After a long break, I am happy to report that I am back in the kitchen. We returned from a fantastic, low-key, yet highly soul-soothing vacation to India a couple weeks back. I had grand plans of taking just a few days to tackle jet-lag, and then cooking up a storm (you see, I really did miss cooking while I was on vacation. I helped mom, but didn't really cook). But alas! A nasty viral bug chose to adopt my body as its favorite host (my guess is on the plane), and my well-laid plans of culinary rediscovery were thwarted. Unless you count chicken noodle soup from a can (organic, of course) and Ramen noodles as culinary achievements.
So anyway, all is better now. A is off to school (first grade, can you believe it?) and R is back in preschool. I am feeling a heck of a lot better, and I'm sure J is excited to have me back in the kitchen. The poor guy! Went from being presented with a veritable feast every meal for 5 weeks in India to chicken noodle soup with toast! What a nasty shock to the poor taste buds!
Okay - go on say it. I have let you down. I go on and on about coming back to the kitchen, and you are expecting some mind-blowingly complicated recipe, and I present you with a humble vegetarian dish?? Is that the best you can do, you ask? Well, my dear friends, don't dismiss this humble offering quite so fast. It is simple, yes, but that is what makes it so beautiful. The flavors are simply sublime. And what better way to use up a whole bunch of swiss chard from the farm?
So, let me plug in my locavore thing here. Dishes such as this are meant to show off nature's bounty. So the end result is only as good as the quality of the ingredients you put in it. Ever wonder why food in Italy, Spain, France (heck, most of Europe) tastes so damn good? Well, it is in large part due to the fantastic quality of the stuff they put in. So go ahead, please use good, organic, local stuff. I promise you, it is well worth the trouble.
My six year old, A, gobbled it up saying "Mom, could you drizzle some more olive oil on mine? I love my stew with extra oil on top". If you knew this kid when he was 2 and 3, you'd never believe me. A was the pickiest eater you've ever seen. Who woulda thunk it. This kids eats anything now. R reluctantly ate up his portion and then piped in "Yummy, with some fresh organic water". Makes no sense? You're not alone. Welcome to the world of a 4-year old...
You can serve this dish with rice, couscous, or even a nice crusty loaf of bread. This version is an adaptation of Madhur Jaffrey's recipe for espinacas con garbanzos, a Spanish tapas dish served in tapas bars across Seville. I liked the slight bitterness that the swiss chard lends, and I think it works especially well when you serve this as a main course alongwith rice or couscous. That said, I really like the original recipe using spinach too.
We had some whole-wheat couscous in the pantry, so that is what I served. Couscous is extremely quick and ridiculously simple to prepare. I like to use a 1:1.5 ratio of dry couscous:water, or even better, use chicken broth instead of water. Bring the water or broth to a rolling boil, add 1 tbsp olive oil. Then add the couscous, stir, cover and take off the heat. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes (don't peek). Then take the cover off, and fluff lightly with a fork. That is it! Ta Da! I told you it was ridiculously simple.
To serve, spoon some couscous on a plate. Top with the stew. Drizzle some good quality olive oil on top. Scatter a few marcona almonds on top and Voila! A glass of red wine to accompany (I still have remnants of a cold, so sadly no wine for me) and here's to a good hearty meal.
Spanish-style swiss chard with garbanzo beans
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian
2 bunches swiss chard (about 20 leaves)
1 15oz can organic garbanzo beans, washed and drained
1/4 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp freshly ground cumin
1 tsp freshly ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp spanish paprika (Pimenton)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 - 1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1. Wash the swiss chard well. Remove the stalks from the leaves. Set aside. Cut the chard leaves into ribbon-like shreds. Finely chop the stalks.
2. Heat the oil and add garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute till garlic smells fragrant. Add the swiss chard stalks and saute for a few minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne, and salt. Saute a few minutes till spices smell fragrant. Add the swiss chard leaves and saute till the leaves wilt. Add the garbanzo beans, tomato sauce, and water. Stir well.
3. Cook on medium heat, uncovered, for approx. 30 minutes. Stir occassionally. Cook until there is just a bit of juice left at the bottom of the pan.
4. Serve hot or warm. I like to drizzle some olive oil on top just before serving. Garnish with marcona almonds for a nice crunch.