I am not the kind of person who likes to put labels on things, because doing so often makes me feel restricted. Tell me something is gluten-free, and I immediately assume I am missing out on a better version made with gluten. Call it vegetarian, and I will convince myself that whatever it is would have been better with sausage in it.
I know it is semantics, but for me it is easier to avoid the perceived restrictiveness of diets by just cooking and eating what my mind wants and body craves, free of labels.
Generally, the two are in alignment: After a night of too much wine, my mind wants pizza, and my body most definitely agrees. After yoga, my brain is thinking a salad is a pretty good idea, and my stomach is, too. Where things get tricky is when my mind wants something comforting, nourishing, warm and satisfying. But my body, screaming for a green vegetable, simply cannot abide another chicken potpie or personal pan of lasagna.
Do a cleanse? Eat vegan? Neither would suit my profession or lifestyle (or, frankly, my personality). But a hearty, creamy, heavily spiced stew that just happens to be free of meat or dairy, and full of protein and leafy greens? Sign me up.
In this stew, chickpeas are crisped in a not-insignificant amount of olive oil with loads of fresh ginger and turmeric, then simmered in a bath of coconut milk (full-fat, please) until they are falling apart to the point of creaminess. Next, add as many dark, leafy greens as you can fit in the pot, cooking just long enough to get them bright and tender. If you are feeling especially indulgent, a dollop of tangy yogurt and a tangle of fresh herbs are excellent additions.
This magical stew manages to pull double duty as something I want to curl up next to and something that feels like a bit of a cleanse. (I said “a bit.”) But I would never label this a vegetarian stew, lest we omnivores feel as if we are missing out on something. Just know that it is (and if you omit the optional yogurt, vegan, too) and that, I promise, we are not.
SPICED CHICKPEA STEW WITH COCONUT AND TUMERIC
By Alison Roman
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric, plus more for serving
- 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving
- 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 (15-ounce) cans coconut milk
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, kale or collard greens, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup mint leaves, for serving
- Yogurt, for serving (optional)
Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and ginger. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and starts to brown a little around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add turmeric, red-pepper flakes and chickpeas; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, so chickpeas sizzle and fry a bit in spices and oil, until they start to break down and get a little brown and crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove about a cup of chickpeas for garnish.
Add coconut milk and stock to remaining chickpeas in pot, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any bits stuck on the bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until stew thickens and flavors come together, 30 to 35 minutes. (Taste a chickpea or two, not just the liquid.)
Stir in greens; cook until they wilt and soften, 3 to 7 minutes. Season again with salt and pepper.
Divide among bowls and top with mint, reserved chickpeas, a sprinkle of red-pepper flakes and a good drizzle of olive oil. Serve alongside yogurt; dust yogurt with turmeric if you like. Serves 4 to 6.
Nutritional information unavailable.