Archives for posts with tag: lentils

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I wanted to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year.  It’s still January so it’s not *so* late.  I wanted to post this recipe up around New Year’s because it’s a nice winter dish.  Lentils are also supposed to be a lucky food for the New Year – so eat up!  Well, as far as I can see it’s still winter and spring isn’t going to make its appearance for another month or two.  It’s still freezing cold so this rice will help feel you warm, cozy and satisfied.

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I didn’t post because I got sick.  It wasn’t the flu, just a very bad cold.  It took me about three weeks to fully recover and now I’m back to normal.  This year everyone is getting sick, or at least it seems that way to me.  Nourishing foods are the key.  Even though you don’t exactly feel like scarfing down food when you are sick – foods with chicken stock and healing spices can most certainly lift your spirits.

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I don’t know what to call this dish – I can’t say it’s particularly South Asian or Middle Eastern, but to be honest it doesn’t really matter.  I often make this dish as a side to chicken skewers.  I also made it in the summer for my sister and she loved it.  I love it because I always have every ingredient on hand.  I just marinate some chicken and make a nice salad and a perfect dinner is ready.

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Even in the depths of winter and believe me when I say that this year it feels especially long, we can still enjoy our favorite foods.  As much as I love fresh summery foods, the comforting feeling you get from some cold weather foods can’t be beat.

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Lentil Basmati Rice with Crispy Onions

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

vegetable oil of your choice

2 cups basmati rice soaked for at least 30 minutes and then washed with water a few times until the water runs clear

1 cup lentils of your choice, here I used Puy lentils

2 small to medium-sized onions, sliced

1/2 dried cranberries

4 cloves garlic, chopped finely

1 inch piece of ginger, grated

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2-3 dried red chilies

2 cloves

4 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 small cinnamon stick

2 green cardamom pods

7-8 cups cups chicken stock

salt, to taste

1 lemon, zested

parsley and cilantro, or any herbs or your choice

toasted pine nuts

Method

First wash the Puy lentils and place them in a medium-sized stick pot with the chicken stock and cook on medium cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until they are cooked, but still firm, about 85% cooked.  The chicken stock should be almost entirely evaporated.

After the lentils have cooked, in a large pot on medium to medium-high heat, heat about 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil and add in the onions.  Cook until golden.  Take out about half the onions and set aside and reserve for garnishing.  Next, add in the garlic and ginger and let them fry for about a minute.  Add in the cumin, coriander powder, dried red chilies, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, peppercorns, cloves and salt.  Let all the spices toast and add in the lentils and dried cranberries.

Pour in 3 cups of chicken stock and bring to the boil.  Add in the washed and soaked rice and let the stock boil again.  Once the stock boils again turn the heat down to medium-low and cover.  After about 7-10 minutes the water should be evaporated and the rice should be al dente.  Turn the heat to very low and drape a paper towel or kitchen towel over the top of the pan and put the lid on and let the rice steam for 20 minutes.

Open the lid after 20 minutes and garnish with parsley, cilantro, the reserved fried onions, lemon zest, and the toasted pine nuts.  Serve with yogurt, if you like.

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Sometimes they are recipes that you want to try and you just don’t for whatever reason.  This is one of those for me.  I first saw this recipe about a year ago in Food and Wine magazine and deemed it as an easy weeknight meal.  But the recipe used roasted eggplant instead of the fennel I used here.  I have been obsessed with fennel this winter.  I have been making a fennel and mushroom soup weekly.  When my husband asks what I made for dinner and I reply, “fennel mushroom soup,”  I get a grunt, a big one.  If my husband wants this to change he can step into the kitchen and make it happen.  Until then, or until I tire of this combination, either of which doesn’t look like anytime soon, I will keep making it.

But back to the recipe at hand, the eggplant and lentils fennel and lentils.  Well, it was really going to be eggplant and lentils.  I even bought an eggplant for this purpose and went as far as roasting it.  Then at the last-minute I opened the fridge for some herbs and there I saw my fennel.  Looking at it with longing eyes, I cheated on the eggplant with fennel.  The roasted eggplant is still in my fridge, oops.  Don’t worry, I will use it.  I’ll make baba ghanoush or eggplant bharta or something, who really cares, I’m talking about fennel right now!

Fennel and lentils, I can’t say I’ve heard of this combination before, but it works.  I gobbled down two platefuls.  Another thing that works brilliantly with fennel is smoked paprika.  I didn’t cook with it much before a few months ago, and now I quite enjoy it.  Initially, I was turned off by the overly smoky smell, but that’s not the case any longer.
Another plus to this dish is that I enjoyed it even more because my husband was out-of-town, well not for that exact reason, but  I didn’t have to deal with any grunts or disgusted faces because he is not a fan of French lentils (or at least the way I make them.)  Notice a pattern here.

