You might think, judging by my last two posts, that I have been chowing down on nothing but sweets. Not so – not lately, anyway. Truth be told, I made both of those desserts – the Nanaimo bars and the banana pudding – weeks ago. (Besides, the Daring Bakers challenge made me do it!) Lately, I have been working on healthier, cleaner eating – for a variety of reasons. First, to see if I can alleviate some lingering symptoms that I’d hoped would disappear after going gluten-free, but haven’t. Secondly, to restore balance. As I become more in tune with my body, I realize that those sugary treats, while delicious, can be the death of me sometimes. At night, they call me from the kitchen, begging me to indulge in their sweet delights. So if/when I fall into their trap, I have to take a bit of time to step back and show the sugar who’s boss. For the past week, I’ve been following a clean detox diet. No, not starving myself with only lemon water to sustain me. (Don’t worry, Mom!) Just eating very simply and lightly, incorporating a lot of raw produce (hello, green smoothies!), and removing a lot of potential “trigger” foods from my diet temporarily to observe how my body reacts. So far, so good. The hardest part was cutting out the caffeine, honestly. I don’t drink a great deal, but boy, those 2 cups of coffee in the morning were badly missed for the first few days!
Anyway, this dish is likely the most complex recipe I’ve made in the past week, just because of the myriad of spices, but don’t let that deter you. Once you throw everything together to simmer, it’s a pretty simple dish. (After all, beans and rice is just about as humble as it gets.) You could use a variety of beans for this recipe (although you might have to alter soaking and cooking times), but I like adzuki beans because they cook up relatively quickly and are very easy to digest. They’re slightly sweet, (and so are often used in sweet treats in Asian cuisine) which pairs well with the garam masala and cayenne. And of course, this dish packs a good amount of fiber and protein. It just also happens to be vegan and gluten, dairy, and corn-free. Most of all, for a chilly, dreary winter day, this is a comforting dish that won’t weigh you down.
A quick word about kombu. Kombu is a variety of dried seaweed often used to make dashi, and can be found in the Asian section of groceries or at a specialty store, or online. What I love about kombu is that when simmered with beans, it improves their digestibility and lessens the (ahem) side effects. It also works as a flavor enhancer, adding a bit of umami to the dish. If you haven’t had the chance to cook with it, give it a try. Same with this twist on the good ‘ol standby – beans and rice. You might be pleasantly surprised on how delicious healthy can taste!
Masala-Spiced Adzuki Beans and Brown Rice
1 t garam masala
1 t cumin seeds
1/8 t cayenne
2 T olive oil
½ medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ t fresh turmeric, minced (can substitute dried)
2 c butternut squash, cubed
1 c adzuki beans, soaked for 2 hours, drained and rinsed
1 piece kombu
3 c water
Salt to taste
¼ c cilantro, chopped
1 c brown rice, rinsed and steamed
Place garam masala, cumin seeds, and cayenne in dry skillet and toast over medium heat until fragrant. (Be careful not to burn!) Remove and crush/grind with a mortar and pestle.
Add olive oil to a large saucepan or dutch oven and bring to medium heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add toasted spices, ginger and garlic and sauté for another minute. Add squash, beans, kombu, and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, and cook for 1 hour or until beans are tender. Season with salt generously to taste. Serve with brown rice and garnished with cilantro.