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

Garnish:

Handful chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Lemon wedges

Directions

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.

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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.

Ingredients:

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.)

“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. 🙂

 

Your-wish-is-my-command (rice flour, orange blueberry) pancakes!

Over the 4th of July weekend, I cooked a few items that were really yummy. Early one morning Michelle woke up and said “I want pancakes for breakfast!” But we don’t have any pancake mix. And I thought we were staying away from gut-bomb foods in general. “Well, how hard can it be?”, she said, “It’s just flour eggs and milk.”

My eyes narrowed. She does this to me on purpose. She knows I have a hard time resisting a creative challenge, especially when it comes to cooking. I do the same thing to Iris, when we’re at the gym. “It’s ok if you can only do 40 pounds”, I would say, and then she adds another 20 pounds on the machine just to prove me wrong.

Anyway, this came out SO good that even my friend Juniper asked for it (and she’s pretty picky when it comes to sharing recipes). This is dairy-free, gluten-free, light, fluffy, and bursting with flavor! And I’m not saying that because I made it. It is seriously good! Mind you, this is what we have available in our cupboard — you can make substitutes along the way. The light and fluffy part, I’ve decided, came from us not using any milk or regular flour.

1 C. rice flour (white or brown)
3 T. tapioca flour
1 T. sugar
1 t. xanthan gum
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
1 C. fresh squeezed orange juice w/pulp (about 3 oranges)
1 C. coconut water or coconut juice
A handful of dried blueberries (fresh ones will probably be too tart)
A pinch of cinnamon
A dash of vanilla

Mix all that up in a big bowl with a hand blender until just thick enough. Pour a small ladel-full onto a greased hot pan. (The “dimples” or “bubbles” won’t form with gluten-free flour, so you’ll have to judge when it’s just a little brown on the bottom before flipping it over.) Serve with butter and maple syrup, and enjoy!

Bob’s Red Mill Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix

Last night Michelle had a hankering for nutritious whole grain bread. Naturally my first thought was “Yay, I get to try out my Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch® Nonstick Perforated French Bread Pan“. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, since 1) I’ve never made french bread before, and 2) gluten-free breads aren’t known for their, um, fluffiness. Well, imagine my surprise when this turned out as well as it did.

Let me first say that if you just follow the instructions on the package, you cannot go wrong. The bread turned out “moist, fluffy, delicious, and bursting with flavors” — just as Bob’s Red Mill claims! I also liked the fact that it’s milk-free (not quite dairy-free, since you have to use 2 eggs.) And, even though I managed to screw up the instructions (I added a Tablespoon of cider vinegar instead of a teaspoon), the bread still turned out phenomally. It is the next-level of homemade bread! (Juniper, eat your heart out!)

Besides Bob’s Red Mill Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix, the main ingredients you’ll need are:

1)  1-3/4 cups water
2)  1/4 cup oil (I used organic extra virgin olive)
3)  2 eggs
4)  1 tsp. cider vinegar (I used Bragg’s apple cider vinegar)

You can also use a bread machine if you want — I didn’t, and I don’t think you need to drag out your bread machine for this. And remember, I screwed up, in more than one way. The water I used to dissolve the yeast was probably too warm (it never foamed). After mixing the bread, I scooped it out directly onto the bread pan — without greasing it (the pan was supposed to be non-stick anyway.) And then I stuck the whole thing in the oven at 100°F for 30 minutes to let it rise (instead of 45 minutes at 75°F). Then, I left the bread in the oven and turned it up to 375°F, and baked for 45 minutes (instead of 1 hour). But, I figured that since we were making two smaller loafs than one big one, the amount of oven time was appropriate. Besides, I didn’t want it to burn too much. Needless to say, it was the longest 45 minutes ever, because the whole house smelled like a real bakery and we just want to taste that hot bread as soon as it came out of the oven. (“What do you mean we have to let it cool completely before slicing?”)

The loafs don’t look all that pretty, but boy, were they tasty! We had some last night and again this morning. What I hadn’t mentioned is that I also added a handful of pumpkin/sunflower/hemp seeds to the mix — for that extra nuttiness. It was delicious. This is definitely a keeper!

“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.

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free

A couple of weeks ago, we decided to try some of Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free stuff. I have always been really fond of bread, and even though I don’t suffer from wheat allergies, I can’t help but equate gluten to wheat. When it comes to bread, if I eat it once, I’m goingt to want it again. This is completely non-scientific, of course, but my reasoning is that it’s one of those vicious cycles where you can’t feed your cravings enough. Kind of like sugar. Except I love bread like a hundred times more than sugar.

I’m not much of a baker. My desire to bake pretty much died at the tender young age of 13 when I made my first cherry pie. It was so bad that, get this, Tammy the dog would not even eat it. Anyway, I decided to give it a go — after all, how bad can it be if it’s already pre-mixed. Plus, there are all those 4/5 stars with all the glowing reviews. I decided to make the bread first. I didn’t have any milk handy, but I did have some half-and-half. And almost exactly half of the amount of what the recipe called for. So, I diluted the half-and-half by half, and added water to make up the difference. Only much later did I find out that adding water to the half-and-half doesn’t exactly equal milk (something about the milk fat content.)

 

I took this picture before I pulled the bread out of the oven, as Michelle exclaimed “It’s not a soufflé, you know.”  Indeed, that loaf retained its full shape and size the whole week after. It was huge — twice as much bread as I was after.  It was a dense loaf — something I would have expected of a darker mix, like rye or pumpernickel. But it had a really nice flavor and a sweet aroma. While it was good, it was not great. I suppose that for a sandwich or toasts, it would have been ok. However, I was looking forward to that crusty sour-doughy french bread. Oh well.  I would probably make this again, if I could figure out how to cut it in half. (And now that I’ve purchased some active dry yeast, maybe we can try it again next weekend.)

We had much better luck with the pizza. Again, the crust was not really crusty as much as it was “noodly”, but it tasted really good! And with the right toppings, the pizza would be downright acceptable. Again, it was twice the amount that we needed, so we made two pizzas, two nights in a row! The first one was a combination (pictured below) and had sweet italian sausage that I rolled up into little balls, Louisiana hot links instead of pepperoni, chopped basil, shredded fresh mozzarella cheese. The second pizza was a caramelized onion, mushrooms (shitake, crimini, white, beech), goat cheese combo. Both were instant hits. On a scale of 1 to 10, we would rate this as an 8.5 and would definitely use Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Crust mix again. The best thing about the mixes (both bread and pizza) is that you don’t have to knead, punch, roll, or any of that — just mix and go.

Over the weekend, I bought a french loaf pan from Williams Sonoma. They carry a line of Goldtouch Nonstick bakeware that I really like a lot. It’s heavy duty, and as the name suggests, nonstick. Anyway, I’m going to look up recipes for GF French bread and see if I can make some. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it…we also picked up a copy of Tartine, the famous cookbook from the famous bakery in San Francisco, whose 3,000 loaves of bread sell out within an hour when the doors open in the afternoon. We’ll just have to see…..the book even has a recipe for Vietnamese sandwich bread, bánh mì. Hmmmm…maybe I can concoct a GF version of this.