Archives for category: Rice

Lentils can be quick. Let me prove it to you. I worked from home yesterday and in the time it took me to get ready to go to a noon yoga class I had prepared a dahl with rice.

I’ve written before on dahl but that was a little more labor-intensive and time-consuming than this quickie meal. This meal, while it can be put together in a snap, still has plenty of payoff: filling, satisfying, and spicy, these lentils go great with steaming basmati rice and a side of greens.

I’m not sure how or why, but dahl is one my ultimate comfort foods. Given that I grew up on pb&j and fish sticks, this isn’t necessarily intuitive, but it’s now a given. Once I discovered I could make my own at home, well, the rest is history.

And one of the best parts about this dish was I had everything on hand and did not consult even one recipe. I worked from memory and guessed on the amounts of everything.

If you have garam masala on hand it will make this meal all that faster. If not, you have a couple of options. Either use what you have and make the best of it: turmeric powder and ground cumin will go a long way. If you have coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, whole black peppercorns, mustard seeds, and the time and patience, I’d recommend quickly toasting these in a small cast-iron skillet, then grinding in a spice or coffee grinder. You can see my recipe here for a homemade curry powder, or garam masala.

Any lentils will really work here, except maybe French green lentils, which I’d use more for salads than dahl. I used the red lentils I always have on hand—the pinch of turmeric is what turns the dish yellow. I threw in half a veggie bouillon cube for flavor, but you definitely don’t need to.

The key to making this dish, and making it seem effortless, is getting everything cooking in the pot, then forgetting about it while you go do something else for a while, like some downward dogs.

Curry in a Hurry

Makes 4 servings

1 tbsp olive oil, butter, or ghee
1 medium onion, diced
2 dried red chiles
1 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 c water
1 c lentils, rinsed and drained
1/2 bouillon cube, optional
salt, to taste

In a large, sturdy pot, heat your oil or butter over a medium flame, then add the diced onion. Cook the onion for about 5-10 minutes; you can leave the lid partially on to speed along the cooking and avoid the onions smoking. Once the onions are translucent or starting to brown, add a dash of salt, 1 or 2 dried red chiles, depending on how much heat you like, the garam masala, and turmeric. Give it all a stir.

Add 1 c of water and the lentils and turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, you can add the bouillon if using, and the remaining 1 c water. Turn the heat down to simmer and cover completely. Let simmer for at least 15 minutes, if that’s all the time you have, a little bit more if you’ve got the time. Turn off the heat, keep the lid on, and let stand for at least 10 more minutes.

Quick tip: I turned off the heat on the lentils after about 15 minutes of cooking, went to my class, and when I came back they were done. (If you like them more creamy, or completely dissolved, let cook for longer.) Same with the rice, I turned off the heat after it cooked for only 15 minutes, and it cooked itself in the steam with the lid on.

Serve the dahl over rice. If it’s spicy you might like a little plain yogurt spooned on top. I also like to eat this with a side of sauteed collard greens or kale.

It’s official, I’m in a soup phase. What can I say, it’s that time of year when the thought of eating anything cold sends shivers down my spine, even though, yes, this is the mildest winter in a while. Even so, a couple months back I started warming up my cereal before eating it (cold milk? no thank you!) and cut back on green smoothies.

So how to still get all the greens I want, with all the warmth I crave? Green soups.

Lucky for me, Anna Thomas paved the way for green soups with her 2009 cookbook, Love Soup. She seems to be considered the godmother of green soups so I dutifully read up on her methods and set out to create my own.

The basic method is you get yourself two big bunches of your favorite greens—chard, spinach, kale, collards, watercress—slowly caramelize two big onions, then add 1/4 c uncooked rice, vegetable stock, the greens, and voila. You finish it off with a bit of acidity (lemon juice, vinegar), pinch of cayenne, salt, and pepper, and puree it all in a blender or with an immersion blender. The rice, especially arborio, adds creaminess and body to the soup (so it’s not thin or watery), without using cream. Serve drizzled with your favorite olive oil and perhaps some crusty bread.

I had two bunches of green kale so that’s what I made this version with, although I’d love to try with chard and collard greens. I made my own vegetable stock on the adjacent burner, although you could use store-bought or veggie bouillon if you’re short on time.

