Whether it’s a new recipe I’m trying out or an old family dish I'm revisiting, feeding my family is one of my greatest pleasures. If my husband and kids like what's served, their expressions are the best rewards. If food is love, I want to give a lot of it.
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You meet someone, fall in love, raise a family and build your future together. And this future is full of happy family meals rife with my grandmother’s kibbeh soup and meatballs my mother taught me to make. Their love passes through the dishes I make for my family. You think you know someone - and then one day it all changes.
My husband became a vegetarian last year (“Phew! I thought it was going to be much worse!”). This may not sound all that dramatic – it didn’t seem so to me at first - but it did turn out to shake the foundations of our culinary lives and family dinners much more than I had expected.
He was always a strikingly adventurous eater, the kind I'd always wanted to be. I knew I could count on him to order the sweetbread, rabbit stews and calf cheeks that I would never dare request. Put together, we made a rather audacious culinary couple. And now, how could I enjoy even the occasional steak when the skinny man sitting in front of me was ordering nothing but a salad?
We all thought it wouldn’t last long. “He’s doing it just to upset me anyway,” I told everyone. I wanted to keep on making kibbeh in beet soup and fish for Shabbat. I wanted to see his grateful smile at the end of the table. I don’t remember my grandmother having to deal with something of this order.
And then the entire organized system of family meals collapsed. Having three growing boys, I never realized just how much I was cooking for my husband. If you follow this blog, you may have noticed we eat the Middle Eastern way: mostly vegetables, legume and whole grains, using meat mainly to give dishes flavor, as in stuffed vegetables, for instance. So, having plenty of veggie options in our house, I didn’t think accommodating a vegetarian would be difficult. But making sure dishes have sufficient protein proved to be a challenge. Should I cook two separate main courses every night? I needed to find a solution that would fit all of us.
But I failed to. A year passed and for a while, I hate to admit, I cooked less even for the boys, finding suddenly the whole deal less fun with my main man not enjoying it. And I wasn’t sure what to cook anymore. Yes, we still always had a salad and a side dish- But the main course, something you can cut or bite into, remained a dilemma.
By now it’s clear he’s not doing it just to annoy me, but because it’s healthier. And he’s keeping his health and teaching the kids a good lesson in that. If food is love, he shows it to his family, and Valentine's Day is a good time for me to start retaking the mission seriously, too. So I tried a few main course options, and came up with these delicious peas and mint patties (peas are an excellent source of protein). Even the kids loved them and finished them in a second.
“Poor dad,” They whispered to me after dinner, even so. “Can’t you sneak some meat into his food?”
Peas and mint patties
These patties taste best fried (big surprise!), but you can also bake them in the oven instead. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, arrange patties on top, spray with oil and bake for 20-25 minutes in 450 degrees.
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for frying
Bunch green onions, green part only, chopped
½ cup chopped lettuce
1 lb. frozen peas, thawed and drained
¼ cup chopped mint
½ cup finely grated parmesan
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Greek yogurt for dipping (optional)
1. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add green onion and lettuce and sauté for a few minutes, until tender. Transfer to a bowl of a food processor, including oil.
2. Add thawed peas and mint to the food processor’s bowl and mix until almost smooth. Add egg and mix just to incorporate, then add parmesan and black pepper and mix briefly. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for an hour.
3. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a non stick frying pan over medium heat. Prepare a small bowl of water next to you, to wet your hands while forming the patties. Take spoonfuls of the pea-mint mixture and form patties with your wet hands. Fry for a couple of minutes on each side and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Serve warm, with Greek yogurt for dipping.