I am namby-pamby about being vegetarian. For a decision-action person, this is a hard. And puzzling, since I am crazy about vegetables and tofu, and usually vegetarian meals taste better to me. I think also that vegetarianism is a wiser, more sustainable choice.
So why can’t I finally step over the meatless divide? Should I blame it on my English meat-and-potatoes husband? Rebellion against (other people’s) food rules? A simple love of fish?
I might point one finger at the bean. For all my love of every other kind of vegetarian protein, I have not loved beans. An Indian dal Dal makhani or dal tarka over rice is wonderful. Lentils, fixed many ways and curried – delicious. And I will cook up a pot of chickpeas for a delicious homemade hummus.
Any other bean has been a reluctant addition – black beans into chili, white beans into minestrone. A dish of only beans? An unlikely choice for me. I thought beans were boring. Plus, they were, well, plain and brown.
Since I care about variety and protein, the Bean was a vegetarian issue.
This week I had a breakthrough. I met the Scarlet Runner and made it in a ribolita. Starting out on my morning dog walk, I thought I smelled steak – it was the beans that had been slow cooking overnight. I had been intrigued by its aesthetics, but a beautiful dark mottled skin with real taste? I couldn’t believe this was a bean!
Then I tried black kabuli chickpeas that I had bought for the fun of it during an online lentil spree. I was surprised – a chickpeas with real flavor and not mealy. After a gorgeous and tasty salad with carrot disks and dried plums, (www.101cookbooks.com, but I substituted black kabuli for regular chickpeas), I was hooked.
Now I am waiting for my new order of beans with amazing names, like Goat’s eye and Yellow Indian Woman and Good Mother Stallard. I was intrigued first by their beauty, like beautiful rocks. But now I am anticipating taste.
Today, armed with mask and gloves against the fumes of searing chiles, I gave my new batch of Scarlet Runners a royal treatment – a red mole. Are Beans in Red Mole an improvement over chicken (not my favorite anyway) or salmon? I have to say they held up to the test. Delicious!