Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006 the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.
Nobody likes vegetarians. It’s not fair, because most vegetarians are cool. They are just regular folks who have chosen for their own reasons not to eat meat. They don’t bother anyone (including pigs). They keep their heads down and survive, in some cases quite well, on vegetables alone. It’s commendable for all sorts of reasons. Still, no one likes them.
It’s all the fault of the extremists: those loudmouthed, judgmental fundamentalists at the fringes who spout the food world’s version of fearmongering and hate. They are vegetarianism’s Tea Party, dragging the rest of the ethos into an embarrassing limelight. And they seem to be everywhere. (Read: comments on this and just about every other food-related site.)
This is something the rest of us can change, but we have to be smart about it. Instead of shouting to the world how awesome we think we are, let’s roll up our sleeves and just make really awesome food—food that happens to be vegetarian. Let’s make it so delicious that the mouths we feed will come back for seconds and ask us for the recipe. Let’s give them the recipe and not even mention that there’s no meat involved. It’s not the point. The point is that we make totally awesome food.
This is a stew that I feed to my family and friends now that the weather begs for comfort food. I have made it countless times and fed it to dozens of people. It is made complex from warm spices and hearty from fleshy vegetables. It is balanced by acidic tomatoes and subtly sweet dates. Everyone asks for the recipe. No one notices that there’s no meat. It’s just really good food that happens to be vegetarian.
Moroccan-Style Winter Vegetable Stew
1 pound dried chickpeas
3 large leeks, white and pale green parts only
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cinnamon sticks
5 bay leaves
1 large butternut squash, cut into large chunks
6 carrots, cut into chunks
8 pitted dates, chopped
3 cups water
1 quart canned tomatoes
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
Place the chickpeas in a bowl and cover by 3 inches of water. Let the chickpeas soak overnight, then drain.
Cut the leeks in half crosswise, then rinse under cold water to remove any dirt. Cut the leeks into ½-inch pieces.
Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat until hot, then stir in the leeks, garlic, onion, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in the coriander, cumin, smoked paprika, turmeric, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the squash, carrots, dates, water, and tomatoes and bring to a boil, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Stir in the chickpeas and simmer the stew, covered, until the vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Season the stew to taste with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.