Whenever I tell acquaintances that I'm a vegetarian (it's easier to use that label than launch into the ethics of my eating habits), they seem concerned that I'm missing out. Turkey at Thanksgiving, hot dogs at a baseball game, steak to celebrate a special occasion--meat is a huge part of American food culture. People tend to see a vegetarian diet as one of deprivation, with a long list of delicious foods you can't eat. However, over the past few years I've acquired a taste for all kinds of ingredients that I never would have discovered if I had kept relying on boneless skinless chicken breasts. Portabello mushroom burgers taste far better to me than hamburgers ever did and tofu can shine in more than just stir-frys.
But hands down, my favorite "vegetarian" ingredient is chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). Besides being a cheap and delicious protein source, they are also incredibly versatile. I have a fabulously simple recipe for hummus, during the summer I saute them with olive oil and zucchini, and in the winter I cook them with oregano and serve them on top of couscous pilaf. They also make a wonderful base for curry.
The following recipe is adapted from a Real Simple recipe of the same name by Dawn Perry. In the original version, 2 tablespoons of curry powder are added to the onions, garlic, and ginger and cooked for a minute. I have a weird sensitivity to curry powder, and so I sprinkle on a bit as a garnish instead of cooking it into the dish. However, I'm sure the flavor would be better if the curry powder was incorporated during the cooking process.
Update 1/8/2016: I've discovered my sensitivity to curry powder is caused by fenugreek, a spice included in most (but not all) commercially produced curry powders. I now make this recipe with 1 tablespoon of fenugreek-free curry powder and have updated the recipe accordingly.
For the curry:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 10 ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
- 2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the sauce:
- 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 6 to 7 ounce container plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- naan or pita bread
Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and ginger and cook until onions are softened and garlic is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add spinach, chickpeas, water, curry powder, salt, and pepper to saucepan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the water has boiled off, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the cucumber, yogurt, and pepper in a small bowl.
Top the chickpea mixture with yogurt sauce and serve with naan or pita bread.