Palak Chana Dal

February 19, 2019

I love Indian food. Love it.    And I’m overcoming my fear of making it at home. Tonight I actually tried something I’ve never even eaten in a restaurant. I love lentils.  They’re a great vegetarian, low/no fat protein source.  They need a whole grain to complete them, but you can get that an any point in the day.  It doesn’t have to be in the same meal.  Combine my love of Indian food and my love of lentils and you get dal.

There are LOTS of kinds of dal and LOTS of kinds of lentils. Red, green, yellow, black. Chana dal is actually a yellow split pea dal.  And it’s yummy!  There are many, many versions of this. I picked this one because it includes spinach.  I wanted a dish with extra vegetables so I’d have a one dish meal.  And let’s be serious.  I had a clam shell of spinach in the fridge and no plan for it.

Let me start by saying this is NOT a Tuesday night meal.  (Yes, it’s Tuesday night).  I suppose it could be if you cooked the chana on Sunday and did the rest on Tuesday after work.  I started this dish at 6:30, after I went to the gym and fed the pups.  I sat down to eat at 8:00.  Pretty ridiculous for a weeknight.  I thought it would take about half that time based on the recipe.

A few tips.  Where the recipe says to partially cover the peas as they cook, don’t.  You’re trying to get 4 1/2 cups of water to absorb into 1 cup of yellow split peas.  You can afford to lose some in steam.  Don’t bother to do your chopping and measuring until after you have the chana in the pot. Trust me, you have plenty of time to do the rest.  Serve it with rice or naan or some Indian pickles or some combination.  There’s some really good heat in here from the jalapeno and the ginger.  It needs some acid and some starch to balance it.  Some acidic wine is lovely with it as well. I mean, if you’re going to be chopping and stirring for 90 minutes, you should have some wine.

I will make another attempt at this, using a different recipe.  Not because I’m not pleased with the results. I really am! But because I can’t wait to try another version!  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy eating the leftovers.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 chana dal (dried split chickpeas)
  • TSP turmeric
  • TSP salt
  • 4½ water
  • TBSP ghee (use vegetable oil to make it vegan)
  • ¾ TSP cumin seeds
  • finely diced onion
  • 1 inch-long piece of ginger, grated
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 green chile (like a serrano or jalapeño), minced
  • tomato, diced
  • ½ TSP garam masala
  • TSP chile powder, like Deggi Mirch
  • A couple large handfuls of baby spinach
  • chopped cilantro, for garnis

NOTE: I bought the Deggi Mirch from Amazon some time ago.  I’m sure it’s available in local Indian markets as well.  The rest of this stuff is available in mainstream grocery stores. I did leave out the fenugreek leaves.

Here’s what you do: 4 servings (and here’s a link to the original recipe)

  1. Sort through your beans for any pebbles or debris. Rinse under cold water three or four times.

NOTE:  Don’t skip this step.  My chickpeas had kind of an odd smell as I rinsed them.

  1. In a large saucepan or pot, combine the chana dal, turmeric, salt, and 4½ cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, for 40 minutes (add more water if needed). The consistency should not be too thin or thick. If too thick, add more water. If too thin, simmer a little longer.

NOTE:  This took me 90 minutes, not 40.  A little less water?  Maybe, but you want the texture to be soft.  A little higher heat?  A little, but not a ton.

  1. Meanwhile, heat the ghee or oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and fry for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and green chile and continue to sauté a minute or two until the garlic is golden but not browned. Add the tomatoes.
  1. Stir in the garam masala, and chile powder. Continue to cook until the tomatoes break down and are soft.

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NOTE: The good news is that this can sit until the peas are ready without losing anything.

  1. Add this mixture to the pot with the chana dal.

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  1. Bring the pot back to a simmer. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted.
  1. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve with rice, naan, paratha, or roti.

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How’d it turn out?

