Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Satisfying Sleek

With most blog posts, you will see the lead photo of the finished dish in all its glory. Well, whoever gave this recipe the name "Satisfying Sleek" was probably talking about how you feel after eating it, rather than the svelte appearance of the dish itself. This is a delicious meal, it's good for you and it's easy. It is not, however, gorgeous. Not like Rainbow Swiss Chard, anyway. Chard should get more airtime than it does; it's nutritious and simple to cook. Just chop and wilt. The flavor has a mineral sort of earthiness and is perfect in this mixture of spices, beans and grains.

You'll have to read to the end to see the finished product and take my word for it: you'll be wanting this filling, slightly exotic, yet effortless plate of goodness and you won't be able to stop thinking about it until it's yours. I'm only speaking from personal experience here.

Let's start with the bulgur. It's not an attractive name, I know. But this grain is delicious and works in hot dishes like this one and also in salads. ( I made one recently with roasted red peppers and green olives with a cumin vinaigrette. Yum. ) The flavor is nutty, but still mild enough to mix well with other ingredients. It's the texture that I adore, though. Especially in this meal, these chewy grains are the backbone that support the silkiness of the wilted chard and the creaminess of the black-eyed peas. It's all about contrast.

Here we have the Baharat spice blend. The largest portion of the blend is black pepper, and actually, baharat, in Arabic, translates to pepper. The heat sneaks up on you, but blended with the rest of the spices and the lemon juice added at the end, the overall effect is more warming, and comforting, and perfect for a chilly spring like the one we're having. There are all kinds of variations of Baharat, probably one for every Middle Eastern family, which is typical of regional cooking in any country. I love the idea of honing a particular mixture of spices to make a blend that is my very own. You could use all pre-ground spices, if needed, but I highly recommend buying a coffee-grinder and dedicating it to spice grinding. It will change your world, I promise. I firmly believe that there is nothing more intoxicating than the smell of freshly ground cumin. We're all about the simple pleasures here.

I used canned black-eyed peas for this recipe, which is what it calls for, but I really want to make this again with dried beans. I've been on a bean kick recently and I'm considering using some birthday money to order beans from Rancho Gordo. Is that an odd thing to splurge on? They have cream-of-the-crop beans, I understand. I would love to take my meatless meals up a notch or two with great quality dried beans that I soaked and cooked myself.

There you have it: Satisfying Sleek. It's a meal you will feel good about making and eating. The squeeze of lemon at the end is essential. All these earthy flavors and spices need some acidity to brighten everything up. I sprinkled a tiny bit of the spice blend over everything to bring some of the fresh quality of the spices to the finished product. I hope this looks as good to you as it does to me. This is food that loves you back.

Satisfying Sleek
adapted from VegNews magazine

serves 2

1/2 c. medium-grind bulgur
1 1/4 c. vegetable broth
1 T. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, minced
2 c. chopped Swiss chard
3 scallions, chopped
2 t. Baharat spice blend
15 oz. can black-eyed peas, rinsed
2 T. lemon juice

In medium bowl, combine bulgur and broth. Soak 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, saute onion in oil. Cook until soft and golden. Stir in chard, scallions, spice blend, black-eyed peas and reserved bulgur mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender, 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt.

Spice Blend
1 T. ground black pepper
2 t. ground coriander
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground fenugreek
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cardamom

In small bowl, combine all spices and mix until blended. Store in air-tight container.


  1. I like how you describe how you feel after you make and eat this dish. I'm intrigued! Plus, the photo of the Baharat spice blend is amazing.

  2. Based on the name alone I want to give this recipe a try! Great photos! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Thank ladies! I hope you like it! Hopefully I'll figure out how to make a printable recipe page soon; this is still new to me!