Tonight I made my first original recipe (well, aside from when I saute vegetables and throw a sauce on it) and I was very pleased with how it turned out! Spicey, slightly creamy with a little bit of tang from feta and a little sweet from the potatoes. So here it goes: my feta and sweet potato stew:
1 large or two medium sweet potato, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 can chickpeas
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 stalks of celery
1/4 of a bulb of fennel
1/4 teaspoon cayanne pepper
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 t paprika
1 t dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock
100g feta cheese, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for roasting
Heat the oven to 350F. Coat the sweet potato with olive oil and toss with salt. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Meanwhile roughly chop the carrot, celery and fennel and put into a food processor until it’s finely minced.
Heat the olive oil in a pot, add the onion and cook until just gone soft. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Add the carrot, celery and fennel mix and cook for five minutes. Then stir in the tomato paste and spices and cook for two minutes before adding the chickpeas, thyme and stock
Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the sweet potato and feta, simmer for five minutes more. Taste to adjust seasoning. The stew should be quite thick but you can thin it out with more water/stock if you prefer something closer to soup. ENJOY!
In general I’m very happy with my decision to become a vegetarian. The anniversary of the day I quit meat is next month, sometime in early September after reading this article written by Mark Bittman (author of my favorite vegetarian cookbook). Initially I thought I would just see how long I could go without eating meat. I didn’t tell anyone my plans for fear I would fall down a slippery slope of bacon grease back into a carnivorous diet. It was about a month after my experiment that after only relapsing once (italian wedding soup was the culprit) that I decided to make it public and declare myself a lover of vegetables.
The first person I decided to tell was my mother. She was a test for the reactions to come, as I wasn’t sure how much grilling to expect with this lifestyle change. I casually dropped into conversation, “and I’ve decided that I’m going to be a vegetarian from now on.” Her response, “But, can’t you just wait until AFTER Thanksgiving?” I explained to her it didn’t quite work that way. She sounded confused but didn’t ask many questions. I figured she assumed it would be a short-lived fad. When I spoke to my Dad later, he had clearly spoken to my Mom and all he had to say was, “well as long as you’re not one of those weird vegans. That sounds like some kind of intergalactic cult.” So all in all, it was no big deal.
And really for the most part, it’s not. There are some pockets of the earth that don’t seem to understand the concept, but most restaurants accommodate (though sadly a lot divert to mushrooms, of which I’ve voiced my distaste here) and generally no one cares. I do get asked ‘why?’ a lot at dinner parties, but I figure it’s mostly because they’re curious and not because they want to get into some Peta-hating fulled debate. Plus my answer is always: “Well I didn’t eat that much meat before, and then I did some research into the meat industry and all of the hormones and vaccines that they give animals, and it really put me off.” There’s not much controversy in that.
But despite all of that, I do miss certain meat-y things as a vegetarian. They’re probably not what most people expect: I never had a taste for bacon, I didn’t love steak and I never ever liked seafood. But if you put any of the following in front of me, I will feel a little tinge of jealousy for those who can eat it:
Gravy. Onion gravy is just NOT the same as gravy made from pan drippings. I miss drowning my mashed potatoes in it.
Crab cakes. I know I said I never liked seafood, but crab cakes made with so much buttery herby breadcrumbs that you can barely taste the crab, to me, are delicious.
Duck-fat french fries. I’ve only had these once, but once was enough to leave a lasting impression.
Beef-broth based French Onion soup. It just doesn’t taste the same with vegetable broth and sadly most places don’t make the vegetarian version, so I rarely get the chance to eat this divine soup.
Baseball park hot dogs. The only real meat I ever crave and it’s not really meat, so I’m not about to break my record for something as lowly as a hot dog. But I’ll shamefully admit, it is tempting.
Everything else though, I really could honestly care less. After three years of it, I think I’ve lost all taste for meat. Who knows though - ten years down the line you might find me chowing down on a turkey burger.
Just because I’m a vegetarian does not mean I by default like mushrooms. I find not only the taste but the smell and texture to be loathsome. A few days ago Phil & I went to a lovely little village pub, hidden amongst thatched roofed homes. It was friendly and cozy, just how you want a pub to be. BUT, when I opened the menu, I discovered to my horror that EVERY SINGLE VEGETARIAN ITEM HAD MUSHROOMS. Stuffed mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup, mushroom lasagne, mushroom spaghetti, vegetable bake WITH MUSHROOMS. For the love of Christ! The story ends with me going home hungry. I hate mushrooms.