The key to eating well on a budget is treating humble ingredients like kings.  Dressed with assertive flavors and spices, dried beans and a bunch of carrots become a surprisingly rich and enticing main course.  Add a steamed, green vegetable and a stack of warm pitas, if you like.

Lemony chickpea puree

Bright and lively lemon and garlic complement the chickpea’s earthy nuttiness in this simple, yet luxurious, dish.  Served warm, the puree also pairs nicely with roast lamb, salmon, and winter vegetables.  Or try it with grilled shrimp, summer squash, eggplant, and tomatoes.  Or for lunch with pita and red grapes.  Any kid who likes hummus will like this with raw or steamed veggies and pita wedges for dipping.

Adapted from FoodTV.com

Yield:  About 4 cups, serving 4

1 1/2 c. dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in 1 qt. water

2 bay leaves

4 cloves garlic, peeled, 2 of them lightly crushed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

1/3 c. olive oil

Chopped, fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

Drain soaked chickpeas, put them in a medium saucepan, and cover them by two inches with fresh, cold water.  Add bay leaves and two crushed garlic cloves.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Skim any froth that rises to the surface, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently until chickpeas are tender, about an hour (season with a generous pinch of salt toward the end of the cooking time).  Drain, reserving cooking liquid.  Discard bay leaves.

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, all four cloves garlic, lemon juice and zest, and olive oil.  Process until smooth, adding some of the chickpea cooking liquid as needed to reach a creamy consistency (you’ll probably need about 1/2 c.).  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve warm, garnished with parsley if you like.

Sweet and spicy roasted carrots

Warm spices and a touch of honey bring out the root vegetable’s natural sweetness.

Yield:  About 3 cups, serving 4

6 carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias, about 3/4″ thick

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Dash cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tsp. honey or brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, stir together oil, allspice, cinnamon, and cayenne.  Add carrots and toss to coat.  Using a rubber spatula, transfer carrots to a foil-lined sheet tray (use the spatula to scrape all the spiced oil from the bottom of the bowl) and season with salt and pepper.  Roast on bottom rack of oven for 10 minutes.  Stir and turn carrots, return to oven, and cook until just tender and lightly browned, about 8 minutes more.  Remove carrots to a mixing bowl, add honey or sugar, and toss to coat.  Season with additional salt, if necessary, and serve.

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