This is so, so good. The heat is warm and wonderful.  Nothing sharp and overwhelming about it.  The cilantro at the end is a nice green touch.  I had a little naan with mine, which has fantastic.  Rice would have been good too.  And I really think a quick pickle of radishes and onions would add a wonderful acidity. Maybe I’ll try that with the leftovers.

The only drawback?  90 minutes to make.  I’m interested to find out if another recipe goes quicker.  If you want to use this one, I’d say make the split peas one night when you’re eating leftovers from something else.  Finish it and eat it the next night.

Tomorrow is going to start with ice and snow so it’ll be a perfect day to have these leftovers for lunch!

 

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Pumpkin Balls and Snicker-poodles

February 18, 2019

It’s President’s Day and I was lucky enough to have the day off.  I’ll admit that I had a hard time getting started today.  Over the last few days I’ve done some baking and some sewing and some chores.  I felt like baking today, but I didn’t feel like cleaning up a huge kitchen mess and I didn’t feel like filling the house with baked goods I’m trying not to eat too many of.  The perfect solution?  Homemade dog treats!

A few years ago my mom gave me one of those little kits with a recipe book and some cookie cutters shaped like a bone and a hydrant.  These are wheat, corn, and soy free.  They’re mostly made with oat flour and rice flour, a few with potato flour.  Turns out those flours are pretty expensive so I tried to make my own.  If you put quick oats in a food processor they turn into “flour” pretty quickly.  Rice doesn’t work nearly as well and it makes a horrible noise.  Today’s treats were made entirely with pulverized oats.  I’d say that if your dogs don’t have wheat allergies, go ahead and use all purpose flour.

The ones that require you to roll them out and cut them are super cute, but not so easy.  The dough sticks so it’s tough to roll out.  Maybe some regular flour on top and on the rolling pin would work better.  Today, I chose to stick with the ones that you form into little balls.  I also chose to make ones that have no meat or cheese.  It’s just easier and less messy.  And amazingly, they’re still super popular with the pups.  The pumpkin balls were a huge hit over the holidays!

Pumpkin is really good for their digestion so I feel good about giving these pretty much any time.  The Snicker-poodles are new for me, but I have no doubt they’re going to love the honey and cinnamon combo.  You make these into balls too.  I flattened them out to make them look a little more like cookies.  No, of course the dogs don’t care.

One thing to note about the pumpkin balls – the instruction is to keep them refrigerated.  I’m not exactly sure why.  They’re baked and have no meat or cheese so I don’t know what that’s about, but I do it.  The Snicker-poodles can be kept on the counter, per the book, but I just threw them in the bag with the pumpkin balls.

Here’s the recipe for the pumpkin balls.  Super easy!  It makes about 50 treats.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 C ground quick oats
  • 1 C pumpkin
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 egg

Here’s what you do:

  • Mix everything in a bowl
  • Roll into 1 inch balls
  • Bake at 350 20-25 minutes
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge

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Sheet Pan Fried Rice

February 15, 2019

I’m not sure what my deal is with rice these days, but I’m eating a ton of it.  I had a carton of leftover rice from takeout the other night, and sheet pan fried race calls for exactly that.  Rice that’s leftover so it’s dry.  I had a bunch of stuff that’s been in the vegetable drawer just this side of too long.  And I almost always have eggs.  Dinner!

This is super easy.  You mix your rice and veggies with some sesame oil and soy sauce.  Pour it on a sheet pan and bake.  That can be the end if you want.  I decided to add some eggs to mine because all the other protein I have in the house is frozen.  One tip. Put a teaspoon or two of canola oil on your sheet pan and spread it around.  Put the  pan in the oven as it heats.  That way the oil and pan are hot when you add the rice and it starts to fry immediately.

If you’re going to use a protein like chicken or beef, partially cook it in the sheet pan before you add the rice.  Then it will finish cooking with everything else.  If you’re using shrimp, add it about halfway through the rice cooking so it doesn’t get rubbery.

