Monday, April 2, 2012

What I Eat: Spicy

As a child, I remember getting a book from the library.  Well, I remember getting a LOT of books from the library, but this one was especially memorable.  It showed pictures of families around the world and the food that they consume in a month.  The photographs ranged from lots of chips and frozen foods in the Americas to rice and seafood in Japan.  The quantities also differed, and it fascinated me.

So I decided to take a picture of what I eat in a week.

So what did I cook with all those yummy ingredients?

I made Daal.

This was a big moment, for me.  I grew up in a low-spice household.  Salt, pepper, and Lowery's Seasoning were the daily spices.  Anything hotter was reserved for chilli or gingerbread. Onions (of any form) and garlic rarely made an appearance on the table.  This isn't to say that my childhood was bland, but spices seemed delightfully exotic to me.  Whenever I cooked, I usually just left most of them out.

Until now.  Today, I went into a spice shop.  Really!  A store that is full of spices, chocolate, and olives.  Little bags of star anise, garam masala, sheep cheese marinade blend, cinnamon, flavored sugars, and so many different varieties of curry.  As a spice newbie, I carefully examined the backs of each packet.  British Curry, Sweet Curry, Lemon Curry, African Curry...  The African Curry eventually won me over with its rich orange color and short ingredient list.  I rushed outside to taste it, and was immediately impressed with its bold, bright, spicy, slightly citrus flavor.  I had survived my first spice-buying experience, but the real test was in the cooking.

I went home and adapted this recipe to make it a little more appealing for the novice spice-user.  In less than an hour, I created a spicy, filling, andaesthetically pleasing meal that I ate over bulgur.  Find out how I made it after the jump!

Red Lentil Daal (serves 6)
1.5 cups red lentils 3  cups stock
1 (small) onion chopped
1.5 cups frozen peas
1 cup shredded frozen spinach
2 tbs olive oil
1 can coconut milk
7 tsp. (or more) Curry (I used African Curry)

Soak the lentils until they absorb the water and split.  Make the stock (if using powder, like I did).  Mix a couple teaspoons of your curry in and boil.  Add the lentils and cook until they are soft and split.
Heat the oil with the rest of your spices until it is hot and they are fragrant.  Cook your onion until translucent.  When the lentils are soft, stir in the peas, spinach, onions, and coconut milk. Keep heating until the whole thing is hot.

Serve over rice, bulgur, with naan, or some other creative way.

My first foray into the world of spicy cooking was definitely a delicious success. My Bangladeshi neighbor (and cook extraordinaire) heartily approved.

*I also made beet hummus.  Slightly sweet, and the perfect accompaniment to raw broccoli.

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