Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Vegan Night for the Baby

Lest you think we live on bread and cake...
Whenever my baby girl is home from university, I try to pack as many nutrients into her as possible. Squeamish about most meat and finding milk to be unfriendly, she tends towards the vegetarian, even vegan. This is a great impetus for the whole family to eat this way from time to time, a good practice.
I find the book Veganomicon to be a good staple cookbook for the vegetarian/vegan kitchen, there are a lot of good recipes and the introductory texts are written with conversational-style humour.
For this dinner, I made a baked Mediterranean-style Lima bean dish, served with kasha on a bed of baby spinach. This also fits well with my plan to cook more dried whole grains and legumes - good for the body and the pocketbook.
Mediterranean-Style Baked Lima Beans, Veganomicon, Moskowitz & Romero
1 pound dried, large Lima beans, soaked for at lest 8 hours
2 quarts water
2 bay leaves
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
1 small carrot, shredded
1 (28oz) can diced or crushed tomatoes
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp pure maple syrup or agave nectar
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Black pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 tbsp chopped mint
Drain and rinse the beans and place them in a large pot with the 2 quarts of cold water and the bay leaves. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium. Simmer the beans for 30 minutes, until tender but not fully cooked (the interior of the beans will still be grainy). Skim off any foam that may collect while beans are cooking. Drain the beans, reserving 1 cup of bean liquid, and set aside (leave the bay leaves with the beans). Dissolve the vegetable bouillon cube in the reserved 1 cup of hot bean liquid; set aside.
While the beans are cooking , preheat the oven to 375f. Lightly oil a 4-quart casserole or Dutch oven.
Prepare the sauce in either the prepared Dutch oven, if using , or a separate large saucepan. Heat the garlic and olive oil over medium heat until the garlic starts to sizzle. Add the onion and stir until translucent and softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the carrot, stir and cook for another minute, and add the tomatoes, reserved veggie bouillon, red wine vinegar, tomato paste, maple syrup, oregano, thyme, salt, and nutmeg. Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, to reduce the sauce a little. Taste the sauce and season with black pepper and more salt if necessary. Stir in the beans, parsley and mint.
Place in the prepared casserole dish (if not already using the Dutch oven), cover the dish, and bake the beans, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until they are tender and the interior of the beans is creamy.
Uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes to reduce the sauce a little bit and give the beans a slightly dry finish. Remove from the oven, remove the bay leaves, and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
I made a half batch, meaning I used half the beans, tomatoes and stock. I kept the seasonings the same as I like big flavour. I may have even used more garlic and parsley..
I used an enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven, so only needed about 325f oven heat.
Eating with dried legumes and whole grains just takes planning. Once I got into the habit of planning dinner the day before, soaking the beans was never a problem.
Do use dried beans, they have much better flavour and texture - and they are less expensive!
If you haven't had dried lima beans for a long time, give them another chance. They are buttery and meaty and pick up the flavours of the dish beautifuly.
Kasha (not to be confused with Kashi - a breakfast cereal) is just toasted buckwheat groats and it cooks much like rice. Two cups vegetable stock with some dried herbs, kosher salt and a little black pepper and a little glug of olive oil. Bring to a boil and add one cup kasha. Reduce heat and cook until all water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
I made the cute little domes by spooning the cooked kasha into a little bowl and flipping it out onto the stewed beans.
Kasha is a nutritional powerhouse with protein, vitamin b, complex carbs, fiber and a whole host of minerals. Plus it is more flavourful and interesting than rice.
Kasha is also a great grain for gluten free diets.
The ever-present bed of baby spinach.
This is a great way to add some extra nutrients into a dish. I always keep a box of organic baby spinach in the fridge, putting hot food down on it just wilts it nicely and the leaves pick up the flavour of your dinner. A great staple for the kitchen.