spicy lentil dal

Do you know what yesterday was? The one-year anniversary of this here blog. Happy birthday Baxter & Main! I had high hopes of redesigning the layout, getting a new font, real logo, and proper header to mark this occasion… but alas, it did not happen in time. Such is life. Until I get around to all of those things I will still bring you good food, such as this spicy lentil dal.

The recipe calls for red lentils which cook down in a hurry and turn into something of a paste in the process. The author recommends serving it over rice, as I have done here, or but you can also serve it like a dip with crackers. I did not have red lentils on hand but had plenty of brown and green lentils so decided to substitute those instead. Note that if you use brown or green lentils the simmering time is going to be longer (doubled for brown, tripled for green) and also the texture more firm. I can assure it tasted great just the same.

I cooked up some black rice to serve with the dal as it is supposed to be extra healthy since it is full of antioxidants. Plus it looks really pretty and I’m a sucker for aesthetics. (Speaking of, check out my new plate below: I scored several boxes full of these dishes at a barn sale last weekend for the whopping grand total of $4. Jackpot!)

Spicy Lentil Dal (adapted slightly from recipe found in Vegetarian Times magazine)

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed (you can also use brown or green lentils as I have done here, however consistency will not be as intended)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ cup light coconut
  • 2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Bring broth and lentils to a boil in pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer 10 minutes, or until lentils are tender (if using brown or green lentils simmer time will be between 20 to 30 minutes). Cover, and remove from heat.

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper flakes; sauté 5 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, and coriander; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add coconut milk.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in lime juice. Serve over rice.

mid-week middle eastern meal

I used to work at an ad agency in metro Detroit.  I love that city, I really do.  I could devote a whole post (or two or ten) about my love for it but will start by talking about the food in the cafeteria at the ad agency I used to work at.  It was run by people of Lebanese and Yemeni descent and the food very much reflected that.

I had a few exposures to Middle Eastern food before living in metro D but it was pretty much restricted to pita and hummus.  The cafeteria opened my eyes to the beauty of things like shish tawook, chicken kafta, and a beautiful dish called mujadera.

Mujadera involves lentils, (and you know how much I love lentils) rice, and onions– both cooked and caramelized.

I had plenty of rice on hand but also had farro and thought that might make a nice substitute.  Farro is in the wheat family, similar to barley.  It is hearty and nutty and delicious in savory dishes.

While the lentils, onions, and farro were cooking on the stovetop I turned my attention to caramelizing some onions to top the mujadera with.

Caramelizing onions is easy and the results are delicious.  I’d venture a guess that even people who don’t like onions under normal circumstances like caramelized ones.

If I were making caramelized onions to go on a burger or to top a pizza I might stop at the below….

But for this dish you want them brown like the below image.  I don’t even mind if they’re a little on the black side even though the recipe warns you to be careful of burning them.

I was psyched to find this recipe in a cookbook I had because Wisconsin is relatively void of Middle Eastern food and now I can make this for myself at home.  Score!  Takes me back to my days of eating lunch at the cafeteria in Detroit…

Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions (Mujadera) (from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, plus 1 large or 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups lentils, washed and picked over
  • About 6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water, warmed
  • 1 cup long- or short- grain rice (or farro)

Place 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, deep saucepan and turn the heat to medium.  A minute later, add the chopped onion and cook until it begins to become tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook 3 minutes more.  Add the lentils, stir, and add about 4 cups liquid.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils begin to soften, about 20 minutes.  Add enough of the remaining stock or water so that the lentils are covered by about an inch of liquid.  Stir in the rice.  Cover and turn the heat to low.

Meanwhile, place the remaining oil in a medium skillet and turn the heat to medium-high.  Cook the onion slices, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown but not burned, about 15 minutes.  Scoop out the onions and let them drain on paper towels while you finish cooking the lentils and rice.

Check the rice and lentils after 20 minutes.  When both are tender and the liquid is absorbed, the dish is ready.  If the lentils and rice are not tender, add more liquid, cover, and cook for a few more minutes.  If, on the contrary, the rice and lentils are soft and there is much liquid remaining, raise the heat a bit and cook, uncovered, stirring until it evaporates.

Serve the rice and lentils, garnished with the caramelized onions.

a meal Michelle Obama would approve of

I did a very bad thing last night.  For the first time in months I ate fast food.  I NEVER eat fast food but every now and again after a long week it just sounds good.  And even though yesterday was only Wednesday it had already been a long week and a few coworker/friends of mine and I decided that we needed to escape the office for a bit and indulge.  I’m feeling a little guilty (and tubby) this morning and decided to atone by posting on a very healthy meal I made over the weekend…

The healthy meal starts with lentils and you all know how I feel about lentils.  Delicious!

