Recipe of the Week: Healthy, hearty comfort food

Family Features During the short days and cold nights of winter, many of us crave comfort foods. Unfortunately, the rich dishes we usually think of tend to be low in nutrition and packed with fat and calories. Well, take heart. It’s possible to enjoy satisfying dishes that are tasty, hearty and nutritious. Dry peas, lentils and chickpeas (garbanzo beans), all part of the legume family, are one way to make comfort foods more healthful. These ingredients pack a nutritional punch while adding flavor to recipes: just one cup of dry peas, lentils or chickpeas gives you more than half the recommended daily dosage of fiber and up to 18 grams of protein. They also contain little to no fat, making them a healthy meat alternative.Chef Tracy O’Grady, from Willow Restaurant in Arlington, Va., knows how to make the most of these versatile ingredients. “You may already love lentil soup,” she says. “But lentils have a wide range of uses, and are a great addition to hearty fare like enchiladas, veggie burgers — even chocolate cake.”And while chickpeas are best known as the key ingredient in hummus, they also appear in rich-tasting foods like Willow’s Chickpea Fries (see O’Grady’s recipe).For more recipes and information from the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, visit’s Chickpea FriesServes: 8 (6 per person) 2 1/2 cups water 1 garlic clove, minced fine 2 cups whole milk 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika 3 cups chickpea flour; reserve 1 cup for dusting 1 cup cooked chickpeas, roughly chopped 2 cups Parmesan cheese, finely grated 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 gallon canola oilPlace water, garlic, milk, salt, cay­enne and paprika in a non-reactive sauce pot and heat until it boils.Lower heat to gentle simmer and whisk in chickpea flour. Whisk just until smooth and then use a high heat spatula to finish the process. Cook mixture for about 5 minutes, constantly stirring to make sure there is no scorching.Once flour is nearly cooked, fold in chopped chickpeas, Parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil. Stir until well incorporated and hot. This should take about 3 additional minutes. Place in a plastic wrap lined 10 x 12-inch tray. Cover with plastic wrap and push down so it is even. Chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator or until completely chilled.After well chilled, turn the chick­pea mold onto a cutting board. Cut fries 12 times in 1-inch pieces and then cut each strip into 4 pieces, forming 48 pieces.Heat canola oil in a large stain­less steel fry pot to 350°F. Dust fries with remaining chickpea flour and fry in 4 batches until hot and golden brown.Drain in paper towels to remove excess oil. Serve immediately with Orange Preserved Lemon Dipping Sauce.Orange Preserved Lemon Dipping SauceMakes: About 1 cup 2 oranges, juiced and zested with a microplane zester 2 preserved lemons juiced, the peel minced fine* 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil Kosher salt to taste*If preserved lemons are unavail­able, can be substituted with 2 fresh lemons, juiced and zested.Savory Chickpea PancakesMakes: 36 2 1/2-inch pancakes 8 ounces chickpea flour (about 2 cups) 2 teaspoons baking powder 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 3/4 cup buttermilk 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 egg yolks, beaten 3 egg whites, whipped to soft peaks Zest of one lemon; use a microplane zester Additional butter to cook the pancakesMix all dry ingredients together in one bowl. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, melted butter, olive oil and egg yolks. In third bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold dry ingredients into buttermilk mixture gently (do not over mix or pancakes will be tough). Let batter stand for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, gen­tly fold half of the egg whites into batter, then fold remain­ing egg whites in. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat until mod­erately hot. Add in a pinch of butter and spoon a heap­ing tablespoon batter into pan. Cook each pancake until golden brown; flip; cook for another minute or two and keep warm. To serve, place two chickpea pancakes on individual plates and spoon ragu (recipe follows) on top.Chickpea, Shrimp and Caper RaguServes: 6 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely sliced 1 cup cooked chickpeas 2 tablespoons capers Peel of 1/2 a preserved lemon 1 teaspoon espelette or smoked paprika 1/2 cup water, plus more if needed 18 peeled and deveined shrimp Kosher salt, to taste 1 tablespoon unsalted butterHeat large stainless steel pan until moderately hot. Add olive oil and sliced garlic. Once garlic starts to soften and just brown, add chickpeas and cook for about 2 minutes.Add capers, lemon peel, espelette/smoked paprika and water. Bring to a boil, then add butter.Reduce heat and add shrimp; stew gently until just cooked, about 4 minutes. If water evaporates too quickly, add a little more. Season with salt to taste.Red Lentil Crusted Goat Cheese with Three Lentil Salad and Ruby Red Grapefruit VinaigretteServes: 6 1 cup cooked red lentils, al dente 1 cup brown lentils, cooked 1 cup green lentils, cooked 5 spears Broccolini, cooked and roughly chopped 1 head endive, sliced 1/8 cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar Kosher salt, to taste Cracked black pepper, to taste 9 ounces goat cheese, sliced into 6 2-inch slices 1/2 ruby red grapefruit, peeled and seeded and remaining juice squeezed into a bowl 1 lime, juicedCombine the three varieties of lentils in a glass or Pyrex bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of red lentils to crust the goat cheese. Add Broccolini, endive, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside for 1/2 hour to 1 hour to allow flavors to meld. Place remaining red lentils on a shallow tray and roll goat cheese slices in lentils until coated. Place lentil slices into a baking pan. For vinaigrette, combine, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Add grapefruit segments; season with salt to taste.Just before serving, heat goat cheese slices for 3 to 5 minutes in a 350°F oven until warm, but not melting apart. Distribute lentils onto six plates, place goat cheese slices on lentils and drizzle with vinaigrette.