For Lent, aromatic basmati rice and chick peas

In his blog, Catholic Candor, colleague Scott Alessi – photo and online editor at The Monitor – keeps everyone posted on how the latest trends relate to our lives as Catholics.

His keen eye for news spotted a move toward “Meatless Mondays” which just happens to co-incide with Lent but isn’t, as he put it, about “doing an act of penance.”

 This movement is looking to start a national trend of skipping meat at the beginning of the work week  not for religious reasons, but for the sake of the environment and personal health. You can check out The Monitor’s Catholic Candor blog for the full story.

We’d both like to know what your take is on the subject. Have you or would you add meatless days to your weekly routine? Would it be for religious reasons or would health and concern for the environment be more likely factors?  

 Almost everyone I know has cut back on meat year-round but for health reasons. Personally, I’ve never looked at meatless meals as any kind of deprivation and even without planning, seem to come up meatless for dinners or lunch several times a week outside Lent.

That may be because my memory bank is full of fond memories of the meatless Fridays that punctuated my youth. 

We were lucky enough to have parents who were phenomenal  cooks and masters of meatlessness. That translated to Lent without a sense of any kind of food-related sacrifice.

Hopefully, the  Lenten recipes created this season for Keeping the Feast reflect their inspirational ability to turn seafood, cheese, pasta, rice, noodles and vegetables in all their incarnations into enjoyable meals.

Basmati rice with chickpeas and sliced, toasted almonds, definitely falls into the category of an enjoyable main course for a Lenten lunch or a side for a fish dinner.

When I adapted it from the U.C. Berkeley Wellness site, the ingredients seemed so bland that I was tempted to spice it up. That was a temptation well resisted.

Aromatic basmati Rice, chickpeas & almonds

Ingredients: 2 teaspoons olive oil; 1 large sweet onion, finely chopped; 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped; 1 large bell pepper cut into 1/2 inch pieces; 1 cup basmati rice; 2 cups water; 1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1 (19 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and dsrained; 1/3 curley Italian parsley; 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted.

Directions: In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the oinion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent. Add the bell pepper and rice, stirring to coat. Stir in the water, lemon zest and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender – about 15 minutes. Stir in the chick peas and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and toasted almonds at serving time.

Note: in composing this fragrant and tasty dish, the hardest task was toasting the almonds. It took several tries to get it right because they burn quickly. Patience helps. Spread the sliced almonds in a small, non-stick frying pan if you have one or a regular pan if you don’t. Heat them over medium heat until the start to brown and then whip them right off the stove. If you don’t succeed, try (try) again.


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