I haven't said much about my two weeks eating vegan. Except for a few things that drove me crazy, such as soy milk in my coffee and the absence of fish, it wasn't a bad experiment. Oh yes, I also missed parmesan cheese on my pasta. Those seem like little things, but my discontent with them grew larger and larger each day. I never could solve the Coffee Issue and daydreamed about sardines and tuna with increasing frequency as each day passed. I came away from my two weeks of eating vegan with some good experiences. But, my first non-vegan meal of red snapper curry from a local restaurant, (Sophie's Thai Kitchen for all you Davisites), was heaven and underscored what I missed during that period. I think it's best to go vegan gradually.
For some reason, I became obsessed with chickpeas during those two weeks. I cooked huge pots of them, to have on hand for one particular recipe, a Deborah Madison tomato and chickpea pilaf. I craved it. The recipe can be found in an article I wrote about eating vegan in Fit Fare. Yesterday, I decided to make an entirely different type of chickpea recipe. I had a lot of cooked chickpeas in the fridge that I needed to use or they would wind up in the garbage. The resulting meal was spiced with cumin, coriander seed, turmeric, and heaps of garlic. It also called for cinnamon. Now here's some handy advice, mainly for myself. If the recipe calls for a large amount of cinnamon, keep in mind the quality of the cinnamon you use. In my case, it was Penzey's Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon, the best and strongest cinnamon you can buy. I should have used much less than the recipe called for. Much less. The dish didn't shout "cinnamon", it bellowed it.
Actually, it wasn't a bad meal, but I was annoyed that the strong cinnamon taste drowned out the cumin and coriander seeds. I did make some adjustments in the recipe. It called for dried apricots, but they always disappear into Bob's stomach when I buy them. So, I substituted currents, which was fine--but apricots would have been better. The original recipe also calls for hubbard squash. Rather than go to the store to buy some, I used cubed cooked sweet potatoes that were in the my fridge.
As I was cooking this, I sampled it and didn't like the taste at all. However, once it was served on rice (couscous would have been even better), and topped with some yogurt, it was pretty good. Bob had two huge servings, with some of it tucked into a whole what tortilla, so he obviously didn't share my reservations.
Just watch out for the cinnamon. If you're using supermarket cinnamon, you could use the full amount (who knows how long that stuff sits in a warehouse or supermarket shelf before you buy it). But if it's Penzeys, it's a entirely different spice. A wonderful spice--but so full of flavor it can overwhelm a dish if used incorrectly. But, it sure makes the best cinnamon toast.
And finally--make the Deborah Madison pilaf--it's so good.
Moroccan-Spiced Vegetarian Chili (Williams-Sonoma)
4 large ancho chilies
3 cups water
4 large whole garlic cloves, plus 6 large cloves, sliced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 can (28 oz.) chopped tomatoes
1 butternut squash, 1 1/4 lb., halved, seeded, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (or substitute cubed cooked sweet potato)
2 cans (15 1/2 oz. each) chickpeas
2 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/3 cup sliced dried apricots ( or substitute other dried fruit)
1/3 cup sliced pitted prunes
In a saucepan, combine the chilies and water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chilies to a work surface; reserve the liquid. Discard the stems and seeds from the chilies. In a food processor or blender, combine the chilies with the whole garlic cloves and 1/2 cup of the liquid. Process until smooth. Set aside.
Heat a heavy pot over medium heat. Coat the pot with nonstick cooking spray. Add the onion, the sliced garlic cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and coriander and sauté until the onion and garlic have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, butternut squash and the chili puree. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is just tender, about 25 minutes.
Stir in the chickpeas with their liquid, the zucchini, dried apricots and prunes. Simmer, uncovered, until all of the squashes are tender, about 15 minutes more. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and serve hot. Serves 6.