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Vegetable to go with Lentils & Rice?

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mickeygee Mar 31, 2011 06:29 AM

New to cooking lentils, I'm making Mark Bittman's Dal recipe for dinner tonight with some rice. I'm looking for a vegetable to add to it, avoiding broccoli, cauliflower, and brussell sprouts. Even better if I don't have to go to the store-I have mushrooms, sugar snap peas, green beans and asparagus in the house. And to make it even more challenging, something that is easy with little prep/steps as I have a six week old who often thwarts my plans to spend more than 10 minutes at a time cooking. Thanks!

  1. d
    Deborah Mar 31, 2011 06:48 AM

    I would probably do a little stir fry using the peas, green beans and asparagus. Lentils are so healthy. I'm sure you are pressed for time with a six week old (congratulations) so here is a little tip for your lentils. They freeze well so I always make extra to freeze. One less step in a recipe.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Deborah
      m
      mickeygee Mar 31, 2011 11:46 AM

      Oooh, yes - hadn't thought of freezing them. We are pretty much out of all our pre-baby frozen meals so we actually have room in the freezer again. Do you freeze the rice as well?

    2. t
      tavegyl Mar 31, 2011 07:06 AM

      I'm assuming since you're making daal you have the standard South Asian ingredients in the house. Here's what I often make as a side with daal and rice. Slice an onion, fry till pale golden. Add ginger matchsticks, sliced or crushed garlic and some black cumin (regular cumin is fine too; different flavour, but still good), plus chili powder to taste (and turmeric if you have it). As soon as you can smell the cumin, add your vegetables, in the appropriate order. I'd do mushrooms and either green beans or sugar snap peas, and keep the asparagus for something else. If you have fresh chilies, add those as well, sliced and deseeded if you don't want it too hot, as well as diced tomatoes. When its all cooked, add a small pinch of garam masala and a squeeze of lime. The end result is a quick stiry-fry with South Asian flavours (the tomatoes should stay in chunks) and would be lovely with a combination of the vegetables you mention. In fact I'm having something like this for my solo dinner tonight, made with mushrooms and an egg.

      Green beans may need steaming or, if you prefer/ have time, grill or dry fry them till they're starting to blacken before adding them to the mix.

      1. luckyfatima Mar 31, 2011 07:08 AM

        I might make a mixed vegetable combo (mixed sabzi) with what I had at home. You will need tomatoes, onions, garlic, and ginger, and you can season with whatever spices you have on hand, but turmeric, red chile powder, cumin powder, and coriander powder would be best. (Or you could even throw in a dash of a bottled pre-mixed curry powder.) You would start out with your onions and cook them until the look golden, add in ginger and garlic paste, let it color, then add in 2 roughly pureed tomatoes, and sautee this mix of aromatics and tomato until the oil rises to the top of the tomato and you have a dry tomato paste base as the sauce for your veg. When the oil has risen to the top, toss in your spices and salt, then add in your mushrooms. Let these cook down and release their water and shrink a bit. Then you can add in the rest of your veg chopped into bite sized bits. Just stir it in and cover, setting on low heat until the beans are tender. (If you choose to add asparagus you may want to hold off on adding it in until the last 5 mins of cooking so it doesn't over cook.) The beans should release enough moisture to steam-cook covered without adding water, but if you need to add some, sprinkle it around the inner edge of the pot rather than pour, so the veg remains crisp and don't go soggy. At the end, you can squeeze in some lemon/lime juice if you want, add a pinch of garam masala if you have some, and you should have lovely mushrooms and green beans in a dry, clinging tomato-masala gravy. Daal, rice, and mixed sabzi, and very homestyle, comforting menu!

        3 Replies
        1. re: luckyfatima
          t
          tavegyl Mar 31, 2011 07:12 AM

          Luckyfatima (you and I share the name!) - I had a quick question. My mother has told me to wait for the oil to rise to the top of the tomato paste when cooking desi food, but I can never quite tell if this has happened. I use very little oil, only a tablespoon or so -- is that the reason? Should I use more? Or am I just impatient?

          1. re: tavegyl
            luckyfatima Mar 31, 2011 08:26 AM

            That's funny, we posted at almost the same time and gave a very similar recipe.

            If you are using very little oil, I guess just wait until the masala looks very dry since the moisture should be gone from the tomatoes, and it is very slightly sticking to the pan. I usually use about 3 tbs of oil, but I think you can do it with 1 tbs oil and sprinkle water a couple of times during the process to achieve the same effect. If I cook something that necessitates more oil, I pour the oil off of the masala later.

            1. re: luckyfatima
              t
              tavegyl Mar 31, 2011 12:58 PM

              Thanks! Clearly I must try to get over my fear of cooking oil. I think I view it much as others fear pressure cookers!

        2. c
          cathyeats Mar 31, 2011 07:20 AM

          I vote for swiss chard. You can throw it right in the dal and it cooks super fast.

