Usually dinner is just dinner, but sometimes it’s dinner. I will lightly — and willingly — step over this fine line; it often catches me unawares (see: the cauliflower soup I made last month) and it is never unwelcome. Such little delicious pleasures seem to occur when I’m feeling a little weary of cooking (the horror!), and thus I might be forced to flip through some of my cookbooks, or visit an old standby for inspiration. If I’m lucky, I’ll actually come up with something both surprising and delightful.
[Coconut-Red Lentil Curry with Bay Leaf Rice Pilaf and cucumbers in yogurt]
On Monday I was sleepy — due mostly to a fabulous holiday party attended over the weekend that had lingering after-effects — and San Francisco was (still is, alas) quite soggy. It was a very wintry-wet day, one that nearly begged for a simple dish of lentils and rice. And so I answered December’s plea and was proved correct: they were a perfect accompaniment to the kind of dozy, mellow mood the day and I were in.
[All recipes from epicurious with my adaptations]
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils (10 oz)
1 (13- to 14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
Cook onion in oil in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until edges are golden, about 6 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Stir in water, lentils, and coconut milk, then simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Simmer, covered, until lentils are tender about 15 minutes. Season with salt and serve with cilantro sprigs scattered on top.
3 Turkish bay leaves or 1 1/2 California
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups long-grain white rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup water
3/4 cup vegetable broth
Cook bay leaves in oil in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, turning over occasionally, until leaves are lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until pale golden, about 30 seconds. Add rice, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring gently to avoid breaking bay leaves, 1 minute. Add water and broth and bring to a full boil, uncovered, over high heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, then reduce heat to low and simmer until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand, undisturbed, 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and discard bay leaves.
To accompany, I whipped up a little faux-tziki: about a 1/2-cup of low-fat plain yogurt to which I added a bit of salt and a de-seeded, chopped up cucumber.
This weekend heralds one of my favorite food holidays — probably because it involves latkes, the most delicious potato concotion ever created. I shall also attempt to make some sufganiot which I’ve made before to not-wonderful results. Now I have a candy/cooking thermometer with which to gauge the temperature of the oil in which they will be fried, so I will have no excuse if they turn out terribly — and I hope they do not.