Dinners happen is her approach Pragmatic: Since Joan Meyers has little time to chop and marinate, she just puts a meal's ingredients into one pot.

Kitchen Encounter

February 26, 1997|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,SUN STAFF

Joan Meyers has a simple explanation why she learned to cook. "I think I got hungry," she said. She had done minimal cooking in her 20s -- spaghetti, black beans and rice. "Basic single people's food. But I grew up eating really well" -- her mother is a registered dietitian -- "and I finally decided if I wanted to eat that way, I would have to do it by myself."

Meyers, 37, has been a vegetarian since she was 17. When she became interested in cooking a few years ago she began gathering ethnic cookbooks, and now has a significant collection. She and her husband, Ed, are especially fond of Indian dishes.

She prefers stews, savory strudels and other one-dish meals, she said. "I have some wonderful cookbooks, and I love to eat the food in them. But I don't have time to marinate and chop and roast -- I just throw everything into one pot and what happens, happens."

With two daughters, Ivy, 5, and Cedar, 11 months, and a "huge" garden, she has her hands full. She makes the baby's food, using a baby food-processor to puree whatever the family is having for Cedar.

She's fearless in the kitchen, she said, and will tackle anything. If something goes wrong, she has learned how to fix it -- using a potato to soak up too much salt or too much spiciness in a dish, or pureeing the dish and turning it into soup. "But if it was really bad, I would just throw it out."

Here is one of Meyers' recipes. She says it's her husband's all-time favorite.

"The first time I had this was in Paris, in a Tunisian restaurant, and they served it with a fried egg over the top and a bowl of harissa [hot chili paste] on the side." These days, she hard-boils the eggs and serves those on the side as well.

"And we have something cool, like oranges or pineapple, for dessert."

North African stew over couscous

Serves 4 to 6

1/3 cup olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 medium carrots, sliced

1 medium eggplant, cut in 1-inch cubes

3 medium sweet potatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes

3 medium zucchini, sliced once lengthwise then crosswise into half-moon shapes

2 medium yellow squash, sliced once lengthwise and then crosswise into half-moon shapes

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, with juice

1 15 1/2 -ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

1/2 cup water, optional (see note)

couscous, prepared according to package directions

In a large saucepan, dutch oven or skillet, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until all vegetables are tender. Serve immediately over couscous.

Note: The stew is supposed to be "sauce-y and juicy," Meyers said, so if it seems dry, add up to half a cup of water. Look for harissa in ethnic groceries and specialty food shops.

Pub Date: 2/26/97

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