Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sunday Dinner: Empty Nester Stew

Julia Spencer-Fleming: You know I am the queen of cheap and easy Sunday meals, and today's is no exception. The big difference is, tonight, I dine alone! Yes, the Smithie is staying with her boyfriend for the weekend, and Youngest is in our nation's capitol all this week, one of the 104 participants of the 2018 United States Senate Youth Program. It's difficult, not having to be on call as a chauffeur for the next seven days, and of course the house seems so empty without the Snithie sitting in the living room streaming Brooklyn Nine Nine and rap videos at top volume.

I'm trying to salve my loneliness by enjoying a few glasses of wine while streaming what I want to watch. I'm also cooking a dish I've been hankering for - Cauliflower and Chickpea stew. I love both those ingredients, but I'd have better luck getting a grass-clippings-and-pebbles dish past my girls. 

Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew

1 cauliflower head, cut into florets (Maybe you can use the bagged stuff? I haven't tried it.)

1 pound carrots, quartered and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 large onion, diced 

6 diced garlic cloves, or 2 T of pre-chopped garlic. (I like the latter. SUCH a time-saver.)

2 regular sized cans of chickpeas, or 1 bag dried. I use dried, and I never remember to soak them overnight, so I put them in a pan with lots of water and let them boil for an hour. When I've got the woodstove going, I don't even need to use the stove top.

2 regular sized cans of diced or stewed tomatoes with juice

Spice mix: 1 1/2 t each turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon. 1 t each sweet paprika and coriander. You can add a little red pepper if you want some heat, and if you don't have the turmeric, I suggest curry powder as a substitution. 

Oil for sauteing

Stir fry the cauliflower and carrots with half the spice mix on high, until they begin to soften. Add onions, then garlic, then the chickpeas, tomatoes and the rest of the spice mix. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Let it simmer until everything is fork-tender. If the tomatoes didn't have enough liquid in them, or if you want to stretch the servings a bit, you can add water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth. If you use one of the first two, this is a vegan dish!

Serve with a nice glass of wine and the next episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.


  1. Yum! This sounds so delicious; thanks for the recipe.

  2. That sounds great! Am copying out. Enjoy your week of solitude.

  3. Just printed this out for making next week after Julie gets back from Las Vegas, business trip, yeah, right.

    We like stuff like this a lot although I'm not a huge fan of chick peas. But there is enough other stuff in there to make up for it.

    We do observe meatless on Friday's during Lent, not a big sacrifice as we have either fish or chicken most nights anyway. Our friends, Tim and Victor, have a great online recipe collection, and the Orecchiette with Fennel and Tuna has become a mainstay in our kitchen. I was dubious about the combination of ingredients, but trust me, I'm a nurse. This stuff is manna and you could most likely get it past your children, Julia.

    Have a look, and then have another as you wander thru the recipes. I also recommend Tim's Boeuf Bourguignon Simplified. He took Julia Child's recipe and turned it into a one pot meal instead of one that required at least two kitchen's worth of pots, pans and oddments.

    Bon appetit

    1. Ann, I bet this would be good if you substituted the chickpeas for a grain that holds up against boiling - barley or quinoa or couscous. Actually, that big pearl couscous sounds fabulous.

  4. Yum! I always thought I didn't like cauliflower but it turn out I love it! I've been slicing it thin, brushing with oil, and roasting in a hot oven. Fantastic. This sounds tasty and healthy as we've also cut way back on meat.

  5. The boys have suggested we do a regular 'meatless Monday' and work our way up to more days from there. So, this sounds like a great Monday idea! And, I'm finding that an hour or two of solitude these days is also wonderfully nourishing....enjoy your week!

  6. Love cooking for myself. My husband is currently eating Nutrisystem meals (!) so I rarely cook meat for myself. This sounds delicious!

  7. Oh, Julia, enjoy the silence. A week is just long enough: you get to indulge your need for privacy and quiet, but are happy to see the youngsters when they return.

    I have Cauliflower Steak Picatta recipe that is so delicious we always end up eating the entire recipe the first night, instead of having it over the two intended meals. Hard to imagine that cauliflower can be so tasty. Recipe below.

    The bags are okay; I think they're meant for those who want to make fake mashed potatoes from them. The processing robs some of the nutrients, in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

    Picatta-Style Cauliflower Steaks
    1 head cauliflower, cored
    Olive oil, for cooking
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    2 shallots, finely minced
    1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
    1/3 cup dry white wine
    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1 to 2 tablespoons capers
    4 paper-thin slices lemon
    1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
    2 teaspoons chilled vegan butter, optional
    1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the cauliflower on a cutting board, cored side down and cut it into 1/2-inch slices, as if you were cutting a loaf of bread.
    2. Arrange the cauliflower slices on a lightly oiled baking pan (you may need more than one) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with a little olive oil and roast until tender and nicely browned, about 30 minutes, turning once with a large metal spatula about halfway through. While the cauliflower is roasting, make the sauce.
    3. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 3 minutes, then stir in the mushrooms, if using, and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the wine, lemon juice, and capers and cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces slightly. Just before serving, add the parsley and lemon slices, then stir in the vegan butter, if using, stirring to melt it into the sauce.
    4. To serve, arrange the cauliflower on plates and spoon the hot sauce on top. Serve hot.
    Serves 4 (Ha!)