Anyhow, I never got around to making the original recipe, maybe another day.

Fennel and Lentil Salad

inspired and adapted by Food and Wine (Eggplant-Lentil Salad) February 2010

Serves 2, as a main

Ingredients

2 cups sliced fennel, fronds reserved

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

kosher salt, to taste

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 shallots, finely minced

1 cup French Lentils (du Puy), washed

2 1/2 cups water

zest of 1 lemon and its juice as well

1 jalapeño pepper, minced finely, seeds removed, if you like

5-7 mint leaves, chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley

some fennel fronds, chopped, optional

plain yogurt, for serving

Method

In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add half of the smoked paprika to the oil and let it infuse the oil for a minute.  Next, add in the fennel and the rest of the smoked paprika.  Season with salt and allow the fennel to caramelize and soften for about 15 minutes.  Once it is ready set aside.

Heat a saucepan on medium heat with the remaining olive oil.  Add in the cumin seeds and crushed red chili flakes.  Allow the cumin seeds to crackle a bit and then add in the shallots and allow them to soften.  Once soft, add in the garlic and allow the garlic to get to the point where it is beginning it brown, but do not burn it.  Next, add in the lentils, water, and salt.  Cover and allow to come to a boil.  When the water starts to boil, remove the lid and and turn the heat to medium low and allow the lentils to simmer for about 40 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated and the lentils mash when you press them between your fingers.

Toss in the fennel, herbs, jalapeño, lemon juice, and zest.   Serve warm or at room temperature. The Food and Wine recipe suggests topping this with yogurt, which I did and serving it with naan, which I did not.

There are some foods that you always say you don’t like, and then when you haven’t had them for a while you really crave them.  I remember when I first moved to Montreal for Grad School, I had not eaten Pakistani food in over a month.  Luckily, I made a Pakistani friend who had done her research and knew of several Pakistani restaurants.  I did not cook at my apartment, simply because I was grossed out.  I did no prior research and just opted for Graduate Housing and thought it would be fine (at least the pictures online looked fine).  When I arrived, I was almost in tears, looking back it wasn’t thattt bad, but still.  When that lease was finished, I moved out of there and into a new place like it was no one’s business.

That is why I never cooked, and lived off of takeout or meals that did not require cooking.  So, when my friend asked if I wanted to go out for Pakistani, I was so incredibly excited.  Thank God, she took me for a buffet.  That was one time that I was in the mood for “all you can eat.”  I don’t even remember what exactly we ate, but I do remember we were both extremely satiated.

I think it was during that dinner, we started talking about our moms’ cooking.  Most Pakistani moms do cook quite well, or so their kids say.  Even though my mom doesn’t look like the typical Pakistani mom, her food is always great.  My friend and I started talking about when our moms throw big parties and what their cooking specialties were.  It turned out that both our moms thought their maash ki dal (white lentils) was something special.  It’s different than the more soupy dals out there, and is “party-worthy” food.  My friend and I laughed so much thinking about how our moms thought their dishes were something unique.  My friend was saying that her mom makes the maash ki dal because it is everyone’s request.  It was the same story with my mom.

I never really paid maash ki dal much attention before.  But, there are those few times that I crave it.  Luckily for me, it is a snap to prepare and my husband will eat just about anything without being overly picky, so he enjoys it as well.  It is a different dish to add to your repertoire and you can also make this dal soupy, if you chose to.  The recipe here is a dry version.

White Lentils with a Sizzling Oil (Tarka) Garnish

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 cup maash dal sometimes called Urad dal, available at Indian/Pakistani grocery stores (soak the dal in water for 1 hour and then rinse away the old water a few times)

2 cups water, scant

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/8 teaspoon turmeric, optional

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste

1/2 a tomato, chopped finely, optional (I just used one because I had half of one in the fridge)

for garnish:

3-4 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2  a small onion, sliced thinly

2 branches/stems of curry leaves (removed from stems), available in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores

4-5 whole dried red chilies

handful chopped cilantro

a few mint leaves, chopped

2″ piece of ginger, julienned

1 green chili, sliced in half length-wise

Method

In a medium-sized saucepan bring the water to a boil on medium to medium-high heat.  Add in the maash ki dal, salt, turmeric, red chili powder, and tomato.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, until the water has evaporated and when you press on the dal with your finger it mashes easily.  The grains should be separate, not mushy.  Place the dal into your serving dish.  Next, in a frying pan, heat the oil on medium heat.  Add the onion and begin to fry it.  After 3 minutes add in the cumin seeds, curry leaves, whole dried red chilies and fry all of the items together until the onions turn golden brown.  You may want to run your exhaust fan during this process because it may cause you to cough a bit. When the onions are golden, pour the hot oil mixture over the lentils.  Then finish the garnish with the ginger, cilantro, mint leaves, and the green chili.  Serve with roti or naan.