Rainy Days in the City

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.

For example:

[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]

Coconut and Red Lentil Curry

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.

Bay Leaf Rice Pilaf

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.

nicole spiridakis © copyright 2023