Then you add some carrots, garlic, and onions.  Sounds good so far!

While that was cooking I got started on a favorite side dish of mine that I learned from a friend who made it for a dinner she hosted years ago.  It involves spinach, raisins, pine nuts (I did not have any on-hand so substituted walnuts) and onions.  It’s tasty and healthy!

The combination is savory, sweet, salty, crunchy, and overall packed with things that are good for you.  I love it when things that are good for you actually taste good too!

Back to the lentil dish… it also involves pan-grilled salmon but this morning I realized that I did not get a photo of the actual salmon.  Oops.  The salmon is in the picture below but you can’t tell because I buried it with the cooked lentils and it turns out I was supposed to put the salmon on top of a bed of lentils.  I’m not running a restaurant here, people– it doesn’t always look pretty.  But it tasted pretty darn good and it almost makes me feel less bad about the chicken fingers, sweet potato fries, and custard/cookie dough concoction that I ate last night.  Almost.

Pan-Grilled Salmon Fillets with Lentils (adapted from recipe by Mark Bittman in “How to Cook Everything”)

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 cup green lentils, washed and picked over
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons mixed dry herbs (I used Herbs de Provence)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 center-cut salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each, skin on (but scaled) or off, pin bones removed

Place lentils in a large, deep saucepan with water to cover.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 15 to 20 minutes, then add the carrots, onion, garlic, and herbs.

Continue to cook, adding water if necessary (keep this to a minimum), until lentils and vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes total.  Season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil, and keep warm.

Heat a large non-stick skillet (I don’t own non-stick cookware so I put a little olive oil on a non non-stick skillet to coat the pan) over high heat for about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle the bottom of the skillet with coarse salt, then add the salmon, skin side down.  Cook over high heat until well browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes.  Flip the salmon and cook 1 additional minute.  Place about 1 cup of lentils in the center of each of four serving plate and top with a salmon fillet (I mistakenly did the opposite.  It will be much more attractive if the salmon is on top!)

Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins (found at www.epicurious.com, original recipe by Joyce Goldstein in “Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen”)

6 servings

  • 2 1/2 pounds spinach
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small yellow onions or 6 green onions, minced
  • 4 tablespoons raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (I did not have pine nuts on hand so substituted walnuts, I have also used pecans in the past and they were good too)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the spinach well and remove the stems. Place in a large sauté pan with only the rinsing water clinging to the leaves. Cook over medium heat, turning as needed until wilted, just a few minutes. Drain well and set aside. Add the olive oil to the now-empty pan and place over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the spinach, raisins, and pine nuts and sauté briefly to warm through. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature.

taco tuesday

I love me some lentils.  I don’t think I had ever even eaten lentils until I was in college and discovered that I liked the vegetarian version of my dorm cafeteria’s shepherd’s pie more than the meat version.  Lentils are super hearty and I hear they are good for you too.  Bonus!

 I’ve done a bit of experimenting with brown and red lentils and recently bought some French lentils which are green in color.  I don’t discriminate against lentils based on color.  They’re all equally good in my eyes.

I must admit, the dish I am about to share with you was not prepared by me but rather by a visiting friend and I immediately deemed it blog-worthy so took photos and asked for the recipe.  (Clearly I was so hungry that I rushed the photo-taking part…  Forgive me.)

 My friend made tacos out of lentils.  Tacos!  Who doesn’t like tacos??  The lentil tacos were so full of flavor and so hearty that I definitely didn’t regret the fact that they were meatless.  In fact, I celebrated that they were meatless.  Even though I love things like bacon and a nice roasted chicken I rarely prepare meat at home so I have a decent repertoire of vegetarian main dishes and this recipe will no doubt be added to it.  I suggest you do the same!

Apologies for the sparse posts lately.  I am in the midst of moving and thus not cooking/baking so much these days since all of my stuff is in boxes and my fridge looks like a total bachelor’s with nothing much apart from condiments in it.  But I will be settled into my new place soon and promise to return to more regular posts in the very near future!

Lentil Tacos (recipe found at www.runnersworld.com)

1 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup brown lentils, dry (note: I had French and red lentils on hand and used a combination and it worked just fine)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup water or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons dried black currants or raisins, minced
1 cup salsa, plus additional for topping
8 6-inch corn tortillas
shredded lettuce
chopped tomatoes
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

In a large frying pan over medium heat, sautée onions, celery, and garlic in the olive oil for five minutes or until vegetables are soft. Stir in the lentils, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Cook for one minute. Add the broth and raisins. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender (add more water or broth as needed). Remove the lid and cook an additional 10 minutes (until lentils are thick), stirring often. Fold in the salsa. Wrap the tortillas in a damp white cotton towel and microwave on high for one minute. Spoon the lentil mixture among the tortillas. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.
Serves four.