Mum’s Everyday Red Lentils

(Recipe source: Food Network, Aarti Sequeira, 2010)

Maybe it’s the changing weather, but we’ve been craving soups and stews and nice bowls of something hot and hearty. Then I discovered we had several bags of Bob’s Red Mill Red Lentils in the cupboard. I googled for recipes and the following one looked particularly good. I made it on Monday and Michelle asked for it AGAIN this week! Most of the following are from the original recipe, however, I increased the seasonings and added a little more heat. I also wanted a heartier version of dal (more like stew rather than soup), so I added half a bag of Trader Joe’s kale. This one is a keeper!

Lentils (Dal):

1 cup masoor dal red lentils, picked through for stones
2 cups water
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 bunch of kale, chopped (bigger stems removed)
1 jalapeno chile, minced
1 teaspoon chile flakes

Tempering oil (bagaar):

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon vegetable oil


Handful chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Lemon wedges


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, 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.

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

Tempering oil (bagaar): In a small bowl, combine the cumin and mustard seeds. In another bowl, combine the spice powders. 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. (I have never bloomed anything before, so this was a learning experience.) Don’t let them burn. The mixture should bloom for about 30 seconds, no more.

Pour the oil mixture into the lentils, standing back so you don’t get hurt when the mixture splutters again. Stir to combine. Transfer the lentils to a serving dish and garnish with cilantro and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Modified from the original recipe, which you can find here, along with nutritional information. This recipe is super easy to make – total prep time is about 35 minutes, total cook time is about 40 minutes. Serves 4.


JB’s Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters (Photo credit: AlyssssylA)

Yield: About 10 2 1/2 inch fritters

1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive or another oil of your choice, for frying
JB addition: I’d add 1/4 cup parmesan

To serve (optional):

1 cup sour cream or plain, full-fat yogurt
1 to 2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinches of salt
1 small minced or crushed clove of garlic

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Have a baking sheet ready.

Trim ends off zucchini and grate them either on the large holes of a box grater or, if you have one, using the shredding blade of a food processor. The latter is my favorite as I’m convinced it creates the coarsest and most rope-like strands and frankly, I like my fritters to look like mops.

In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: pressing it against the holes of a colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water, squeezing out small handfuls at a time, or wrapping it up in a clean dishtowel or piece of cheese cloth and wringing away. You’ll be shocked (I was!) by the amount of liquid you’ll lose, but this is a good thing as it will save the fritters from sogginess.

Return deflated mass of zucchini shreds to bowl. Taste and if you think it could benefit from more salt (most rinses down the drain), add a little bit more; we found 1/4 teaspoon more just right. Stir in scallions, egg and some freshly ground black pepper. In a tiny dish, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the zucchini batter.

In a large heavy skillet — cast iron is dreamy here — heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet only a few at a time so they don’t become crowded and lightly nudge them flatter with the back of your spatula. Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you find this happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed. Repeat process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter. I like to make sure that the fritters have at least 10 minutes in the oven to finish setting and getting extra crisp.

For the topping, if using, stir together the sour cream, lemon juice, zest, salt and garlic and adjust the flavors to your taste. Dollop on each fritter before serving. These fritters are also delicious with a poached or fried egg on top, trust me.

Do ahead: These fritters keep well, either chilled in the fridge for the better part of a week and or frozen in a well-sealed package for months. When you’re ready to use them, simply spread them out on a tray in a 325 degree oven until they’re hot and crisp again.


Kale Pesto

I was going to name this Amy Lee’s Kale Pesto, but since she didn’t share the recipe with me, I can only acknowledge her for the inspiration. If you have a buttload of curly kale from the garden, like I did, this is a wonderful addition to your menu. I had to do this in a couple of batches because there was so much kale. You can reproportion this to suit your taste.

I modeled this recipe after a similar experiment with broccoli. Traditional pesto is usually too hot (from all the basil) and too garlicky for me. So I swapped half the amount of basil for a whole head of steamed broccoli. The result was an amazingly creamy and light (and more nutritious) version of pesto.

I think you will like the kale version too. Because kale is more of a bitter green than broccoli, I would recommend adding the juice of a lemon to brighten it up a bit — but it’s not necessary. You could use this in a pasta dish, or as a marinade/rub for fish and chicken. It’s really delicious.

The following yields 4 cups of kale pesto. There was so much of it, I had to package them up and freeze them for later use.


1 armful of kale, approximately 8 bunches if store bought.
1 really big bunch of basil
8 thumb-size cloves of garlic
1 cup of pine nuts (or walnuts)
1 cup grated parmesan (I used pecorino romano)
1/2 C. olive oil (this is about half the recommended)
1 lemon (juice)

Since I used pecorino romano, I did not add any salt, because it’s a saltier hard cheese. If you use parmessan, you might want to add a pinch.

Remove the stem (rib?) from kale and steam-cook them until soft. Remove stem from basil. Throw everything together in a food processor. Pulse and process for a couple of minutes until well blended. (Unless you have a really big food processor, I would recommend doing this in a couple of batches.)

Marinated artichokes

In a recent Costco trip with Mom, I bought one these gigantic jars of marinated artichokes.

As much as I love them in pasta or on pizza, there’s only so much you can eat.

65 ounces is a whole lot of chokes. And the jar won’t fit in the fridge with all the other stuff vying for room and attention.

I started looking for recipes on the internet. I’ll probably make hot artichoke dip to bring over for Thanksgiving…but I will still have at least a half a jar left over. If you have any other creative ideas, please send them to me!

(And, yes, this is what I think about when I’m at work.)

