Hearty, Healthy Comfort Food

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During the short days and cold nights of winter, many of us crave comfort foods. Unfortunately, the rich dishes we usually think of tend to be low in nutrition and packed with fat and calories. Well, take heart. It’s possible to enjoy satisfying dishes that are tasty, hearty and nutritious.

Dry peas, lentils and chickpeas (garbanzo beans), all part of the legume family, are one way to make comfort foods more healthful. These ingredients pack a nutritional punch while adding flavor to recipes: just one cup of dry peas, lentils or chickpeas gives you more than half the recommended daily dosage of fiber and up to 18 grams of protein. They also contain little to no fat, making them a healthy meat alternative.

Chef Tracy O’Grady, from Willow Restaurant in Arlington, Va., knows how to make the most of these versatile ingredients.

“You may already love lentil soup,” she says. “But lentils have a wide range of uses, and are a great addition to hearty fare like enchiladas, veggie burgers - even chocolate cake.”

And while chickpeas are best known as the key ingredient in hummus, they also appear in rich-tasting foods like Willow’s Chickpea Fries (see O’Grady’s recipe).

For more recipes and information from the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, visit www.pea-lentil.com.

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Willow’s Chickpea Fries with Orange Preserved Lemon Dipping Sauce.

Willow’s Chickpea Fries

Makes 8 servings, with 6 fries per person

2-1/2 cups water

1 garlic clove, minced fine

2 cups whole milk

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

3 cups chickpea flour; reserve 1 cup for dusting

1 cup cooked chickpeas, roughly chopped

2 cups Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 gallon canola oil

Place water, garlic, milk, salt, cayenne and paprika in a non-reactive saucepot and heat until it boils.

Lower heat to gentle simmer and whisk in chickpea flour. Whisk just until smooth and then use a high heat spatula to finish the process. Cook mixture for about 5 minutes, constantly stirring to make sure there is no scorching.

Once flour is nearly cooked, fold in chopped chickpeas, Parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil. Stir until well incorporated and hot. This should take about 3 additional minutes.

Place in a plastic wrap lined 10-inch-by-12-inch tray. Cover with plastic wrap and push down so it is even. Chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator or until completely chilled.

After well chilled, turn the chickpea mold onto a cutting board. Cut fries 12 times in 1-inch pieces and then cut each strip into 4 pieces, forming 48 pieces.

Heat canola oil in a large stainless steel fry pot to 350 degrees. Dust fries with remaining chickpea flour and fry in 4 batches until hot and golden brown.

Drain in paper towels to remove excess oil. Serve immediately with Orange Preserved Lemon Dipping Sauce.

Orange Preserved Lemon Dipping Sauce

Makes about 1 cup

2 oranges, juiced and zested with a microplane zester

2 preserved lemons juiced, the peel minced fine*

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt to taste

*If preserved lemons are unavailable, substitute with 2 fresh lemons, juiced and zested.

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Savory Chickpea Pancakes with Chickpea, Shrimp and Caper Ragu.

Savory Chickpea Pancakes

Makes 36, 2-1/2-inch pancakes

8 ounces chickpea flour (about 2 cups)

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1-3/4 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 egg yolks, beaten

3 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks

Zest of one lemon; use a microplane zester

Additional butter to cook the pancakes

Mix all dry ingredients together in one bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, melted butter, olive oil and egg yolks.

In third bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form.

Fold dry ingredients into buttermilk mixture gently (do not over mix or pancakes will be tough).

Let batter stand for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, gently fold half of the egg whites into batter, and then fold remaining egg whites in.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat until moderately hot. Add in a pinch of butter and spoon a heaping tablespoon batter into pan. Cook each pancake until golden brown; flip; cook for another minute or two and keep warm.

To serve, place two chickpea pancakes on individual plates and spoon ragu (recipe follows) on top.

Chickpea, Shrimp and Caper Ragu

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves fresh garlic, finely sliced

1 cup cooked chickpeas

2 tablespoons capers

Peel of half a preserved lemon

1 teaspoon espelette or smoked paprika

1/2 cup water, plus more if needed

18 peeled and deveined shrimp

Kosher salt, to taste

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Heat large stainless steel pan until moderately hot. Add olive oil and sliced garlic. Once garlic starts to soften and just brown, add chickpeas and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add capers, lemon peel, espelette/smoked paprika and water. Bring to a boil, and then add butter.

Reduce heat and add shrimp; stew gently until just cooked, about 4 minutes. If water evaporates too quickly, add a little more. Season with salt to taste.

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Red Lentil Crusted Goat Cheese with Three Lentil Salad and Ruby Red Grapefruit Vinaigrette.

Red Lentil Crusted Goat Cheese with Three Lentil Salad and Ruby Red Grapefruit Vinaigrette

Makes 6 servings

1 cup cooked red lentils, al dente

1 cup brown lentils, cooked

1 cup green lentils, cooked

5 spears broccolini, cooked and roughly chopped

1 head endive, sliced

1/8 cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Kosher salt, to taste

Cracked black pepper, to taste

9 ounces goat cheese, sliced into 6, 2-inch slices

half a ruby red grapefruit, peeled and seeded and remaining juice squeezed into a bowl

1 lime, juiced

Combine the three varieties of lentils in a glass or Pyrex bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of red lentils to crust the goat cheese. Add broccolini, endive, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside for 30 minutes to an hour to allow flavors to meld.

Place remaining red lentils on a shallow tray and roll goat cheese slices in lentils until coated. Place lentil slices into a baking pan.

For vinaigrette, combine, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Add grapefruit segments; season with salt to taste.

Just before serving, heat goat cheese slices for 3 to 5 minutes in a 350-degree oven until warm, but not melting apart. Distribute lentils onto six plates, place goat cheese slices on lentils and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Tips for cooking dry peas, lentils and chickpeas

• Dry peas and lentils don’t require soaking. Soak dried chickpeas in cold water for 12 hours before cooking (or you can buy pre-cooked, canned chickpeas).

• Spread dry peas and lentils in a single layer on a baking sheet. Check for and discard any debris. Rinse under cold water.

• To cook lentils, use 1-1/2 (half) cups of water to 1 cup of lentils. Bring water to boil and add lentils. Boil for 2 or 3 minutes and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until tender. Green or brown lentils take approximately 30 minutes and red lentils about 8 to 10 minutes.

Source: USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council

Comments

don evans 2 years, 10 months ago

Gee, maybe you should apply to become a government school lunch inspector so as to teach kids not to trust their parents packing their school sack lunch.

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