Here’s what you need: for 2-3 main dish servings

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  • 2 t vegetable oil
  • 1 pint leftover cooked rice
  • chopped vegetables
    • mushrooms, peppers, onions
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 2 green onions, chopped

Here’s what you do:

  • Spread the vegetable oil on a sheet pan
  • Heat the pan in the oven to 375 degrees
  • While the oven heats, mix the rice, vegetables, sesame oil and soy sauce in a bowl

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  • Spread the rice mixture on the sheet pan in a single layer

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  • Bake 10 minutes
  • Create 3-4 wells in the rice, pour in the egg
  • Bake 5 minutes
  • Stir the partially cooked eggs into the rice and spread it back into a single layer
  • Cook another 4-5 minutes
  • Add green onions
  • Season with more soy sauce as needed

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This is a good meal.  Easy, cheap, good for using up leftover vegetables.  What would I do differently?  I’d heat the oven hotter to get a little more crisp on the rice.  I might also add some garlic and ginger to make the flavors a little more complex.  Maybe I’ll try that the next time.  And there will be a next time!

Oh, and hang on to the takeout rice container.  You can put your leftovers in it!

Curried Chickpeas with Eggplant

February 11, 2019

This one’s for you my vegetarian friends looking for some spice!  Another winner from Melissa Clark’s Dinner.  Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients. It’s long, but the recipe isn’t difficult and most of the spices are things you probably have on hand.  The hardest thing about this is not eating all the roasted eggplant while you make the rest!

A few tips.  Do use a brush to apply a little oil to the eggplant.  I have one with silicone “bristles” because it cleans up easier than real bristle brushes.  Using a brush allows you to apply the oil evenly and very little of it.  If you try to pour a little and then spread it with your fingers you’ll use 2-3 times as much and have greasy eggplant.  Tip number two.  If you don’t have garam masala and you’re not starting an Indian cooking adventure, don’t buy it.  You can make a reasonable substitute with 1/2 t each of cumin, cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper.

I made a few substitutions just based on what I had on hand.  I didn’t have a fresh chile of any kind so I added crushed red pepper instead.  And I don’t generally buy fresh tomatoes in February. With the exception of grape tomatoes, they’re pretty expensive and don’t taste like much this time of year in central VA.  I do have a basement full of summer tomatoes that I canned myself.  I’ll take those as a substitute for cooked winter tomatoes any day!  And I used canned chickpeas instead of homemade, because, well, the recipe said it was ok and in the make versus buy equation, chickpeas come out on the buy side every time.

The recipe recommends that you serve this with rice or flatbread if you’re using it as a main dish.  I don’t have any flatbread in the house.  I tried to buy naan over the weekend, but Wegman’s was out of all the naan except their store brand, which I don’t think is very good.  And no rice for me because in the last week I’ve eaten more rice than in the previous few months combined!  I’d recommend some bread or rice though.  The yogurt did a good job of balancing the heat, but a little something else would have been nice.  And it’ll stretch your dish a little further as well.  Maybe a little cucumber salad on the side would be nice as well.

What else.  Don’t skip the step where you cook the spices for a minute.  Giving them a chance to toast just a little really helps.  Also, I don’t usually like mint in savory dishes.  In my world mint is for juleps and tea, but it added a really nice sweet note in this dish.  I used spearmint, not peppermint, which I think is a good choice.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced and roasted
  • 1/2 a large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced or 1/2 t crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (substitute described above)
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes, chopped, or one pint canned tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • lemon juice to taste

For garnish:

  • chopped green onions
  • chopped fresh mint leaves
  • plain yogurt (optional)

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in large skillet, then add the onions.
  • Cook until softened and golden, about 4 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  • Add spices and cook for 1 minute, then add tomatoes, chickpeas and 2 tablespoons water.
  • Partly cover the pan and let the mixture simmer until tomatoes start to break down, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add eggplant to the pan and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until sauce thickens.