“Crabby noodles”, (Miến Xào), part 2

This is another super easy recipe, a variation of the “leeky noodles” recipe which was posted a while back. Same exact list of ingredients, except that I substituted crab meat from one whole crab instead of Chinese sausage and shallots instead of an onion. Oh, and added a couple of dashes of fish sauce. The result was a delicious and quick dinner. Try it; you’ll like it. 🙂


Vietnamese Chicken Curry (Cà Ri Gà)

“Curry” is a generic word typically used to describe a tasty stew of meat and vegetable. But in fact, it is a blend of spices — cumin, coriander, turmeric, clove and cinnamon being the most common. There are as many varieties of curry as there are cuisines. Most people are familiar with Indian and Thai curries, and maybe can tell the difference between the two. Thai curries come in “shades of hot”, as I call it, but the heat factor is not necessarily accurate as it also depends a great deal on the labels. Red, yellow, green curries all refer to the type of pepper that is used in the mixture. Indian curries tend to be the most prolific in term of varieties,  each region claiming its own special blend, with madras and masala being the most well-known.  Panang-style curry is also gaining popularity in the US as I have seen it listed in a few restaurants. It is typically beef (or goat in Malaysia), and is quite hot. I can still remember sitting in a small neighborhood restaurant in Panang, eating a bowl of this tasty stew (more water, please), in between hiccups (I get them when the food is really spicy hot). By the way, water does not really work. You need to drink something hot (like hot tea) to remove the pepper oils.

Now that I’m older and a little less adventurous, I have developed a few favorites that I’ll go back to time and again. I still like Grandma’s Vietnamese Chicken Curry the best, although I still can’t quite duplicate it exactly the same. In addition to sweet potato, she used this small dense root vegetable (cassava? taro?) that adds a nice starchy texture to the stew. Regardless, the recipe below is quite tasty, and is pretty easy to make. Traditional recipe calls for chicken thighs, but you can use chicken breast to cut back on the calories. Because it simmers in the sauce for a while, the breast does not come out dry and chewy. In Vietnam, we eat this dish with sliced warm fluffy french bread. Try that or serve with steamed rice.

A note on the curry blend:  We used to be able to get the 3 Golden Bells label, but I haven’t been able to find it in a while. The closest one I could find is the 4 Elephant brand. Whole Foods has several blends as well — I’m not as fond of them as the Asian ones. You can experiment with different types until you find one that you like. But stick with the yellow curry powder. And if you get overwhelmed by an Asian market, any madras curry will do.

This recipe makes a LOT of chicken curry — but we usually make a big batch and freeze for lunches. (I still love my Food Saver!) Cut the recipe by half for 4 servings.

3 pounds skinned chicken (bone-in for added flavor)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
2 large carrots, sliced diagonally (about an inch thick)
2 small onions, cut into wedges
1/2 cup or so curry powder
3 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 lemongrass stalks (mostly white and pale green parts), cut into 3″ lengths and bruised
2″ piece of ginger, bruised, peeled and sliced thickly
4 cups of chicken stock (or Trader Joe’s sweet potato soup)
1 can of coconut milk
4 tbs of fish sauce (more or less to taste)
salt to taste
cilantro for garnish

Put the curry powder on a flat plate, and coat the chicken evenly on both sides. Use your fingertips to “massage” the curry powder into the chicken. Put aside for 30 minutes.

In a big skillet, add a tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions, shallots, garlic and stir until fragrant — 10 seconds or so. Add the chicken and brown both sides. Add lemongrass and ginger. Pour on top the chicken stock (or sweet potato soup), and bring to a slow boil. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the garnish), cover and simmer for a half hour. Discard lemongrass stalks before serving.

Ingredients I usually leave out are 3 tablespoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of red chile flakes. I figure it’s already hot and sweet enough, but add them to your taste.

“Leeky” Noodles (Miến Xào)

This is a ridiculously simple and easy “comfort” food recipe; without all the calories. In Vietnamese, “miến xào” literally translates to “mung bean noodles, sautéed”. You can choose your own ingredients for this recipe — except for the “miến”, or mung bean noodles, of course. Easy combinations include onions and mushrooms, wood ear (or “wood lichen”) and chicken livers/gizzards, greens (mustard, kale, spinach), or whatever. We had a bunch of leeks in the fridge, so I threw this combo together. It was delicious! Michelle decided to name it “Leeky Noodles” coz she liked it so much.

One note on the Chinese sweet sausage — there are as many varieties of these as there are combinations to this recipe. I lucked out and found a “lean” version of these at our local Ranch 99 Supermarket. This variety was both flavorful and lean — only 85 calories each. If you were a true Chinese sweet sausage believer, you will have a favorite brand. We tried this brand and like it a lot. However, just to reiterate again,you can use any meat in this recipe — chicken, pork, beef. Or go vegetarian and use fried tofu.

Prep time, about 15 minutes. Cook time, about 15 minutes.

2 oz. mung bean noodles (also called “translucent” or “silver” noodles), soaked in warm water until “soft”, drained and cut into 3″ length
1 small onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 small leeks, white and pale green segment only, thinly sliced
½ cup shitake mushrooms, sliced
½ brown mushrooms, sliced
½ cup wood ear, sliced
4 Chinese sausage, sliced diagonally

In big skillet, sautée onions for about 2 minutes, or until *just* soft. Add sliced leeks and sautée leeks for about 10 minutes (or until soft). Add garlic, mushrooms, wood ear, and Chinese sweet sausage. Sautée for about 2 minutes, and add the drained mung bean noodles. Sautée for about another minute or so (until the noodle is soft, but not mushy).

Makes 2 servings.