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Cooking for a group of people on restricted diets:
Legumes cooked with fresh greens are a traditional favorite that has versions in every culture. Commonly referred to as “beans and greens,” it is a nutritional powerhouse high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids. When combined with onions, herbs and spices as in the recipe below, this combination has everything you need to sustain a healthy diet.
Sometimes, people are confused by the difference between the terms “legume” and “pulse.” Legume refers to plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod. Legumes represent a vast family including more than 600 genera and more than 13,000 species. As they grow, legumes fix nitrogen into the soil, thereby reducing the need for chemical fertilizers, so they are essential for organic farming which uses them as part of the crop rotation cycle. Well-known legumes include alfalfa, clover, lupins, mesquite, soy and peanuts.
The term pulse refers only to the edible dried seed of certain legumes. Dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas are among the most common varieties. Dark-colored pulses, such as black beans, red beans, and green lentils (also called “French” lentils) are especially high in nutrition.
If you have to cook for a large group of people with varied dietary restrictions, here’s an easy and delicious meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and low-fat recipe. If you are in a hurry, you can substitute three cans of organic lentils for the dried ones. This shortcut slices preparation time in half without losing any nutrition or flavor.
Preparation time: 90 minutes. Serves 8-10.
2 ½ cups French/green lentils, soaked overnight
2 ½ quarts vegetable stock (or water)
1 cup diced white onion
1 cup diced fennel
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
10 cloves minced garlic
3 Tbsp fresh chopped thyme
3 Tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
3 Tbsp ground turmeric
3 cups kale, sliced thin
1 ½ cups swiss chard, sliced thin
1 ½ cups dandelion greens, sliced thin (optional)
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
Sea salt and fresh black pepper
In a 2-gallon pot over medium-high heat add lentils, stock, onions, carrots, celery, fennel and garlic and begin to simmer for 35-40 minutes until lentils are tender. Add more liquid if needed to finish cooking lentils.
Remove half of the soup and blend until smooth. Pour the puree back into the soup and turn heat to low.
Fold in remaining ingredients except for the greens.
Remove from heat. Add greens and allow them to wilt into the soup.
Season with salt and pepper.
Garnish with chopped greens.
Copyright 2016 Michael Simms