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Eating less meat and more vegetables is kind to your body and the planet; these vegetarian samosas make the point quite tastily. The photo is from “Small Planet, Small Plates: Earth-Friendly Vegetarian Recipes” by Troth Wells.
When you think of celebrating Earth Day (which is Monday), it’s unlikely that food comes to mind. But maybe it should.
The first Earth Day, in 1970, was all about environmental pollution. A year later, Frances Moore Lappe brought food into the equation, addressing the intersection of food production and the environment in her ground-breaking cookbook “Diet for a Small Planet.” She argued that the large-scale, pesticide-intensive farming of grain to feed animals to produce meat to feed people wastes food, water and other resources. Lappe was among the most persuasive voices arguing that eating “lower on the food chain” is healthier for the planet.
Subsequent research on the effects of meat, dairy and processed foods on our health and waistlines revealed that eating lower on the food chain is healthier for us, too.
Scores of writers followed Lappe. In 2008, Mark Bittman, a writer for The New York Times, addressed the issue in “Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating.” According to Bittman, industrial meat production is responsible worldwide for one-fifth of the production of greenhouse gas. Couple that with the research that has linked diets high in animal protein to cardiac disease and certain cancers, and Bittman’s solution seems obvious: Eat less meat.
Troth Wells’ new cookbook makes the same point. “Small Planet, Small Plates” is a celebration of meatless cooking from around the world. Wells, also the author of “One World Vegetarian Cookbook,” offers delicious alternatives to meat-based dishes.
“Food is a starting point” for addressing our environmental concerns, says Wells. We can start on Earth Day with these tasty vegetarian samosas.
Yield: 8 to 10 individual samosas, or about 4 servings
4 (17-by-12 inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough (also sold as “filo” or “fillo”)
1 potato, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
˝ cup fresh or frozen peas (thawed, if frozen)
Peanut or other vegetable oil, as needed
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
˝ teaspoon garam masala (an Indian spice mix sold in many supermarkets and natural foods stores)
˝ teaspoon ground coriander
˝ teaspoon cumin seeds
˝ fresh chili, seeded and finely chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper
Water, as needed
1 or 2 lemons or limes, cut into quarters
Thaw the phyllo according to package directions. Place the sheets between two large pieces of waxed paper and cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel to keep them from drying out.
Fit a saucepan with a steamer and add water to the level of the steamer. Add the potatoes and carrots, cover, and bring the water to a boil. Steam the vegetables until just tender, 7 to 15 minutes, depending on size of dice. Add the peas and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until heated through. Drain the vegetables and set aside.
In a wok or heavy skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and swirl to coat the bottom and sides. Add the onion and cook, stirring until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Next, sprinkle in the garam masala, ground coriander, cumin seeds and chili. Stir well, cooking for about 30 seconds.
Add the potatoes, carrots, peas and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Continue to stir as you cook the mixture for 5 minutes, adding a bit more oil or a little water if the mixture is too dry. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.
On a work surface, arrange one phyllo sheet with the short side facing you and brush lightly with oil. Top with a second sheet and brush lightly with oil. Cut stacked phyllo lengthwise into 5 strips, each 12 inches by about 3˝ inches. Working quickly, put a spoonful of filling near the bottom corner of each strip, using up about half the filling on the five strips. Fold corner of one strip over to enclose filling and form a triangle. Continue folding the strip, maintaining a triangle shape as if you were folding a flag. Moisten the edge with a bit of water and press to seal. Repeat with remaining strips. Set the completed triangles on a platter or cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap to keep from drying out. Repeat the process with the remaining 2 sheets of phyllo.
Line a platter with paper towels. Heat some more oil in the wok and, when hot, quickly fry the samosas until they are golden on both sides. Drain on the prepared platter and serve hot, with the remaining tablespoon of cilantro scattered on top and the lime or lemon quarters alongside.
(Recipe slighted adapted from “Small Planet, Small Plates: Earth-Friendly Vegetarian Recipes” by Troth Wells; Interlink Publishing, 2012)
Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.
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