          1. darklyglimmer Mar 31, 2011 08:44 AM

            This might be a little simpler than you're looking for, but thinking only about ease, convenience and the tastiness of the end result: roast that asparagus. Nice hot oven, some olive oil and salt, put the baby in the bouncy chair to check and toss every few minutes (or don't, they'll be fine) and take them out when they're how you like them. Good hot, good cold, good the next day. You could probably do the same thing with the green beans, if you'd rather. Neither should take too long.

            And kudos to you for cooking real food with a six-week-old! I think we were still living on PB&J and takeout at that point.

            ETA: check and toss the asparagus spears, not the baby. ;)

            1 Reply
            1. re: darklyglimmer
              m
              mickeygee Mar 31, 2011 11:43 AM

              Most days are sandwiches or something from the freezer reheated, but every once in a while try to cook something. t's my only sanity right now! Of course, we'll see if I actually accomplish it - I've also had nights where I've gotten the motivation to cook and halfway through wound up having to abandon ship and dinner turned into eating peanut butter out of a jar.

            2. s
              SherBel Mar 31, 2011 09:28 AM

              I think that carrots would be good; possibly with a bit of cumin.

              1. m
                mandycat Mar 31, 2011 09:37 AM

                I keep fresh sugar snap peas on hand just about year round now that they've become so much easier to find than they used to be. My favorite cooking method is a quick sauté in hot oil with salt and pepper, maybe some sliced red onion if I have it. They cook in minutes; the only time consuming part is if you prefer to snip off the ends before cooking. Toss with pasta and Parmesan and you have a complete meal.

                And hey, give Brussels sprouts another chance. Roasted, as darklyglimmer described roasting asparagus, they take on an entirely new flavor and texture.

                4 Replies
                1. re: mandycat
                  darklyglimmer Mar 31, 2011 10:24 AM

                  Based on her list of no-go veggies, I'd bet that the aversion to brussels sprouts has to do with the baby. Those three are big baby-gas inducers via breastmilk.

                  But I agree: roasted, brussels sprouts are highly, highly delicious. Really, I haven't met a veggie yet that wasn't improved by roasting (okay, so maybe spinach wouldn't work), and it's hard to find an easier prep method.

                  1. re: darklyglimmer
                    m
                    mickeygee Mar 31, 2011 11:39 AM

                    Yup - it's a baby thing. I love brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli - my go to winter veggies. Especially roasted with a squeeze of lemon. But after a few screaming gas bouts, I realized I had to put them on hold. Sigh. (I also love them sauteed in pasta, ate that every week while pregnant, oh I miss that dish)

                    1. re: mickeygee
                      southernitalian Mar 31, 2011 11:59 AM

                      I'm so surprised that you can manage lentils!

                      1. re: mickeygee
                        m
                        mandycat Apr 3, 2011 05:36 AM

                        Ahh, now I get it. Obviously, like Prissie in Gone with the Wind I don't know nothing about birthing babies, Miz. Scarlett.

                  2. o
                    odkaty Mar 31, 2011 10:05 AM

                    It won't work for tonight's dinner, but I normally stir greens into daal's just before serving. Sauteed broccoli raab is a favorite too — we just pile it on top of the lentils.

                    1. d
                      deepsreddy Mar 31, 2011 11:52 AM

                      my favorite is simple panfried potatoes. heat few tbsps oil and add cumin seeds. add diced potatoes and salt and fry until done and develop a kind of golden brown color. add chili powder and may be some coriander powder if you want. they taste terrific with any dal.
                      you can do the same with carrots or green beans and add garam masala at the and with a tbsp or two of dry coconut powder.

                      1. mamachef Mar 31, 2011 01:10 PM

                        It's not what you've got on hand, but for next time, I'd throw in spinach or chard, or make a side of sag paneer.

                        1. m
                          mickeygee Mar 31, 2011 05:45 PM

                          Thanks so much - I like all these ideas, and will have to try them sometime. Unfortunatly, as predicted, my daughter thwarted my plans and I got some overcooked lentils and ate the sugar snap peas raw. But I'll continue to dream that I'll cook again!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mickeygee
                            darklyglimmer Mar 31, 2011 06:05 PM

                            I feel for you! Sugar snap peas are tasty raw, though. So that's something. Maybe you can turn your mushy lentils into soup?

                            It took me until about six months to start cooking regularly again, albeit in a much more streamlined way than I ever did before. Now our daughter is 21 months, and mostly we eat real food, although I have found that my definition of "real food" has broadened quite a bit. (Three cheers for tuna melt night!)

                            1. re: darklyglimmer
                              l
                              LovinSpoonful Mar 31, 2011 06:22 PM

                              Carrots and onions are a pretty classic combo with lentils, particularly curried lentils.

                              This soup is delicious, particularly the day after. Thicken it up and it's great over rice:

                              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

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