Comfort means different things to different people. A warm hug, a friendly email, a cheery phone call.. or wallowing with an ice cream sundae and warm apple pie. I try not to do the emotional eating thing but sometimes a big salad just won’t cut it. But can chocolate really overcome the worst blues? No.
I know some of you think I am nuts… some holier-than-thou soul who can shun the desserts and treats. Well, let me assure you that I am not immune. Trust me, there are enough vegan desserts that can keep me entertained and gluttonous. But sometimes, you just need something more.
A great way not to get suckered into buying treats is not to shop at standard grocers. This also means it can be more difficult for me to indulge if I want.
After writing the first part of my exam, I planned to do grocery shopping. It all made sense: I had neglected all foodly things earlier that week and it was time to restock. My exam also happened to be close to my favourite ethnic grocer. Score! I had no list, no recipes, no agenda – time was spent on studying pathology, not recipes. However, after that exam, all I wanted was comfort. I wanted to wallow in some chocolate.
My favourite grocer is filled with all sorts of fun, cheap produce: grapefruits, many different kinds of mangoes, baby bok choy, Asian mushrooms, cheap fresh herbs. I wanted to splurge. I wanted something decadent. Chocolate, anything remotely vegan and dessert-like. Um, yeah, no. Nothing here at all. The nuts didn’t appeal to me… and my splurge? Two pounds of baby arugula for $4. Two pounds doesn’t seem like a lot but it was two big clamshells worth of arugula. Was it a splurge? Yes, because I did not think I could eat that much arugula and I thought to myself: I should not be buying this. But it was no decadent splurge.
So, on my way home, I stopped by my favourite resto in Toronto, Belmonte Raw. In spite of improving their hours, because they are on the other side of town, I have not been in a long time. So this was my treat. I had no appetite, but I was salivating just wondering what their specials would be for the day. I needed some comfort. I ended up ordering a comforting smoothie and a raw burrito. I have raved about their raw burrito before, but this one left me flat. This version was only half of a burrito with a side salad. The smoothie was also lacklustre. I wanted more!! I decided that my taste buds could not be comforted at this point. They were beyond repair. My appetite could not be perked up and trying her sinful chocolate thimbles would likely not help the cause.
So I moseyed home. With my 2 pounds of arugula. But no interest in cooking or eating (let alone photographing and blogging). A good night’s sleep and an empty fridge partially motivated me to try something more than oatmeal in the following days. Cooking, instead of studying, seemed like a better idea to me, too. Dal bhat or creamy broccoli dal would have been a delicious comfort meal but now I had that arugula to eat.
I quickly realized that if I wanted to eat through the arugula, it would have to be cooked. Thus lemony arugula nests were born. This actually turned out much better than I anticipated. Considering nothing seemed to taste good to me, and I really liked this, that says a lot! It was also fun because it was a very simple recipe.
I used JL’s recipe as a guide. She simmered Italian-spiced tomatoes with olives and beans. I simmered tomatoes and white beans and added in a bunch of herbs that seemed Italian: marjoram, fennel seed and lemon pepper. It worked! The tomatoes were light and fresh with flavour, and I only simmered it for 10 minutes as I tended to the arugula. For the arugula, I misread the directions and lightly steamed it with some broth and garlic, and then doused it in lemon juice. Contrasting the two components was good. Lots of greens. Lots of beans. And I really don’t think the photos do it justice because I think it was even prettier in person… and surprisingly enough, leftovers were good, too.
What is your comfort food? Surprised mine includes beans? Shocked chocolate couldn’t suffice? I think having a delicious bowl of good food definitely helps…
Mediterranean Beans atop Lemony Arugula
Adapted from JL Goes Vegan
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1.5 cups cooked white beans, rinsed and drained (I used Yellow Eye Beans)
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/4 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
herbamere, or salt, to taste
1/4 cup bean broth/vegetable broth (may be omitted if you add lemon juice)
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
8 cups arugula, loosely packed (5 ounces)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (juice from 1 lemon)
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, place tomatoes (with juices), beans, marjoram, lemon pepper and fennels seeds. Cover and bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until your arugula is ready. Season to taste.
2. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick wok over medium-high heat, heat 1-2 tbsp of broth. Add garlic and saute until brown. Add arugula, along with remainder of the broth. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 3-5 minutes until the arugula has wilted and is a brilliant green. Stir in the lemon juice.
3. Plate arugula on each plate and top with beans.