My mother recently adopted a plant-based diet. After watching Forks Over Knives, she determinedly declared, “I have to drastically alter my eating habits.” For the past three months, she’s cooked exclusively vegan meals for herself and my father. She pours almond milk on her morning granola with relish. She extols the virtues of kale. She prepares only whole grains. She’s replaced the sugar in my father’s coffee with stevia. Most astoundingly of all, she ardently insists upon the sheer ease she found her dietary transition to entail. And I quote: “I just don’t understand why everyone doesn’t eat like this. It’s simple, cheap, and delicious, and I feel better than I ever have before.” She’s fifty-seven years old.
My father has followed suit. Though his innate southern-boy mentality still conditions him to savor the battered and fried leg of a chicken, his diet consists solely of plants while eating at home. During my recent visit to my parents’ apartment in New York City for the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival, he brought up, completely independent of my prompting, the ridiculousness of drinking another species’ milk and the fact that most adults suffer from lactose intolerance. He now consciously avoids dairy, attesting to experiencing severe stomachaches whenever he accidentally consumes it. He constantly raves about the impressively gourmet vegan meals my family has enjoyed together at both of the Candle Cafes, Hangawi, Caravan of Dreams, and Blossom. And I quote: “I never expected to like vegan food as much as I do. I can’t believe how tasty and filling it is!” He recently asked me to compare the caloric and nutritional value of a serving of tempeh to an equal portion of brisket, declaring, “I’ll take the tempeh” upon hearing the results.
For the past two-and-a-half years of leading a vegan lifestyle, I wholeheartedly doubted that my parents’ eating habits would ever converge on a similar path. Clearly, old habits can die hard. And thank goodness they can, for I now feel exceedingly more confident than I did when they consumed toxic animal foods and sugars about enjoying many happy, healthy years with my parents. I thank them, their bodies thank them, and, most importantly, the animals thank them.
The recipe featured today stems from the culinary genius of my mother, who has not only converted her usual gastronomic repertoire to function as completely plant-based, but has also expanded it to include staple vegan innovations such as nut-based cheesy sprinkles for pasta dishes, cashew creams, and crunchy roasted chickpeas. This recipe incorporates a smoky version of the latter creation with nutrient-rich, gluten-free grains as well as quick-sauteed brassicas. This Monday, I debuted the dish for my beloved fellow Ferry Haus members and received rave reviews for its hearty, satisfying nature. Thanks, Mom.
Smoky-Sweet Roasted Chickpeas with Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts—Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat
Ingredients for the chickpeas:
1 cup dried chickpeas, or 2 15-oz cans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted or olive oil
1 tbsp liquid smoke
1 tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar
2 tsp smoked paprika
Ingredients for the pilaf:
1/2 cup uncooked amaranth
1/2 cup uncooked millet
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
1 tbsp liquid smoke
1 tsp smoked paprika
Ingredients for the broccoli-brussels saute:
2 tbsp coconut or olive oil
2 medium heads of broccoli, broken into small florets and stems chopped
1/2 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded
2 tbsp tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
For the chickpeas:
If using dried chickpeas, place the chickpeas in a bowl, cover with water, and let soak overnight. In the morning, drain the chickpeas, place them in a slow-cooker, cover with more water, and cook on high for 2-4 hours until tender. Alternatively, place the chickpeas along with enough water to cover in a large pot, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 90 minutes to 2 hours. In either case, keep an eye on your chickpeas as they cook, skimming off any foam that collects on the top of the water. When tender, drain the chickpeas.
If using canned chickpeas, skip all of the aforementioned nonsense and proceed to the following directions!
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Place the cooked chickpeas in a large bowl and toss to coat with the oil, liquid smoke, syrup or nectar, and paprika. Spread the chickpeas in a single layer on two baking sheets, place in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once at the halfway mark. Remove the chickpeas when golden brown and crunchy.
For the pilaf:
In a medium saucepan, combine the amaranth, millet, broth or water, liquid smoke, and paprika. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 25-35 minutes until the grains have absorbed the water. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
For the saute:
In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the broccoli and brussels sprouts and saute for 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender and slightly charred. Add the tamari or liquid aminos and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat.
To serve, combine the sauteed broccoli and sprouts with the roasted chickpeas and serve over the pilaf. Devour with enthusiastic vigor. My mother recommends topping the dish with toasted walnuts.
Meal Checklist: Protein—chickpeas. Whole Grain—amaranth, millet. Vegetable—broccoli, brussels sprouts. Leafy Green—broccoli, brussels sprouts.
All photo credit goes to fellow Fairy Abby Nathanson.
Until next time, Ali.