I have been reading a great book recently that I found in the school library's adult non-fiction section while I was helping do inventory last week. The title caught my attention straight away - "Eating Animals." I assumed it would be a book about vegetarianism but right as I began the book, the author, Jonathan Safran Foer, explained that although that's what many people might think, it's really more about his education and knowledge about the culture of eating animals. I wanted to write down so many interesting facts from the book and was reading quotes out loud to Tomislav. The book is an absolute must read to meat eaters and vegetarians alike as it gives you an inside (and sometimes very graphic) look at the world of how animals come to the table. At times, it's sad, but all the time it's terribly fascinating and I couldn't stop reading it.
So the book got me reflecting a lot about my own ideas of food and where animals and plants come from or the idealized version that I've had in my head for a while. Growing up, my Grandma and Grandpa were farmers (and they still live on that farm in Poland) and that gave me a different vision of animals, allowing me to see what farms are really like and how happily all of the animals live on their farm. Since my grandparents are older now, they don't have many animals anymore but they still have their chickens running around. One of my favorite jobs was and still is gathering the eggs from the chickens. I love walking around the yard where they run around and play while I feed them with my Grandpa, calling them "cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep!" So I would love to think that that is how animals are treated on farms and so-called factory 'farms' in the States. Unfortunately, that is so far from the truth. The truth is horrifying - read the book.
My Dziadek and I, the chickens, and our very beloved farm dog Kubus
The book is changing my way of thinking a lot and it's making me make a lot more vegetarian dishes (once again!). And I finally understand now why an old friend I met in Egypt who is an American, explained to me that she was vegetarian for 'political reasons.' I could go on and on about this but I just HAVE to share this amazing veg dish that I recently made.
Couscous-Stuffed Peppers with Basil Sauce (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)
Here's what you need:
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 2 tsp ground cumin/turmeric/curry powder
- 3/4 cup couscous
- 1 cup canned garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- salt and ground pepper
- 4 red, orange, or yellow peppers
- hot water as needed
- 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) sour cream
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra, as needed
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra, as needed
Preheat your oven to 400 F (about 200 C)
For the filling, in a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and spice mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the couscous. Cover the pan until the couscous has absorbed all the stock, about 5 to 6 minutes. Put the couscous in a large bowl and add the beans, diced red pepper, and 1/4 cup olive oil. At this point, you can add some dried fruits, spinach, and/or goat cheese or parmesan cheese as you prefer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir until all the ingredients are combined.
Slice the tops off the peppers and remove all the ribs and seeds. If necessary, cut a very thin slice from the base to help the peppers stand up. (I used the extra top and bottom to dice up and put inside the couscous mixture.) Stuff the peppers with the filling and drizzle the tops with olive oil. Put the peppers in an 8 by 8-inch square baking dish. Fill the baking dish with 3/4-inch hot water and bake until the filling is golden and the peppers are cooked through, about 60 minutes.
For the Sauce: In a blender, combine the basil, creme fraiche (or sour cream), olive oil, water, garlic, lemon (or lime, like I used), juice, sugar, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.
Remove the peppers from the oven and arrange on serving plates. Spoon the sauce around the peppers and serve.
This was so delicious and filling, Tomislav and I both loved it and again, didn't miss the meat at all! As for that sauce - oh man, I love putting my basil plant to good use and that sauce you can literally drizzle on anything and it would taste amazing! Next time, I'll make extra sauce!