Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cheap and Easy Weeknight Dinners: Dal Nirvana

I made this dish weeks ago and wanted to share it then. But my best intentions lately have gone very much awry- at least with this blog. I'm not really sure why it appealed to me or why I made it on a random night. But I did and it was delicious. It was also super easy because I completed a few steps ahead of time. I simmered the lentils and the rice in the afternoon while I was doing work. Then, when I got home after class, I was able to pull it together quickly. The flavor is amazing and it's so healthy and hearty and cheap! I'd really recommend it to everyone. I had some broccoli on the side, but it would also be great with a salad and some naan instead of the rice.

Dal Nirvana
recipe from here

1 cup dry lentils
1 can (15 oz.) crushed or diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 inch fresh ginger
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, or to taste
4 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro

Earlier in the afternoon, I simmered a cup of brown rice according to the instructions. I also put the lentils in a pot and covered them with water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for about ten minutes. Drain the lentils and set aside. When you are ready to make the dinner, add them to a large skillet and add the water, tomatoes, butter, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin and cayenne if you are using it. Stir a few times over medium heat until the butter is melted.

Cover the skillet, bring the mixture to simmer and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer on low for about 30 minutes until the mixture is nice and thick.
Add the yogurt and stir until incorporated.
Top the mixture with a cilantro garnish. Serve over rice or with naan. Enjoy!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hoisting the Flag of Imitation

I know I've been absent lately. It feels like forever that I've written a post. Two weeks ago I attended a wedding. One week ago I attended a family trip to celebrate an anniversary. Two days ago, I attended a funeral. And somewhere in there I finished my first year of graduate school and Winston and I moved to DC to spend the summer researching and adventuring with bf. I can't wait to get back to cooking and I'll be posting regularly soon. But right now, I wanted to share a few thoughts that stuck in my mind from the last few days.

1. Driving along US-15 through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York one goes by about 1 million antique stores. I'm dying to make the trip again and this time stop whenever I squeal "antiques!" instead of just driving on by. There are also about 1 million adult entertainment stores. I'm less interested in visiting those places of business.

2. It's amazing how fast your body adapts to dry heat. And how much it resists the re-introduction to humidity.

3. After 7 hours in the car, I get really hyper. I'm not usually a high-energy person, but after sitting still for so long, you can find me skipping down the street. (No exaggeration).

4. I don't like bugs, but they like me. Particularly mosquitoes. How I managed to escape the weekend with only one bite is a miracle.

5. Winston is over me traveling so much. No really. He's done with it. The fuzzy picture is courtesy of my phone, but you get the idea.

6. No matter how many questions I asked, there is so much I didn't get to know about my grandfather. His life was amazing and I wish I had had more time.

7. Weighing in at a hefty 87 pounds, my grandmother is the toughest person I know. She makes the rest of the family look like a bunch of big blubbering babies. She also asks the most direct and hilarious questions.

8. Until the very last moment my grandfather was the definition of politeness, respect and goodness. He never complained, always said please and thank you, and was kind to everyone. He was a once-in-a-century kind of soul. One part of the service on Saturday talked about how the best way to pay tribute to his life is through imitation. I know I won't ever come close, but this weekend sure made me want to try.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Fun Way to Spend a Friday Afternoon

For Christmas, my mom gave me a gift certificate for a cooking class. We decided to go last Friday, May 25, and had such a great time. Rosetta, the chef, was born in Calabria, Italy and teaches recipes from her family and the region. Here is the website if you want to look more into classes or information. my mom also got me her cookbook, which is just amazing.

I had a couple of take-a-ways I thought I would share. First, a lot of the recipes seem complicated, but they really aren't. Rosetta and her family grow practically ever ingredient they use in cooking, so a lot of her information is about how to preserve or dry ingredients. Don't let that intimidate you! I certainly did at first, but I was amazed by how quick so many of the dish were to create. Second, the classes had so much food!Rosetta first introduces all the dishes and shows you how to make all of them, then the students break off into groups and create the dishes. Then everyone gets to sample everything and we ended up completely stuffed! Finally, not many people can make me feel completely inadequate in the kitchen. It wasn't so much the dishes that made be feel three inches tall, but the fact that Rosetta and her family use such fresh ingredients. They grow everything and boy can you tell the difference. Everything is so fresh and flavorful and the health benefits of knowing what goes into your food is sort of mind-blowing. While I doubt I will ever grow my own beans or peppers to preserve, I am determined to grow my own herbs. Once I have a home, I'd love to have some herb pots, tomato plants, and a few fruit trees (like lemons and oranges- especially because bf goes through oranges like no one's business). But perhaps most importantly, I am obsessed with the thought of having chickens. They eat all of your compost garbage (like fruit peels, etc.) and produce the most lovely eggs. Have you seen blue eggs? The shells look like robin's eggs and are almost too pretty to eat. Plus the freshness and color is just unreal. I know bf will roll his eyes at this post. He doesn't much like the idea of having chickens but I think I can change his mind :). Anyway, once I have a home where chickens are possible, you can bet your lucky stars I'm going to start working towards that idea.

Since these recipes are Rosetta's, I don't really feel comfortable sharing them here. But, I think a lot of the recipes are posted on her website or are in her book. I'd recommend exploring both. In the meantime, here are some of the pictures of our food! I know it looks like a lot of the options are fried, but the thing is, the ingredients are so healthy and olive oil is used, so it never felt heavy at all.

Bruschetta without the Ricotta

Bruschetta con Fave Fresche e Ricotta Salata (Bruschetta topped with fresh fava beans and ricotta salata) 

Involtini di Asparagi (Asparagus tips wrapped with prosciutto) 

Polpette di Melanzane (Eggplant “meatless” meatballs) 

Zucchine con la Menta (Fresh zucchini marinated with olive oil, vinegar, garlic and mint) 

Crostini con Mozzarella (Crostini with mozzarella and anchovy sauce) 

Arancini (Sicilian rice balls) with bolognese on the inside

We also had these amazing little chocolate and almond tarts, but I guess I forgot to take a picture! I will definitely be making some of these again, the rice balls and the tarts for dessert were my favorite!