Green Soup – Beginner’s Basic

Serves 8

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, diced
splash white wine, optional, for deglazing
1/4 rice, arborio works best
3 c water
2 big bunches of greens, washed and chopped coarsely
4 c vegetable broth
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar, such as red wine or rice wine

1. Heat the olive oil in a stock pot or dutch oven on low heat then add the onions. Continue to cook over very low heat, with a lid mostly covering the pot to keep in the moisture, 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the onions start to stick or turn dark brown add a splash of white wine to deglaze the pot. Meanwhile, if you’re making your own veggie stock, get this going in another pot on the stove. I use 4 c water and add any veggies I have around such as carrots, onions, celery, a bay leaf or two, black peppercorns, etc., bring to a boil, then let simmer for 45 minutes.

2. Once the onions are deeply caramelized, add the water to the pot, and the rice, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the chopped greens. If you’re using spinach, add the sturdier greens first (like kale or chard), and the spinach 5 minutes later since it wilts quickly. Add the veggie broth and cayenne, and bring to a simmer, cooking for another 5 minutes. Don’t overcook, otherwise the greens become dull and lose all their wonderful color. Turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper, and add your acid (lemon juice or vinegar).

3. You can puree the soup using an immersion blender all at once in the stock pot, or in batches in a stand-up blender. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. I like some crostini on the side with a creamy cheese or slather of butter.

Look at the color of these caramelized onions!

And here’s the soup, with Ninja blender in the background, which recently cost me half a fingernail while washing the blade.

Full disclosure: I love mochi. I love rice. Glutinous rice? Even better. Does anyone ever ask you, “if you could only ever have rice or pasta for the rest of your life, which would you choose?” It’s a cruel game. I think I used to say “pasta, duh,” but I changed my mind: rice. Duh.

Brown, white, red, black, long, short, fragrant, I love it all. Well except Uncle Ben’s or the kind that comes in ready-to-boil bags which I remember my dad making for a spell when I was in high school. (He was a busy social worker/single dad at the time.)

So when I went to Japan for the first time four years ago for New Year’s I was delighted to discover that mochi is a traditional holiday food. In fact, I woke up, and Yuji’s parents served us zoni for breakfast. Zoni is a clear soup typically eaten on New Year’s – made with a dashi or miso broth – containing the glutinous rice cakes known as mochi, as well as vegetables and fish. The mochi was cut into medium-sized rectangles and was chewy and hearty and satisfying. I was warned by Yuji’s parents not to choke, since the sticky rice squares can easily catch in your throat if you’re not careful.

That mochi was not sweet. Nor did it taste like the weird brown stuff labeled mochi sold in health food stores here in the U.S. that we served as “dessert” for the gluten-free kids at the farm camp where I worked. No, this mochi was smooth with the subtlest texture on the outside and tasted just like the thing you’d want to eat if it was cold outside and you were sipping green tea. It’s Japanese comfort food at its finest. And good mochi stretches like taffy or mozzarella cheese when you bite onto it and pull your chopsticks away.

Mochi is eaten year round in Japan and other parts of Asia, but this time of year it’s common to buy and give as gifts. I’ve also been invited to take part in my Japanese language school’s annual mochitsuki, which means rice pounding. When you’re in NYC and have mochi on the brain you can go straight to the source. Not Tokyo, but the next best thing: Minamoto Kitchoan, a Japanese confectionary shop near Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.

Minamoto Kitchoan is a shop based in Tokyo, but with outposts in New York, London, Singapore, San Fran, and Shanghai. Their speciality is wagashi, little sweets like mochi typically eaten during a Japanese tea ceremony. I took a trip there this week (they’re on 5th Ave. and 49th St.) and took shelter from the rain and delighted in the beautiful confections wrapped in perfect little packages.

Some are made with green tea, some are filled with sweet red bean. One of my favorites is sakuramochi which looks in fact like a beautiful little cherry blossom. You can see from the price tags that sweets from this shop don’t come cheap. But it’s a once-a-year special treat kind of thing. Unless you form an addiction, which I’m not ruling out. The individual mochi pieces are only about $3 a piece.

In the U.S. we say there’s a man on the moon right; in Japan they say there’s a rabbit on the moon. Not only that, the rabbit is pounding rice on the moon, making mochi.

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