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  • Serve with any combination of the garnish, rice, and flatbread

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Linguine with Garlicky Chard and Scallops

February 9, 2019

This morning I ran a long way.  This afternoon I did a lot of cleaning.  Which means that tonight I’m both super tired and also feeling like I deserve a nice dinner.  Nice dinner in 20 minutes, coming up!

Seafood usually signals a pretty nice dinner and it cooks in minutes.  Scallops are especially awesome because they don’t have to be peeled or skinned or scrubbed or cut.  Just patted dry.  Pasta is easy and always on hand.  Chard is a nice Winter green, hardier than spinach and softer than kale.  And garlic goes with pretty much everything.  A squeeze of lemon and a pat of butter and you’re done!  If you’re not a seafood person add some white beans or some more greens and maybe some crushed red pepper.

The one thing that you have to keep in mind for this is what order to do everything in.  If you do things in the right order everything will be ready at about the same time and hot when you throw it together.  Pasta, garlic, greens, seafood.  That’s the order.  As always, it helps if you get everything ready to go before you start.

Here’s what you need for 2 servings: (plus a little lemon and a little butter)

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  • 4 oz linguine
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, still in the paper
  • 1 bunch green chard
  • 1/2 lb sea scallops

Here’s what you do:

  • Start the pasta water
  • Put the garlic in a 350 degree oven
  • Remove the stems from the chard and chop it

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  • Pat the scallops dry
  • Add the pasta to the water.  When it’s about half done, continue
  • Squeeze the garlic out of the paper and smash it with the side of a knife

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  • Heat a good sized pan with 1T olive oil for the greens
  • Heat 1t olive oil and 1 pat butter in a frying pan
  • Add the garlic and greens to the large pan.  Add a little pasta water
  • When the butter browns and the frying pan begins to smoke add the scallops
  • Cook the scallops 2 minutes on each side.  Do not move them except to flip them once.
  • Toss the pasta in with the greens

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  • Add a pat of butter and a squeeze of lemon juice
  • Top the pasta with the scallops

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Four real ingredients and twenty minutes for a very elegant dinner.  Honestly I could have eaten both servings easily.  I still might!

 

North African Chickpeas and Vegetables

January 28, 2019

Let me start by saying, yes, I know how gross this looks.  And no, I did not know that it was going to look like this.  And yes, it tastes a LOT better than it looks.  Definitely not date food.  It’s brown and gross looking and it has 6 cloves of garlic.

This is from the Forks Over Knives cookbook.  It’s a cookbook for a plant-based diet.  I have no interest in being vegan, but I am trying to follow Michael Pollan’s adage, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”  Slightly modified for me at the moment as, “Eat less, mostly plants.”  So, plants it is tonight.

This meal is a good candidate for the odds and ends in the vegetable drawer.  I think carrots would have been good.  Sweet potatoes.  Not Brussels sprouts.  The original has a pretty summery bend to it – zucchini, summer squash, eggplant.  I try to limit the out of season things I buy, particularly when there are reasonable seasonal substitutes.  You’ll see I hung on to the red bell pepper, and good thing.  You need some sweetness in the vegetables to balance the very lemony chermoula.

This recipe took longer to come together than I expected.  I roasted the broccoli, onions, and cauliflower.  An added step, but I think the added flavor, especially in the cauliflower is worth it.  And that stuff can be roasting while you’re chopping everything else and making the sauce so you’re not adding a ton of time.  The recipe for the chermoula calls for you to chop and mince the ingredients.  That’s silly.  You’re supposed to puree it in a blender.  No idea why you’d bother chopping the ingredients.  So that’s a time saver.  Sauteing the other vegetables takes about 10 minutes.  And then 10 more to put everything together.  Add a few minutes for starting the couscous in there. All in, I think it took me 45-50 minutes.

