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Stirring the Pot: A Carnivore’s Conundrum

A dinner party with new friends. Five vegetarians. Three vegans. What to do? What to do? So much for the tried-and-true tender brisket or roasted chicken as the center of the meal. Indeed, does there even have to be a center? I am moving out of my comfort zone and into uncharted territory. And I realize I have a choice: dread or delight.

I choose delight.

When she graduated from Indiana University in 2004, my daughter Arianna, who always chooses delight over dread, randomly decided that she was moving to Washington, D.C. She had nowhere to live and no job awaiting her. But, with graduation gift money in her pocket and with the spirit of the adventurer that she is (along with a soupçon of the naiveté of youth), she set her course. She found the apartment, got the job, went to graduate school, got another job, then on to a new city, new job, husband, baby. She created her own life map.

I’d always wanted to be like Arianna when I grew up, so some years later, I too rerouted myself. I made a concerted effort to change my default from dread to delight. And here I am in Bloomington, still sometimes amazed that I took that first step and landed on both feet!

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But back to the culinary adventure. I may be a newcomer, but I’m not a stranger. I just need to reorient myself. A meal without meat can be hearty. Pea soup it is! Once I have a starting point, everything else on this culinary journey just seems to fall into place. A fluffy mound of quinoa surrounded by all manner of vegetables, easy homemade hummus, frittata for the dairy lovers. And for dessert, a make-your-own sundae with vegan ice cream, a variety of berries, granola, and vanilla-scented freshly whipped cream (again, for the dairy lovers).

I’m starting to rethink this whole meat thing … a new road beckons.

Hearty Pea Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 pound dried split peas
2 quarts vegetable broth (or water)

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onions and sauté until softened. Add garlic and sauté for a minute, softening but not browning it. Add carrots. Sauté for two minutes. Add split peas and broth (or water). Stir to blend and bring to a boil. Lower heat, partially cover the pot (to allow for steam to escape) and simmer for one hour. Remove lid and stir. Continue to cook, uncovered, until soup thickens and peas disintegrate into a glorious green puree, about ten minutes. Should you like an even creamier consistency, insert an immersion blender and puree.  If you use water instead of vegetable broth, you’ll need to generously salt the soup and add freshly ground pepper.

Homemade Hummus

3 cloves garlic
2 15-ounce cans drained garbanzo beans, reserve the liquid
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, optional

Garnish:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sprinkle of fresh, chopped parsley

Mince the garlic in a blender or food processor. Add beans with 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid, tahini, and lemon. Blend until creamy, adding more liquid until you achieve the desired consistency. Add salt and cumin. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Spread hummus in a large plate or shallow bowl and top with garnish.

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Frittata

Greens filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups greens (kale, mustard, turnip, or a combination)
1 teaspoon amino acid (or soy sauce)

Ruthie Cohen's vegetarian frittata. | Photo by Ruthie Cohen

Ruthie Cohen’s vegetarian frittata. | Photo by Ruthie Cohen

Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add garlic and sauté until garlic softens but doesn’t brown. Add greens. Cover pan and cook greens on a medium heat until they reduce. Add amino acid (or soy sauce). Cook uncovered until moisture evaporates. Set aside.

Mushroom filling:
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
8 ounces portobello mushrooms, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a large pan. Add olive oil and mushrooms. Sauté until mushrooms yield their liquid and begin to brown. Continue to cook until most of the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Frittata:
2 tablespoons butter
7 eggs, divided
1 cup ricotta (or cottage) cheese
2 cups Parmesan, asiago, cheddar cheese, or a combination

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in a large oven-proof pan (cast-iron or paella pans work well). Beat three eggs and pour them in the pan, evenly coating the entire bottom. Cook on the stove on low heat until the eggs just set, about three minutes. This will be the frittata “crust.” Remove from burner.

Beat the remaining 4 eggs. Add greens, mushrooms, and ricotta (or cottage) cheese to the beaten eggs. Stir in 1 cup of Parmesan. Pour egg mixture on top of set eggs. Sprinkle the top with remaining Parmesan.

Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes until the cheese is melted, the sides are golden, and the frittata is puffy.

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Ruthie Cohen
Ruthie Cohen moved from New Jersey to Bloomington in November 2011. Every day she marvels at her good fortune to be living in this gem of a town. When she isn’t concocting recipes in her kitchen, you can find her teaching and practicing at Ekah Yoga and VibeYoga and Pilates studios; wielding a hammer or a paintbrush with the mid-week crew folks at Habitat for Humanity; or hanging out with future chess masters at the Crestmont Boys and Girls Club.
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