Monday, January 6, 2014

Braised Chard & Chickpeas: A New Year Begins

I know I am not alone when I say that 2013 was a difficult and painful year.  From cracking two ribs, the seemingly relentless natural disasters that devastated the Philippines, a breakup that shattered my heart, to the passing of three family members, among them my 105-year old grandmother who raised me - no, 2013 was not an easy year.  But even having said all that, 2013 was not a bad year.  For amidst such overwhelming darkness, therein lies the greatest opportunity to discover the Light, and the strength, that is within.

And that is exactly what I found.

All of these things could have derailed me.  Forced me to retreat from the pursuit of my dreams, build barricades around my heart and mind, and press repeat on the familiar mantra of my past, "Why me?"  But they didn't.  Instead, I found an even deeper motivation to push on, to dream even bigger, to love with even less restraint. and to celebrate every day, every interaction, and every breath as the gifts that they are.  Though I resisted at first, I finally surrendered to the path in front of me, and all the challenges that would push me far beyond my comfort zone, but allow me to grow stronger and wiser in the process.  And now I understand what it is that I truly want for my life.

Where healing is needed, that is where I want to be.  
Where love is needed, that is where I want to be.  
Where strength is needed, that is where I want to be.

For so long, I told myself that those three things were lacking in my life.  I needed them to fill the void that I could neither name nor explain.  But in the last 7 years, it has finally become clear to me that I actually have them in abundance.  More than I could ever need, and more than enough to share.

And in that revelation comes the inspiration for this dish.  They say it is lucky to begin the calendar new year with greens and beans, symbols of prosperity and abundance for the year ahead.  And while collards and black eye peas are the usual suspects, it can be any green or bean, like, say, red chard and chickpeas, for example.  On a New Year's Day a couple years back, I had a good friend prepare red chard, explaining that the red color would promote strength, vitality, and a passionate spirit.  And for me, the roundness of the chickpea imparts the idea of coming full circle and finding solid ground to see the "big picture."  

So in honor of the lessons learned from 2013, I present this recipe - simple, yes, but rich in both flavor and significance.

Braised Red Chard & Chickpeas with Pumpkin Seeds
Gluten-Free & Vegan

Active Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: none
Cooking Time:  10-15 minutes

about 4 c red chard, sliced

2 c onion, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds
1 c cooked chickpeas
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 tablespoons oil, to sauté
2 tablespoons water, to braise

salt & pepper, to taste
fresh lemon juice, to garnish

What you'll need:  large frying pan or wok with lid, cooking tongs

1.  After washing chard, take full leaves, roll or fold in half lengthwise, and slice into ribbons.  Chop stalks and set aside as well.  I used a medium sized bunch to obtain 4 cups, but depending on season, this will vary.
2.  In frying pan or wok, heat oil over medium heat.  Add cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom and fry gently for about 30 seconds.
3.  Add onion and sweat until translucent - about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger and sauté for another minute.
4.  Add pumpkin seeds and chopped chard stalk and sauté for a minute and then add chickpeas and cook for another minute.  You will notice all the ingredients, especially the onion, taking on the pink color of the chard.
5.  Add chard on top of ingredients, add water, and then cover for about 3 minutes.  The steam will gently cook the greens.
6.  Uncover, give it a good toss, and then season to taste. 
7. Garnish with a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice before serving.  You can pair it with quinoa, spaghetti squash (as in the photos), whipped parsnips, or simply on its own.

A large chiffonnade of the chard. Doesn't that just roll off the tongue?

Building flavors, colors, and textures.

So happy together.

Though it is already nearly a week after New Year's Day, it's never too late, in my opinion, to eat beans and greens.  They symbolism, their taste, and their nutrition are not only there just one day of the year.    And after all, isn't every day a new beginning?  Seize the moment, smile, and find your bliss.  

And once you do, share it fearlessly.


Thank you so much for visiting The Canary Files. I hope you have enjoyed what you have read and seen. Your feedback is valuable to me and I read and reply to every single comment. So sincere thanks in advance for sharing not only your thoughts, but your time as well.

All the Best,

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