My mom’s lentils and rice.
Maybe the greatest comfort food of all time?
Stayed home sick from church last Sunday. Slept til 11 (who am I?!) and woke up lookin’ to make lentils and rice. My mama had company on the way and had dog-eared the recipe but not had time to make it. So once again, I took it upon myself to do so.
This recipe really is magic. The ingredient list is deceptively short, the preparation is absurdly easy but OH MY HEAVENS IT IS DELICIOUS.
You begin with, quite simply, lentils and rice.
You cook them (a cup of lentils, a cup of rice, giving the lentils a five minute head start) for twenty minutes in boiling stock of your choice (five cups), vegetable or chicken. I used my homemade veggie stock. I love how my stock is seasonal: I collect my veggie scraps based on what’s ripe in delicious, so right now it’s a lot of carrot and turnip and squash tops; whereas in the summer it might be more asparagus and red pepper-y. Fun!
The real secret is what happens while those lentils and rice are cooking: the sauce. The recipe hails from one of our Greek cook books (a consolidation of recipes from the women at a large church: seriously, if you can get your hands on one of those cook books, they are a gold mine. I should really do myself a favor and see if synagogues do a similar thing, cause you know me and Yiddish food).
So the sauce begins with that miraculous ingredient, so adored by the Greeks, so heart-healthy, so FLAVORFUL, one realizes when preparing this recipe that really gets most of its oomph from it: olive oil. Lots. I slightly cut back on it (1/2 a cup for 6 servings seemed like overkill, since it meant more than a tablespoon each) to a mere 1/3 of a cup.
Into that goes 1 cup onion to saute
Then open up a can of tomatoes, at which point if you have a cat they will likely go “Can being opened?! Can being opened?! Tuna juice for me?!”. Sorry champ.
She consoled herself by playing with her favorite toy of all time, my laundry hamper.
I added 1 cup of the tomaters, which is what the recipe calls for, but I’d forgotten that my mom usually just throws in a whole 28-oz can. So if you make this (and you should, particularly if the weather is nasty, which it continues to be), use the whole can.
Anyway, you squeeze ‘em up. Cook ‘em awhile. The sauce is soooooooooo rich!
Combine. Devour. This makes a ton, and it’s so great to just have in your fridge to heat up when you’re hungry. Or even to not heat up when you’re hungry. It’s yummy cold!
Exciting ethnic grocery store purchases:
So here’s what happened: I desperately wanted to recreate that heavenly yellow lentil dal I ate at Indus Valley in New York City. So I saw that bag and went ooh! Yellow lentily Indian looking things! In retrospect, they are probably mung (moong!) beans. But whatever.
Then I bought the chayote because I had a whole love affair with it over the summer.
Didn’t plan on combining them but searching for something healthy to do with the chayote with the ingredients I had on hand that particular day led me to curry… which led me back to the dal.
This was so-so because the boy and I were rushing off to go swing dancing (yay!) but the ingredients were yummy enough that I will give it another go-round when it can cook for the amount of time it deserves.
Ginger, garlic, jalapeno, mustard and cumin seeds, turmeric, coriander, and asafetida (FASCINATING spice! Once you smell it you will recognize it and it will remind you of delicious Indian food.)
I started with cooking up my seeds, turmeric, and coriander in hot oil to activate their flavors.
Then ginger, garlic, chile, and chayote. Let that all get golden.
Throw in lentils and liquid, and let it cook. A long time. Longer than I did.
It was aight. That thing on the side was peas with scads of slow cooked ginger and onions and garam masala, and THAT was good!
Another night all I really wanted was some roasted veggies. So I did that first. Turnips, brussels sprouts, sweet potater.
Then made a quick dal with those lentils and some berbere spice mix (Ethiopian seasoning- sweet and spicy and smoky. Yum!) that I had leftover from something I made ages ago.
Finally, my black bean soup.
For some reason, it was not quite up to my exacting standards this time (tasted too much like chili. Next time, less chili powder and more cumin! Perhaps even some chipotle? Ooh, and I just remembered I forgot the lime!) but the key is to make a base of flavor with veggies (lots! Onion, bell pepper, garlic, jalapeno) and spices and cook the spices in the oil to really amp up their flavors.
Plus dried black beans (presoaked) and a long cooking time for maximum textural awesomeness.
A very delicious, easily transported and reheated meal is that soup plus sweet potatoes.