The roasting and sauteing vegetables you get.  You might be interested to know that the recipe calls for no oil.  You’re just supposed to add a little water while the vegetables cook so they don’t stick.  Now, let’s talk about this chermoula.  This is the North African part of the dish.  It’s an interesting combination of things, but in the end I mostly tasted the lemon and the cumin.  The tartness of the lemon kind of smacks you in the face and then the earthiness of the cumin follows.  It’s good, but it was a surprise.  I genuinely had no idea what this was going to be.  Certainly I had no idea what color it was going to be!

Here’s what you need:

For the vegetables:  use what you have, but make sure you have a few things on the sweet side. I used red bell pepper, sweet onion, broccoli slaw, broccoli crowns, and cauliflower.  And don’t forget the can of chickpeas.  Good protein.

For the chermoula:

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  • 8-10 grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 C pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 1/2 lemons
  • 1 T paprika
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded

Put everything in a blender. Process until smooth.  Yep, that’s what it looks like.

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Here’s what you do:

  • Roast broccoli, onions, cauliflower (20 minutes at 400 degrees)
  • Saute red bell pepper and broccoli slaw 5 minutes
  • Add the chickpeas.  Saute 10 minutes.
  • Add 1-2 T water as needed to keep the vegetables from sticking
  • Add roasted vegetables.  Saute 5 minutes.
  • Add chermoula.  Saute 5 more minutes.
  • Serve with rice or couscous.

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Green Turkey Chili with Corn Two Ways

January 28, 2019

I’m back!  I’ve been traveling for work (again).  I ate out 21 meals in a row.  I did pretty well with my choices for the first few days.  The last half of the week was a dietary train wreck.  Now I’m at home and starting my “do over.”  I need something to fill a few requirements:  1)  low fat, low calorie, low WW points; 2) enough leftovers to eat a few times this week; 3)  something to help my fight the polar vortex that’s about to descend on central Virginia.  Turkey chili!

I know that a lot of people lighten up their regular red beef chili by substituting ground turkey for ground beef.  To me, turkey chili is white chili.  No tomatoes.  If I want tomato chili I’d rather combine beef with veggie crumbles than abandon the beef.  This is green chili because I use a bunch of diced green chilis and a jalapeno instead of red chili powder.  It looks a tiny bit green.

Want to make really green chili for fun?  Add some of the green chilis and a bunch of cilantro to your bean puree.  A tip about the bean puree.  Most recipes will tell you to put all the beans in the pot and cook them with the rest of the chili.  Then you have to spoon a bunch out, add a little liquid, and puree.  I spend a lot of time chasing beans around the pot and picking out the other stuff.  I get it.  If you do it that way the bean puree has the same flavor as the rest of the pot and you won’t have to adjust the seasonings much.  But it’s kind a pain.  It’s much easier to just save some of the beans out from the beginning.  Besides, this way, if you’ve over-seasoned, you have a chance to use the bean puree to correct that.  Never a bad idea to give yourself an out like that.

Is bean puree the only way to thicken this chili?  Nope.  You could make a slurry of masa or ground corn and water.  Let it sit a little while before you add it, but that should work.  A regular corn starch slurry would work too.  Just remember to bring the pot to a boil if you’re using corn starch.  Otherwise it won’t thicken.

So, what’s with this corn two ways thing?  I add hominy and white corn.  What is hominy?  It’s just corn kernels that have been soaked in an alkali solution.  The solution removes the hull and puffs up the kernel.  You start with field corn, which is different than the sweet corn you buy to eat as is.  The hominy adds heft and just a hint of corn flavor, more like masa or ground corn than like kernels.  And the kernels add sweetness.  Normally I’d use frozen corn.  It keeps its texture a little better than canned.  Today I could only find the white corn in a can.  Feel free to use yellow corn instead.  I just prefer the look of the chili with the white corn in it.

