I know I feel better when I eat some meat, but not all the time.
So the challenge is finding enough vegetarian dishes that offer enough variety that I do not feel like I am eating the same thing all the time. I think one reason that folks do not like beans is that it is too easy to get stuck in a rut in terms of how they are prepared. That is why I am always happy when I find a recipe that uses different ingredients than I usually use, or uses familiar ingredients in a different way.
And that is why I decided to try this recipe I found in American Wholefoods Cuisine, written by Nikki and David Goldbeck back in the '80s. I have had this book forever and have several recipes marked, but for some reason I had never made any of them. But I had recently purchased dried apricots and was looking for recipes and ran across this one.
It was easy to make and quite delicious. The cinnamon and apricots combine to complement the chickpeas and zucchini. I cooked the couscous in the rest of the chickpea liquid and it was the perfect companion. You can't really tell from the photo up there, but there was a nice amount of lovely sauce that added flavor to the couscous. This recipe is definitely a keeper.
And as with most other bean dishes, it travels well for work lunches.
Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables
VEGETABLES WITH APRICOT SAUCE6 servings
1/2 cup quartered dried apricots
2 Tbsp raisins
2 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 pound eggplant, patty pan, zucchini, or winter squash
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup water from soaking fruit combined with bean cooking liquid or plain water
cooked pasta or grain
chopped toasted pistachio, for garnish
Soak dried fruit in hot water to cover while preparing remaining ingredients.
Heat oil in a 2- to 3-quart pot and cook onion over medium heat until lightly colored, about 10 minutes. While onion cooks, cut the vegetables into bite-size cubes. Add the vegetables to the onion and stir to coat.
Drain the fruit, reserving the liquid, and add it to the pot along with the chickpeas, salt, and cinnamon. Add enough water or liquid from the beans to measure one cup. Add the liquid to the pot and bring it to a boil, then cover the pot and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender.
Serve over couscous or brown rice.
adapted from American Wholefoods Cuisine, by Nikki and David Goldbeck (Plume, 1984)
exported from Home Cookin v.8.66 (www.mountain-software.com)