Thursday, December 19, 2013

Almost Month-Long Hiatus Breaking Dinner: Brussels Sprouts - Lentil - Leek Stew, White Basmati Rice with Spinach (No Added Fat)

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to enjoy Thanksgiving this year, though I organize the country's largest vegetarian Thanksgiving (we had over 600 people on Thanksgiving Day and almost 200 at a pre-Thanksgiving feast!). I have a condition where I periodically pass a kidney stone - thankfully, most of the time it's not very painful. I seem to have started passing a stone the day before Thanksgiving, which kept me with very little appetite and a lot of fatigue. I ended up at my doctor's, urgent care, and spent a night in an Emergency Department. Ever since I became vegan more than 10 years ago, I very rarely get sick, but the stone episode must have weakened me, as I moved seamlessly into a bad flu.

My wife has been cooking very simple meals; all I've been eating is a lot of watermelon and small servings of white rice with spices, maybe some Indian kichedi (turmeric and rice), or white pasta with a little bit of sauce.  I've lost about 8-9 pounds but started feeling better 2 or 3 days ago; finally, today my appetite is starting to come back, too, and I've not been averse to being around food. Surprisingly, the idea of raw foods has been unpalatable, and only today is that starting to change.

Anyway, I was so excited to return to cooking today! I used white rice and just a little bit of raw food (broccoli). Here is what I did.

  • A pound (about 4 dozen) Brussels sprouts (less if they are large); trim the stem ends off then hand remove the loose outer layer or two of leaves, and cut into halves
  • Two medium carrots, cut into thin slices (bit less than 1/4"); for the top third or so, I also cut the carrot in half
  • Medium leek. Leeks by nature tend to be quite dirty with dirt easily getting lodged in between the leaves, so it's critical to clean them well. Here is what I do. I cut off the roots and, at the other end, any browned or hardened leaf ends. I wash then cut the leek in half the long-way, and rinse again. Then I cut the leek into discs (actually half discs since the leek has been cut) about 3/8" thick and put the half discs into a bowl which I can then rinse thoroughly. I like the flavor of leeks but if the idea of cleaning a leek is a little daunting, then a small or medium onion cut into 1/4" cubes can be substituted.
  • 2/3 cup French lentils and 2 1/2 times as much water (so about 1 2/3 cup)
  • (Optional) Vegan bouillon cube
  • 6 ounce tomato paste (I would have preferred to use stewed tomatoes, but didn't have any)
  • Pinch of salt
  • (Optional) 4T Broccoli stalk cut into fine cubes less than 1/4"
  • 1/8t thyme and 1/8t oregano (both dried; use 3 to 4 times as much if fresh)


  1. In a medium stainless steel pan (I use titanium-stainless steel pans from Saladmaster, which I love), I added the carrot and Brussels sprouts. I don't usually cook with oil so preheating isn't necessary. I then turned the pan on medium and stirred the vegetables for about 2-3 minutes until the carrot started giving out a nice fragrance.
  2. I then added the leek and cooked another 5m or so till the leek, as well as other vegetables, were softened a bit.
  3. I then added the French lentils and water. Normally, French lentils are cooked in a 1:3 ratio with water or broth for about 30-45m. I wanted to also use stewed tomatoes, but didn't have any. If I did, I would have ideally put in twice as much water and the same amount of tomato as the lentils. Instead, I used tomato paste which, of course, isn't liquidy.
  4. I also added the bouillon cube and salt (I use Rapunzel brand salt-free cubes). I don't use much salt in my cooking, but often when I cook with tomato, I like to use some salt to temper the tomato. Also, my Dad, who normally lives with my brother in California, is visiting for about a month, and enjoys salt.
  5. I happened to be serving broccoli on the side so, instead of composting the stalks, added them as well for a bit more flavor to the main course.
  6. I let the mixture come to a near boil then reduced the heat a little and covered, letting it simmer for about 30m
  7. I turned the heat off, added the herbs, stirred, and covered again, letting it sit for 5m more, then served
I also made a white Basmati rice. I normally use brown rice (much more nutritive and tasty), but want to stick with white rice for a bit since I haven't been feeling well. I use a ratio of 1 1/2 or 2 parts water plus a bouillon cube to one part of rice. I used 2/3 or 3/4 cup of rice and also threw in a dash of salt and a dozen baby spinach leaves.


My Dad, wife, and even my daughter all enjoyed everything! The main course was very good, but I would make it with less tomato next time. The stewed tomatoes would have been a tastier choice than the paste. I don't add hot pepper nowadays because of our preschooler, but 1/2 t or so (to taste) of a hot chili powder would go well. A little bit of nutritional yeast could also be added.

My appetite still isn't fully back. I ate a small serving - there was plenty left to send some for my daughter's lunch and also pack some for her two teachers to try tomorrow. I hope that they'll like the dishes!

Ideas for the future

I would enjoy making this again with stewed tomatoes. Some fingerling potatoes, cut in half and sauteed with the other vegetables, would make for a nice dish. It's been a long time since I've made risotto, and I'll bet I could make a risotto with Brussels sprouts and leek. I wonder what risotto would be like with lentils mixed in. I should more commonly cook with broccoli stalk; it adds just a little flavor and is better to use than compost so we get the nutrients.


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