There are lots of options for topping this chili too.  It’s great with sour cream and a squeeze of lime juice.  If it’s not chili for you until you add the cheese, add some grated pepper jack.  Add some diced avocado and chopped cilantro or a dollop of guacamole.  And don’t forget the pickled jalapenos and green Tabasco for folks who need some extra heat. Or make a whole bar of toppings and let everyone dress their own!    Great addition to your Super Bowl party next weekend!

“This sounds amazing, but I’m a vegetarian!”  No worries.  There’s enough stuff in here you won’t even miss the turkey if you leave it out.  Add an extra can of beans and use vegetable stock instead of chicken.  Or throw in some tempeh to add another texture.

Here’s what you need: serves 4-6

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  • 1 1/2 T canola oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 cans white beans, drained (cannellini or great northern)
  • 3 C chicken stock
  • 1/2 bag frozen pearl onions
  • 1 can white hominy, drained
  • 2 small cans diced green chiles
  • 1 can white corn, drained
  • ground cumin and salt to taste
  • cliantro, sour cream, pepper jack, avocado, limes for garnish

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot
  • Add the onions, garlic, and jalapenos.
  • Saute until they begin to soften, stirring constantly.  Do not brown.
  • Add the turkey.  Break it up with a wooden spoon as it browns.

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  • Add the beans, reserving 1/3 of a can for the puree
  • Add the stock, reserving 1/8 C for the puree
  • Add the onions and the hominy

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  • Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered 1 hour, stirring occasionally
  • Season with cumin and salt
  • Puree the reserved beans and stock

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  • Add to the pot
  • Adjust seasonings to tastee
  • Add the corn
  • Simmer 15 more minutes

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  • Serve with toppings

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Vegetable Drawer Pasta Friday

January 18, 2019

The plan is 10 miles in the morning so it’s Pasta Friday.  The plan is also to leave town on Sunday so it’s empty the fridge time.  I’ve been out two nights this week so there’s a fair amount still in the vegetable drawer and I pulled a bunch of it out to throw in my linguine.  The result?  Meh.  On one hand, pasta is always good, especially if you’re on a weight loss plan.  On the other, being at the mercy of vegetable drawer leftovers rarely results in greatness.

What did I have in the drawer you ask?  Broccoli slaw, broccoli crowns, matchstick carrots, roasted eggplant slices (left from the pizza), a few mushrooms, and a bunch of tiny tomatoes.  I selected the eggplant, mushrooms and tomatoes for the pasta, plus some onion, garlic, mozzarella, and spices from Penzey’s.  All good choices.  So why meh?  Everything in the pasta is on the mellow and sweet side. There’s no punch.  I might have been better off to pull some artichoke hearts out of the cabinet and swap out the mushrooms for those.  Hindsight is 20/20 of course.

I learned something else tonight too.  Ok, I didn’t so much learn it as I was reminded of it.  A “serving” of pasta is a lot smaller than I’d like to believe.

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Overall, I’m going to call tonight a success.  I used up a bunch of vegetables instead of throwing them out.  I observed Pasta Friday without blowing out my healthy choices for today.

Eggplant Pizza!

January 17, 2019

The last couple of nights have been eating out nights – business dinner and book club.  So, I ate (and drank) well, but not terrifically aligned with my healthy eating plan.  I’ve been doing pretty well today, and I planned to use the eggplant in my vegetable drawer to make Chinese eggplant in spicy garlic sauce.  But come dinner time, I just didn’t have it in me. I’m tired.  And not feeling very adventurous.  Pizza.  Yes, pizza.  Still a way to use the eggplant.

I know, you’re thinking there’s nothing even vaguely healthy about putting fried eggplant on a slab of dough and covering it in cheese.  You’d be right about that.  So I didn’t fry it.  I roasted it.  No batter.  No breadcrumbs.  Just a tiny brush of olive oil and some salt.  So I can taste the eggplant.  Yum.  Naan as a base and sauce made by cooking down a jar of home canned tomatoes.  Easy peasy.  The hardest thing is not eating all the eggplant before the sauce and naan are ready.

