Meals Here & There

South India's favorite spicy broth, rasam, is open to multiple interpretations and can be served as a first course soup or as a condiment alongside rice and bread. Here's how we made a Pineapple Rasam: In a large saucepan, boil 1/4 cup toor dal or yellow split peas in 2 cups of water until the legumes have cooked to a thick consistency, similar to split pea soup. This should take about 30 minutes, uncovered, over medium heat. Add more water if needed. Now add to the saucepan 4 cups of water, 1 diced tomato and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro. Simmer steadily for a few minutes, uncovered still, before adding 2 t. rasam powder and 1 t. salt. Rasam powder is an inexpensive, eclectic spice mix found in every Indian market. There is no realistic substitute. Bring to a boil and cook for two more minutes. In a small skillet, heat 2 t. oil over high heat and when hot, add 1/2 t. each black mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Cover the skillet and once the mustard seeds have "popped" add 2-5 dried red chilies. Cook for a minute, no more and add to the simmering rasam. Stir in about 1/2 cup finely chopped pineapple and simmer for 5 minutes. Check for salt, you may need to add more. Season to taste with lemon juice to obtain desired tartness. Note: rasam freezes well so don't toss the leftovers!

Although rasam is is traditionally a rather thin broth, the addition of fruit or vegetables along with the base of cooked legumes, makes it substantial enough for a light supper when served with rice and roasted vegetables.

above three photos: It's Not All About Meat and Potatoes! Pan-fried chicken sausage with oven "fries", carrots with dill and tossed salad and tahini dressing.

The only way we can guarantee perfectly cooked dried beans EVERY SINGLE time is to employ the trusty crock pot/slow cooker. For one cup of dried beans (pinto, navy, Great Northern, etc) use 3 cups water. Add aromatic seasonings to taste and cook on the low setting for 6-7 hours. No pre-soaking required! Above, Cafe Drake HRV made a pot of spicy, rich black beans with herbs, garlic, onion and 1 dried chipotle pepper. Always salt beans AFTER they've finished cooking; count on 1-2 t. per cup of dried legumes.

Epazote is indispensable in authentic Mexican bean dishes and black beans seem to especially respond well to the zesty herb. Dried epazote is available at all Mexican food markets.

Slow cooker black beans garnished with sliced scallions.

The Perfect SideKicks to a bowl of black beans are queso fresco (a crumbly and mild white cheese), pickled jalapeno peppers, warm tortillas and sprigs of cilantro.
And Now Another Uber-Healthy & Easy Bean Recipe . . . 

This Chickpea Mash tastes radically different than hummus but is just as addictive! Rinse and drain 1 14-15 oz. can of chickpeas and place in a mixing bowl. Mash well with a fork, you'll want a texture thicker, chunkier than hummus. Add 2-3 T. mayonnaise (regular or vegan), 3 T. minced red onions or scallions, a pinch of celery seeds (or 1 T. chopped lovage if available), 3 T. nutritional yeast (found at all natural foods stores), a splash of lemon juice, about 1 t. grainy mustard, 1 t. honey or agave syrup and black pepper to taste. You probably won't need salt but now's the time to add it if so. Mix well and savor.

The mashed chickpeas work well as side dish with toasted bread, salad and a vegetable tagine. They're also perfect as a snack, spread on crackers or good wheat bread.


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