Eating legumes, known as meat for vegetarians, is essential in a meat-free diet. More and more people are adopting a vegetarian diet, if only one day a week, as evidenced by the Meatless Monday movement, which has revitalized the voluntary meat-rationing campaign from World War I and II. Started in 2003, the global movement aims to cut meat consumption one day a week for health and environmental benefits (for more information, see www. meatlessmondays.com).
"Legumes are an excellent source of fiber and protein," said Astrin Damayanti, registered dietitian at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation in Modesto. "They are also a low-glycemic food, which means they are broken down more slowly and won't result in blood-sugar spikes, making them great for people with diabetes."
Flavor satisfies, and the flavors of cumin and coriander are unmistakable in this meal. Cumin delivers a pungent, warm, earthy flavor, while coriander is sweet and nutty. Combined, they're a powerhouse in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, enhancing the flavors of meat and vegetable dishes.
If you're buying cumin or coriander for the first time, buy cumin whole and coriander in powdered form. Cumin seeds can be added to each of these dishes for another layer of flavor. A quarter teaspoon is all you'll need.
When adding spices, remember that ground herbs and spices release their flavor and aroma more readily than whole, so Spice Islands recommends adding them near the end of cooking time to minimize the risk of cooking away their flavor.
"Whole spices and certain herbs, such as bay leaves, release their flavor more slowly, so add them at the start of cooking. Tie them in cheesecloth or place in a tea ball for easy removal," the spice company suggests.
The fiery flavor of chili peppers can intensify during cooking, so add them in small increments and taste-test frequently.
Cooking with Sharon: Rolling flatbread (recipe below)
Dough: 1 cup whole wheat flour plus 1 cup all-purpose flour or atta flour
1 daikon (Japanese radish), about 6 inches long, grated
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon anise seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2-inch piece of ginger, grated
2 fresh green jalapeño or Serrano chilies, seeded and finely chopped
½ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Finely ground black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon yogurt mixed with warm water to make 1 cup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, for cooking
Place the grated daikon on a clean towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Add daikon and all ingredients up to the black pepper to the dough. Mix thoroughly.
Make a well in the center of the dough and slowly add just enough water/yogurt mixture to form a soft, pliable dough. The dough doesn't require much kneading. Cover dough and chill for 45 minutes.
Divide dough into eight balls and roll each into a disc about 5½ inches in diameter. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Slap the bread into the pan and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the center begins to change to a warm brown color.
Turn over and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Brush with melted butter and turn again. Press down with the spatula, brush with more melted butter, then turn again, cooking 30 seconds each time. Turn a couple more times, after about 10 seconds each time. Cook for three minutes total, until golden brown with dark spots.
Chickpeas in a tomato sauce are served over pan-fried potato cakes.
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
Salt, as needed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon garam masala
1/3 cup unseasoned fresh bread crumbs
Oil for frying
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
1 (14-ounce can) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup plain Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt as needed
Place potatoes in a medium pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Drain potatoes very well and transfer to a large bowl. Mash them with a fork or potato masher until mostly smooth. Stir in cumin, coriander, turmeric and garam masala and season with salt. Add the bread crumbs and mix to combine. Form into eight patties. Cover and refrigerate patties.
In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, three to four minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeño and ginger and sauté until fragrant, about one minute. Add the curry paste and the garam masala, turmeric, cumin and cayenne, and stir until slightly toasted, about 30 seconds.
Add the tomatoes and cook until they dissolve, about five minutes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly reduced and thick, eight to 10 minutes.
Stir in chickpeas, yogurt and cilantro and cook until heated through, about five minutes. Season with salt. Place two potato cakes on each plate and top with chickpea sauce. Garnish with red onion and cilantro, if desired.
Note: Fresh tomatoes can be substitute for the canned tomatoes. Romas work especially well in this recipe.
This recipe is from "Vegetarian Cooking," a book in the "At Home With the Culinary Institute of America" series (Wiley, $34.99).
Red lentils with tomato
Serves 4 to 5
1 cup red lentils (skinless masoor dal) washed and drained
3½ cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon turmeric
Bring red lentils and 3½ cups of water to a boil. Cook partially covered at a simmer for a half hour. Add salt and tomatoes and continue cooking until done, 15 to 20 minutes more.
Once the lentils are cooked, purée with an immersion blender, if desired, for a smoother consistency.
Put the 3 tablespoons oil in a wide, shallow pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until starting to brown. Add ginger and garlic and cook for one minute. Add spices and cook for one more minute. Add a ladleful of the lentils to the onion and spices mixture and then pour everything into the lentils. Cook 10 minutes more to blend all the flavors.