    1. Karen, I would love this. But, sigh, spouse doesn't like mushrooms or capers. Arrghhh. So frustrating cooking for a picky eater!

    2. This looks delicious, Karen! Thanks for the suggestion!

    3. You're welcome!

      Debs, you can make it without the mushrooms, and can substitute some other salty thing for the capers. The salty taste is the key, and the umame of the mushroom, as well. I've made it without both, since we have picky eaters in our family, too, and it's still good. You can also make it without the sauce for him, and have yours the more delicious way. Maybe he'll change his mind when you swoon over it!

  8. So reading the initial post and the responses so far convinces me I won't be getting invited to anyone's house for dinner.

    I'm a dead animal and a potato kind of guy for my meals. I don't do vegetarian/vegan/or any other whackadoodle restrictive kind of diet.

    But I do know about the notion of cooking for one. I used to cook for me and my mom but when she passed it was just me. So I really don't cook that much anymore. I make mac and cheese or goulash on the Sundays I feel like working up the ambition to cook but that's about it. And because I still make it for 2, I get about four meals out of the goulash.

    Usually I'll be fine with soup and a sandwich or ordering a sub. Oh, and picking up some chicken from the grocery store deli.

    Of course, thanks to the power outage of 33 1/2 hours, I had to throw out a bunch of food in my fridge so now I have to go rebuy the staples ARGHHH!

    This was not the way I intended to spend my birthday. But at least I'm going to go out and have lunch before coming home to who knows what for dinner.

    1. Happy birthday, Jay. I hope your day gets better from now!

    2. Happy Birthday, Jay! Hope you enjoy your lunch out.

    3. Happy birthday, Jay! I hope the year ahead is full of great books and published reviews!

    4. Happy birthday! Your year will improve.

    5. Happy birthday, Jay! I know your frustration about losing staples. We lost power for several days after a windstorm this fall, and I had to chuck just about everything except the ketchup and the capers. It feels like tossing $$$ into the trash bag.

    6. Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes.

      Ingrid, I had one new review in the new issue of Mystery Scene. It was for Dennis Palumbo's Head Wounds.

      Julia, yes throwing money away and worse, then having to spend money to replace them.

  9. Thanks, Julia. This sounds delish and I'm going to try it--but probably for my lunches as spouse doesn't like chickpeas. I mean, really, what is wrong with these people? Half the world runs on chickpeas. (Although would you believe that neither of the grocery stores I go to regularly has dried chick peas??? I'll try this with canned.)

    And I have an idea on what you can do with your fabulous, quiet, non-chauffeuring house this week--write!!!

    1. Just taking a break from writing to pop in here!

  10. Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that needs a little help from its friends in the dish, doesn't it! That spice combination sounds delish, Julia -- a little bit like the Indian dish Alu Gobi, I think? Anyway, I'll be trying it. Roasting cauliflower with simple olive oil, salt and pepper is an easy way to enjoy it. Great cold for lunch the next day, too.

    As for cooking for one, if dining alone I usually opt for a cheese omelette with steamed spuds and a few little tomatoes. Easy and guaranteed good.

    I'm enjoying a Sunday of no chores and lots of online looking - and some shopping. Dinner is in the fridge - salmon from my favourite take-out counter. Happy weekend everyone!

    1. Agreed, Amanda. Cauliflower is like potato in that way - it makes a great starting point, but it's not going to make your taste buds sing unless you jazz it up.

    2. I roasted turnips with a little olive oil and salt. Delicious. Roasted veggies are so much better that boiled

  11. My first comment was going to be that I am not a fan of cauliflower, and although I'm not, after reading Hallie's comment, I'm thinking that maybe I just haven't given it a chance. I grew up thinking I hated asparagus, and I discovered about ten years ago that I love it. So, Julia,I hope that you enjoy your stew and your freedom to watch whatever you want on the television. When the teenage granddaughter visits, I know that I'm prisoner to whatever she chooses on Netflix.

  12. It just occurred to me that I could substitute white beans for the chick peas and then picky spouse would eat it!! Putting cauliflower on my grocery list!

  13. Oh, this sounds delicious! It'll get a hard pass from the Hub and H1, but the H2 might give a go. Thanks so much for sharing, Julia, and enjoy the quiet - it won't last!