Curried Swiss Chard and Lentil Stew

The Graf brothers all loved nature, the outdoors, and animals.  My father would watch shows about the animal kingdom and would tell us stories of the pets he owned growing up in Warka, Poland.  A porcupine, really?  He was already well into his seventies when he suddenly decided to stop eating chicken and beef, purely for ethical reasons.  With longing and affection, my father would talk about the orchard and vegetable garden behind his mother’s home.  At the farmer’s market he would choose his fruits and vegetables with such care and tenderness, rotating each apple or pear to make sure it was blemish free, fresh, firm, and fragrant with ripeness, intent on selecting the best he could find.

The brothers were all avid gardeners, and I was fairly certain that their green thumbs were not passed down to my city hands.  I love the idea of gardening, to be able to go into your backyard and plan your meal based on what’s ready to be picked.  After a long hiatus, I was determined to try my hand at vegetable gardening once again and so I ruthlessly pulled out a whole bed of roses.  It took months to prepare the soil and put in the first raised bed.  During a trip back East my cousin Janine laid out the plans for my garden and I use it as my roadmap.  Not only does it guide me but it provides me with inspiration,  knowing that another branch of the Graf family are successful gardeners.  My first planting included broccoli which was a complete failure, basil which was immediately consumed by insects and several plants of red leaf lettuce which grew well, but became limp immediately after being harvested, not a desirable texture for a fresh salad.  I thought I would try kale and swiss chard and finally I was able to experience the sense of pride that comes with success.  There is more chard and kale in my garden than I know what to do with.

My father would probably chuckle at my meager garden but despite its small size, the pleasure that I derive from it is immeasurable.  My father and I never gardened together, I was too young and independent to listen to his advice when he offered it, but now each time I am in the garden I think of Harry, Charlie and Jack, and the legacy they left behind.

 

 


This dish is a vegetarian stew but so hearty that you really don’t miss the meat. Serve with rice or whole wheat pasta.

Curried Swiss Chard and Lentil Stew (adapted from a recipe from Bon Appetit)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 tsp curry powder
1 /2 tsp chili powder
42 oz. pareve chicken stock or vegetable broth
1 large bunch Swiss chard, stems thinly sliced and leaves coarsely chopped (about 12 cups)
1 pound brown lentils, rinsed well
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
2 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp cumin.

Saute onion in olive oil till golden.  Add spices and sauté for several minutes, till fragrant.  Add broth and bring to a boil, then put in lentils and garbanzo beans.  Lower heat to a simmer, add salt and chard, and cover.  Cook till lentils are tender but still whole.  About 20 minutes.  Serves 6

Enjoy,

Irene

Vegetable Tagine

Not in my wildest imagination did I ever think I would fall in love with Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Feeling somewhat disloyal to my Bronx roots I tried to hold back, and although it wasn’t love at first sight, there is something special going on in the “other B Borough.”  The combination of old buildings and store fronts, converted into cozy bakeries and restaurants, run and patronized by hipsters (no idea what they stand for but they do have a certain look) all converge to create a sum that is better than the parts.  Brooklynites eat local and are proud of it.  Everywhere you look, there are food products that are baked, cultured, grown and created in Brooklyn and the labels clearly state that.

We started the morning with coffee and a buttery, raspberry pistachio muffin at Bakeri, a small bakery that has paid as much attention to the decor as it has to the baked goods.  You feel as if  you have been transported to another time and place, with a staff of young women looking freshly scrubbed and who enthusiastically describe every baked good in their display case.  Off to the side one employee is kneading bread dough on a large wooden board, old style, not one piece of marble in sight.   The next day we stopped at the small local farmers market.  There was an interesting combination of older immigrants (this used to be a Polish neighborhood)  and young New Yorkers, all coming out despite the cold weather to buy milk, cheese, eggs and poultry from New York State farms.  My daughter informed me that you had to ” know” that the dairy stand sold eggs, there was no sign indicating it.

The next day we had brunch at Diner, an old dining car that has not been renovated, but has been lovingly allowed to remain in its  glorious original state.

Here is what we ate.

Lemon poppy-seed scone to start.

Market salad of mustard greens, black olives, cranberry beans, croutons, creamy garlic dressing w/shaved parmesan.

Country breakfast: two scrambled eggs, biscuit w/ honey butter and grilled escarole and dandelion greens.

Omelette w/ kale and ricotta pesto and served w/ potatoes.

We forced ourselves to stop there but it wasn’t easy.

Of course, no weekend in New York would be complete without pizza so that same night we ordered in from Best Pizza. Even 40 minutes after it came out of the oven, the crust charred and crisp, the pizza thin, and the garlic knots chewy on the outside and tender on the inside.

So the next time you take a trip to NYC, do something different and take a trip to Brooklyn.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the transformation. From garden to table, this generation of “foodies” have put their stamp on fresh ingredients lovingly offered up to those who are lucky enough to visit.

After having numerous vegetable dishes in New York, I was inspired to try this Vegetable Tagine.

Vegetable Tagine

1 large brown onion, diced

3 Tbs olive oil

2 small fingerling potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks

3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks

3 oz. dried cherries

1 can garbanzo beans

2 Tbs pomegranate molasses

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup water

Saute onion in olive oil till golden.  Add both sweet and white potatoes, stir and allow to cook for several more minutes.  Add drained garbanzo beans, and dried cherries to pot. Mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add water and pomegranate molasses and stir. Gently pour into Tagine and add one cinnamon stick.  Cover and place in 275 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours.

Enjoy,

Irene