Thursday, May 15, 2008

Veggie Might: Lentil, Spinach, and Bulgur Stew That Wasn’t

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

The weather in New York has been erratic lately: warm, cold, sunny, rainy. In other words, spring. But, Dinah, the chill in the air this weekend had me craving something warm and comforting. Plus, my allergies have been kicking my Mary Astor; so Monday night, I relied on an old stand by.

During my six-month stint as a vegan in 2000, I bought two cookbooks: Conveniently Vegan by Debra Wasserman (which I’ve since released into the Book Mooch universe) and 150 Vegan Favorites by Jay Solomon. The former is great for people who eat a lot of packaged food and have no time to cook. If you like recipes with instructions that include opening cans or plastic pouches, it’s just the book for you. It was for me then, but not now.

The latter is a treasured favorite, and it has the wrinkled, food-stained pages to prove it. It’s filled with grain- and veggie-based one-pot wonders (thanks Oprah’s chef dude for the great term) in combinations I would have never dreamed of, but am thrilled someone did. When I want to impress meat-eaters with something fabulously vegan, I reach for Solomon first.

On my way home from work, I stopped by the smaller, slightly more pricey organic food shop on 9th Ave. with a recipe in mind. The bigger, cheaper, better-stocked store on 8th Ave. was out of my way, and so, so tired was I. If I was riding my bike...did I mention the rain? Waaaah! I knew what I needed. Or so I thought.

I grabbed a bag of lentils—I wanted bulk, but they were out—and a half a pound of barley. They were out of spinach too, so I had another stop to make. Plus I needed a Vidalia. One rule of being ½ Southern: if a recipe calls for onions, err on the side of Vidalia.

Home with my supplies I threw everything together mostly as follows.

It wasn’t until I was eating that I realized my mistake. Bulgur! The recipe calls for bulgur not barley! No wonder it looked weird. I even made a mental note as I was cooking to get the “coarse” barley next time. Maybe next time I should read the bin.

Well, either way, it was delicious, warm, and satisfying. I imagine any grain would work in this recipe, though I did miss the nuttiness of the bulgur. Served with a whole grain bread to soak up the pot liquor, it’s the perfect meal to console you while watching your baseball team get clobbered. Waaah!

Lentil, Spinach, and Bulgur Stew
Yields about six 1-cup servings
Adapted from 150 Vegan Favorites by Jay Solomon (1998).

1 cup green lentils, rinsed
4 ½ cup water
½ coarse bulgur
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, slivered

(The original recipe calls for ½ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, and 2 cups of spinach. More spinach is always better! - Leigh)

1) Stir lentils and water together in a medium saucepan. "Simmer over medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally." Add bulgur, salt, and pepper. Stir. Cook until lentils are tender, around 15 or 20 minutes. (Add hot water if necessary.) Add spinach. Stir and cover, Kill the heat, remove from burner, and set aside for about 10 minutes.

2) In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion. Cook until a little browned, between 7 and 9 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onions to stew. Stir.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
198.5 calories, 3g fat, $0.72 per serving

4 cups fresh chopped spinach: 28 calories, .5g fat, $0.75
1 medium Vidalia onion: 91 calories, .5g fat, $1.59
½ cup barley: 352 calories, 1g fat, $0.55
1 cup organic green lentils: 600 calories, 4g fat, $1.30
1 tbsp safflower oil, 120 calories, 14g fat, $0.08
1 tsp salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1 tsp coarse grind black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
TOTALS: 1191 calories, 20g fat, $4.31
PER SERVING: 198.5 calories, 3 g fat, $0.72 per serving

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Jaime said...

Dude, where are you getting such cheap spinach?

(And where on 8th Ave are you talking? There's a health food store around 54th that's very overpriced, except for the great bulk bins.)

Daniel Koontz said...

I worship Jay Solomon. We've been exploiting his Vegetarian Soup Cuisine book for more than a decade for easy-to-make, highly scalable meals.

I also LOVE the fact that almost all of Solomon's recipes are preposterously inexpensive. An entire pot of soup with all sorts of healthy ingredients for under $5.00? Yep.

Jay Solomon is The Man.

Casual Kitchen

Leigh said...

Hey Jaime,
I find Westerly on 54th & 8th very economical for what they carry. Compared to Whole Foods (if you don't count their store brand) and the conventional chains in the area, which are outrageously priced. I do find their produce to be out of my range, and I usually go elsewhere for that.

Do you know about Stiles? There are two in HK - 52nd btw 8th & 9th and 9th and 41st - cheap produce, though you need to use it fast.

I got the spinach for the recipe at the Amish Market for $1.49/bunch and used half. Their produce is surprisingly affordable most of the time.

Daniel, I'm so glad Jay Solomon has acolytes, as he deserves. Thanks for the soup book recommendation.