Who's Cooking: Rukhsana Anwar, Syosset


Rukhsana Anwar of Syosset, with her stir-fry vegetables, says she cooks vegetarian out of compassion for animals. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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Married with two adult children, Anwar, who lives in Syosset and is in her mid-50s, has been a vegetarian for the past four years.

What inspires you to cook?

When I cook the food, I feel like I put love in there for my husband and children. I am inspired to cook vegetarian because I have compassion toward animals and it is not in my heart to harm them.

What are some of your favorite ingredients?

I always like to cook seasonally. Right now, I'm cooking with greens, spinach, green beans, broccoli, kale and asparagus. I also look forward to the strawberries. Everything is so full of nutrients when you cook seasonally. But, you also could use frozen vegetables, which are also full of nutrients.

What is your cooking style?

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I like to cook very healthy, but also have things to look appealing. My father was a doctor and my son is studying to be a doctor, so I have to cook healthy. People think that vegetarian cooking can't be hearty, but it can.

What are some of your favorite spices and herbs?

I use a lot of coriander, ginger, garlic and cumin. I also use something called black seeds -- nigella -- which are very healthy and can be found in most Indian grocery stores. They may be hard for people to find but are worth looking for. I also like using black cumin seeds and coriander seeds. I like experimenting with things like black salt, pink salt and kosher salt.

How would you encourage those who feel they don't have time to cook daily?

I would start with stir-frying. It is quick and you can add colorful things and whatever you have on hand. Use fresh or frozen vegetables. Try stirring in things like tofu and chickpeas. You can create a hearty meal that you can get onto the table quickly.

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3 tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon nigella seeds (available at Indian grocery stores, or black cumin seeds)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

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5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 cup lima beans, fresh or frozen

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup frozen peas, slightly thawed

1 cup chopped broccoli, cut into 1-inch pieces

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1 cup fresh or frozen corn

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet and add olive oil.

2. Once the oil is hot but not smoking, add pepper flakes, nigella seeds, ginger and garlic. Allow to cook 1 to 2 minutes but don't let the ginger and garlic burn.

3. Add the vegetables and stir regularly.

4. While stirring, add the turmeric. Cook on high heat for 10 minutes, then cover with a lid and simmer an additional 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want the vegetables.

5. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving. Serve with rice, quinoa or other grain on the side. Makes 5 to 6 servings.

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