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One tip about eggplant pizza.  After you roast the eggplant cut it up.  If you don’t, you know what happens.  The same thing that happens with pepperoni.  You bite into a piece and end up pulling the whole piece off.  Probably you burn your chin and definitely you leave a big naked spot on your pizza.  For that matter, cut the mozzarella too.

I have a wonderful Pizza setting on my countertop oven.  If you don’t have such a thing, no biggie.  Just use high heat.  450-500 degrees.  And if you have a Fan Bake setting, use that.  It will help the crust crisp up.

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Comfort food that isn’t fat food.  Ok, it’s a little bit fat, but totally worth it!

“Everyday” Red Lentils

January 13, 2019

I have developed a serious love for lentils prepared with Indian spices – dal, in many of its forms.  For this Southern girl, with weird food texture issues, it might seem an odd comfort food, but that’s exactly what it is.  So I’m always looking for new recipes. I found this on foodnetwork.com.  It’s from Aarti Sequeira, so that seemed legit.  Whether it’s traditional or not, I love it!

I planned this as the wonderful cap to my “snow” day.  Sadly, I found out too late that I only had 1/2 C of red lentils so there’s only 1 serving of leftovers!  Frankly, I could eat this the rest of the week except that I have an eggplant thing on tap and a business dinner.  If you end up in this spot you could always serve it on rice to stretch it some.

This is super easy.  I was a little nervous about having to substitute mustard for mustard seed, but it worked out ok!  Other than that, I followed the instructions. I don’t know enough about cooking Indian food to monkey around with it but so much.  Could you use canned tomatoes?  I don’t see why not.  You’re cooking them down so not having the peels might be nice.  Could you use ground cumin?  Sure, but trust me on this, it’s not the same.  If you want to cook Indian food, invest in some cumin seed.  I was a little sorry I didn’t have a hot chili to add.  I like a little heat and it helps me not eat too much!

I think you could add rice and spinach to complete this one dish meal.  Lentils have protein, but they don’t offer a complete protein. Rice rounds that out.  And a leafy green is always a good idea.  I’ll do that for the leftovers.  I was so ready for these to be done that I ate them as is!

The one surprise for me was that adding salt too soon will make the lentils tough.  It took a lot of restraint for me to wait to add salt!

Here’s what you need:  serves 4-6

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  • 1 cup red lentils, picked through for stones
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • One 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 serrano chile, sliced in 1/2, optional

Tempering Oil (Bagaar):

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • Generous 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Here’s what you do:

  • Put the lentils in a strainer and rinse them under running water. Add them to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of water, the onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, chile, if using, and the lentils. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim any scum from the surface. DO NOT ADD SALT YET; it will toughen the lentils, thereby lengthening their cooking time. Lower the heat, cover the pot with a lid and gently simmer until the lentils are tender, almost translucent, and almost falling apart, about 30 to 40 minutes.

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  • Whisk the lentils, releasing its natural starch, and mash some them so the mixture becomes thick. Add salt, to taste.

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  • Tempering oil (bagaar): In a small bowl, combine the oil and mustard. In another bowl, combine the spice powders and cumin seed. Have all the ingredients ready because this will move very fast!
  • In a small skillet, over a medium-high flame, warm 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add seeds and immediately cover so you don’t get covered in spluttering oil and seeds! Add the spices. They should sizzle and bubble a little – that’s the blooming and it’s exactly what you want. Don’t let them burn. The mixture should bloom for about 30 seconds, no more.

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  • Pour the oil mixture into the lentils, standing back so you don’t get hurt when the mixture splutters again. Stir to combine.

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This is so good, y’all.  Really.  Every bit as much comfort food as mac and cheese or mashed potatoes.  And it’s vegan, for those of you who care about that.  It’s low fat and WW friendly.  Gotta love a comfort food that doesn’t make you feel the slightest bit guilty about over-indulging.  Enjoy!