Cooking and eating through a new culture

Hey Chickie

Beans are a staple of the Latin American diet and nary a day goes by where I don’t consume some sort of legume. Sure there is the ubiquitous black and red beans found in the majority of dishes, but so much more is out there. Recently, I have found myself pulling away from the more traditional local recipes and spicing things up a bit. Surprisingly, I have been leaning a bit Indian (dot, not feather).

While working on the whole Meatless Monday idea, and reviewing a fridge bursting from the Sunday market, I decided on a vegetable masala. I think I have mentioned before that I am not a huge Indian food fan (I have always dreaded reeking of curry) but there were elements of the diet I did like, especially the significant use of vegetables and exotic complex spices. Both Rafa and I have amped up our excersie routine and we’re trying to stay away from heavy meat meals, especially at night. I don’t know, maybe it’s the tropical environment too, but I just have had a hankering for something spicy.

Now there are countless recipes out there and I am sure many people might sneer at my short cuts and adaptions to this traditional dish, but I don’t care. I am not Indian, I do not pretend to be. I just like making good food that people will eat.  So what I started with is a simple recipe from here: . Basically, I just use the guidelines for the spice mixture and added what ever vegetables I come across in the market. Sometimes it’s sweet little baby zucchini , sometimes it’s cauliflower, but I always keep the potatoes. I also like to use tomato paste instead of blanching and peeling tomatoes. It saves time and makes the sauce richer. But what really kicks this dinner up a notch is adding chickpeas. The garbanzo or chickpeas(Cicer arietinum) are a very good source of folic acid, fiber, and manganese. Loaded with protein, as well as minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, and magnesium they are also a great source of fiber.  Garbanzo beans can help lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels too. Not bad for something tasty and so cheap.

Since I pride myself with being a conscientious consumer, I buy my beans by the bag and cook them up myself instead of purchasing cans. This allows me to cook up big batches, and with the chickpeas, I split them up between the above recipe, homemade hummus and roasted chickpeas, which makes an awesome snack.  Believe it or not, the main element in hummus, tahini, is pretty easy to come by here and with the help of my trusty vintage Cuisinart food processor, I can whip up some hardcore hummus in no time. I use to think that chickpeas were just those vile, cold, little turds in the salad bar, but when you cook them yourself you can add any number of herbs or spices to rev them up. By tossing in one (only one) of those evil habanero chile peppers while cooking, you can infuse them with a nice mild heat.

With Rafa’s parents being closer than we had anticipated recently, I was apprehensive on how they would critique my cooking, especially with my recent interest in bolder meals. Rafa will coo about my cooking, but some people just like what they like. The curious smells certainly piqued their interest, and the whole medley of vegetables was impressive, and when they sat down…there was silence. It’s not often that there is silence at a Latino dinner table.

Lets just suffice to say, that they gobbled it up.


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