This past week was the Jewish holiday of Purim, which leads most people to dream about all the tasty fillings they can create for their hamantaschen and then devour as many as they possibly can in the days leading up to the celebration. While I am one of those hamantaschen-lovers, this year, I spent a little more time making some dishes that consisted of other relevant ingredients to Purim. It turns out that my Syncopated style of cooking is very similar to how Queen Esther had to eat during her time hiding her Jewish identity from King Achashverosh, so I was eager to further emphasize the value of vegetables and produce for Jewish culture!
While married to King Achashverosh in Persia, Jews were not well-received - a plot was enacted by Haman to destroy them all. Since Esther's Jewishness was not known at the time, in order to save herself and her community, she needed to be very mindful of her actions. With that came an immense focus on her diet, and in order to uphold Kosher laws, the easiest option was for Queen Esther to avoid meat entirely. Therefore, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and grains made up all of her meals until she was able to reveal who she truly was, and because of her cleverness, she could survive to get in front of Haman and prevent him from following through with his plan.
While hamantaschen are delicious, they help us to remember the evil person in the Purim story; I feel that we should really be honoring the incredible triumph of the heroine, whose actions should be remembered and replicated more than those of the bad guy. Thus, I have created two fantastic, legume-based dishes that you can actually enjoy as your whole lunch or dinner - with so many ingredients and nutrients in each one, they are substantial enough to serve as a complete and very satiating meal.
The first one is a Tomato and Red Kidney Bean Stew. I made it to be accompanied by some Muhammara-filled hamantaschen, but since this post is all about Queen Esther, we will save that recipe for another time. This stew is served warm, is tangy and earthy, and it is rich with acidity, providing a scrumptious, rich zing with every bite. And even though this recipe includes red kidney beans, you can switch them out for black beans or chickpeas - cannellini beans do not hold their shape as well when cooked, and you definitely want the creamy but sturdy texture of the legume to hold up so that you are not just eating a yummy bowl of mush. Enjoy this stew by itself or on top of some toasted bread or crackers for an added crunch!
The second dish is a Garbanzo Bean and Poppy Seed Salad, and it is even simpler than the one above as there is no cooking involved, only a bit of quick chopping and stirring. This salad is bright, fresh, citrusy, herbaceous, and quite spicy, even though there is no chili included. There are also numerous textures included, ranging from smooth and tender from the chickpeas to crisp from the bell pepper, crunchy from the poppy seeds, and melt-in-your-mouth creaminess from the avocado and kiwi. Even though both salads incorporate Dijon and paprika, they have very different end results thanks to the varying combinations of the other ingredients. In the previous dish, the deepness of these flavors comes through more because of the stewing process and the umami-packed tomatoes that are so crucial for its savory goodness; in this version, their delicate vibrancy is more prominent thanks to the support of the lime, making this super refreshing and a great way to wake up your palate and your mind!
If I had to choose a favorite out of these two, I don't think I could! They are both so layered and dynamic, offering a more than satisfying culinary experience, even though everything is included in one bowl. Legumes are powerful, filling, comforting, and inspiring. As long as you stand up for and give them the love and respect they deserve, putting them at the forefront and decking them out in the best way you know how, you can end up with a dish that rivals, if not overtakes, your previous top choice for the most interesting you have ever had. I know that is the case for me, and I will without a doubt be making both the stew and salad again before I even realize it is happening - they are just that difficult to resist!
Tomato and Red Kidney Bean Stew
Yield: 4 servings
3 cloves Garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Roma Tomatoes
½ cup White Wine
10 Kalamata Olives in Liquid
1 Lemon, juiced and zested
1 T Dijon Mustard
½ tsp Paprika
½ tsp Coriander
½ tsp Cinnamon
1 cup Red Kidney Beans
3 sprigs Basil
¼ bunch Cilantro
¼ bunch Parsley
¼ cup Feta
Thinly slice the shallots and garlic. In a medium-sized pot or pan with a little bit of oil over medium heat, sauté them until they are lightly browned.
Small dice the tomatoes, then add them to the shallots and garlic. Cook until soft.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine and let it reduce slightly. Finely chop the olives and add them in with their juice, the lemon juice and zest, the Dijon, paprika, coriander, and cinnamon. Stir to combine and create a thick sauce.
Drain and rinse the red kidney beans and add them into the sauce, mixing to fully coat every one.
Add in all but 2 tablespoons of the feta (save for garnish).
Rough chop the basil, cilantro, and parsley, combine them together, and toss in all but 2 tablespoons (save for garnish) into the stew.
Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Garnish with the remaining feta and herbs.
Garbanzo Bean and Poppy Seed Salad
Yield: 4 servings
1 can Garbanzo Beans
1 large or 2 small Shallots
1 Bell Pepper, any color
1⁄4 bunch Parsley
1 T Dijon Mustard
1 T Poppy Seeds
2 tsp Paprika
1 T Red Wine Vinegar
1 Lime, juiced and zested
Salt, to taste
Combine the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl as you prepare them.
Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans (save the aquafaba for a meringue or other use - it is a great replacement for egg whites).
Thinly slice the shallots.
Cut the avocado into small cubes.
Small dice the bell pepper.
Small dice the kiwi.
Finely chop the parsley.
In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon, poppy seeds, paprika, red wine vinegar, and lime juice and zest. Pour over the salad.
Mix to distribute all ingredients and the dressing evenly.
Season with salt.