Spiced Lentil and Bean Stew

Inspired by the classic Ethiopian dish, and with my inclination towards indian spices came about this hearty and ‘warm your belly’ lentil stew. If you love earthy, warm spices, this will hit the right spot. Just the perfect bowl of dinner for the winter.

You will need:

3 cups lentils (regular brown or puy)
2 cans dark red kidney beans (pre-cooked)
1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)
1 large onion, finely chopped (yellow or white)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2″ piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter
2 large tomatoes, chopped ( for plum tomatoes, use 4)
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock (you can substitute with water)
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 sprig, fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon juice

For the Spice mixture:
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 tsp cardamom (i use whole ones)
4 cloves
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 tbsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt

In a dry skillet, add all the above spice mixture  ingredients. Toast over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Keep tossing making sure the spices don’t burn. Powder these ingredients in a blender along with the chopped ginger with no liquid. It has to be a dry powder. Frying whole spices and freshly grinding them adds immense flavor to the stew. If you don’t have access to fresh whole spices, as a substitute, you could use the pre-powdered version of all the above spices and just mix them together in a bowl.




In a large pot, add 6 cups of water along with the lentils and bay leaf. Boil the lentils for about 45 minutes. Around the 30 minute mark, check to see the doneness and adjust amount of water and cooking time accordingly. The lentils after 45 minutes, should be cooked but not mushy. It should be firm and al dente since it is going to cook a bit more while putting together the stew.

Drain the lentils, also drain the can of kidney beans and set aside.

In a large pot, add the butter and vegetable oil. Once the butter is golden brown, add the onions and garlic. Sauteé for 10 minutes until the onions soften.

Add the ground spice mixture and cook for 7-8 more minutes making sure the spice powder is mixed evenly.

Add the chopped tomatoes and salt , cook 5 more minutes.

Add tomato paste, mix well and then add the vegetable stock.

Simmer over medium heat for 25-30 minutes.




Now add the cooked lentils and beans, simmer 20 more minutes.

Check for salt, top with the chopped cilantro, mint, lemon juice and turn off the heat.

I prefer this stew just on it’s own with a little extra squeeze of lemon, but you could also serve it with your favorite bread.

Ziti with Broccolini and Spinach in Roasted Garlic Marinara

Quick and easy to put together, combining some store bought ingredients with fresh veggies, this makes an ideal weeknight meal. This was my dinner tonight. With broccolini and spinach in my pantry, I added tangy olives and garlicky marinara sauce to make a warm and comforting dinner.

1 pound ziti
2 bunches, broccolini (around 4 cups) ends trimmed
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large potato, peeled and sliced thin lengthwise
1 pound baby spinach, washed
1/4 cup marinated green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
6 cups roasted garlic marinara
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp crushed red peppers (optional)
1 tbsp dried basil
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the pasta in and cook 7-8 minutes until al dente (refer to your package instructions for exact cooking time). Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and just when it starts roasting, add the chopped onions. Cook over medium-high heat until onions are slightly browned. Add olives, spinach and 1 tsp salt. Cook until the spinach wilts. Add potatoes and saute for 5 minutes until the potatoes just start cooking.

Add the broccolini and another tsp of salt. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the marinara sauce, crushed red pepper and basil. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the cooked pasta into the sauce, toss together to make sure the pasta is coated well with the sauce. Serve warm with your favorite bread.

Simple Coconut Green Beans

Here is an authentic south-indian style green bean recipe. It’s delectable!

1 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed, washed and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces.
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
2 tsp whole black gram dal ( also known as urad lentil it is similar to the commonly available moong lentils)
3-4 dried red chillies, roughly crushed
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup freshly grated coconut ( fresh or frozen coconut available in most indian stores. This is not the dry sweetened coconut available in regular grocery stores usually used in desserts)

In a saute pan, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds and as soon as it starts spluttering, add the asafoetida and whole black gram dal. Fry for a minute until the urad turns golden brown. Add the slightly crushed red chillies and fry for 10 seconds and immediately add the chopped beans.

Add salt and cover and cook for 15-20 minutes over medium heat.

Uncover, check if beans are cooked through. If it is not cooked, cover and let cook some more. Once the beans are done, sprinkle the grated coconut and increase the heat to medium-high heat.

Saute for another 10 minutes and serve hot with steamed basmati rice.

Roasted Garlic and Onion Soup

What could be possibly be better than a big bowl of soup with crusty bread on a snowed in winter night! Here is a light yet creamy soup with roasted garlic and onions. Infused with thyme and chives, it makes a perfect winter soup.

2 large sized garlic heads (use 4 if they are medium sized)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp butter, unsalted
2 large onions, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into small pieces (1/2″ cubes)
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup half and half
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, strip the leaves from the stem and rough chop the leaves
3 tbsp chives, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cut off the tail end of the garlic to expose the bottom of all the garlic cloves. Place them in a baking tray, drizzle 2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil over them and bake in oven for 45 minutes- one hour. Remove from oven and let it cool. Once cool enough to handle, gently squeeze the garlic into a bowl and it should separate from the skin very easily. Mash together and set aside.

Heat a soup pot and add the remaining 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil with the 3 tbsp butter. Add the chopped onions and saute over medium heat for ten minutes until onions are golden brown. Add the potatoes and crushed red peppers and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the roasted garlic, the vegetable stock, lemon juice and salt. Mix well, bring to a boil and cover the soup pot. Simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

Add the half and half, cream, chopped chives and fresh thyme leaves. Heat through for 10 minutes and serve warm with your favorite bread.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

This is a dish than can never go wrong. It is super easy to make, delicious yet light and healthy. It is perfect as an appetizer for a party because it doesn’t fill you up and that can mean only one thing, more room for food!

5 medium sized ripe red tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil ( a good quality oil is important because you are consuming it raw)
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp fresh basil, minced
1 tbsp crushed pepper ( you can leave this out if spice is not your thing)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup goat cheese
Fresh baked French baguette, sliced 1″ thin

In a mixing bowl add extra virgin olive oil, garlic, dried and fresh basil, salt and crushed red pepper. Mix well, set aside and let sit for 20-30 minutes. We want all the flavors to meld and the oil to absorb the garlic and the basil. The longer this mixture sits the better. If you don’t have 30 minutes, let sit for at least 10 minutes.

Dice all the tomatoes. If they are over ripe and extra juicy, remove the seeds along with the soft center and gently squeeze extra water from the tomatoes. Over ripe tomatoes will make the bruschetta watery and messy.

Add the tomatoes to the olive oil-garlic marinade and mix well. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Toast the sliced baguette, top with 1 tbsp of the tomato mixture and crumble goat cheese over it.  Serve while bread is warm. You could also serve without cheese, tastes great either way.

Note: Do not refrigerate the tomato mixture if you are going to serve within 4 hours. Keeping it room temperature lets the tomatoes absorb all the flavors better and it keeps the dish juicy. If you plan to serve it the next day, then refrigerate overnight, remove and leave it outside at least 4- 5 hours before you plan to serve.

Campanelle with Asparagus and Creamed Sun dried Tomato Pesto

Campanelle is a flower shaped pasta that is perfect for hearty and chunky sauces which makes it the ideal for this rustic sauce. The pesto is definitely key to taste of this dish. So make it fresh and store enough for future use. If you have the sun dried tomato pesto pre-made, this pasta takes under 15 minutes to make!

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Sun dried tomato pesto

This is my variation of pesto which turned out to be a keeper!

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1 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, roughly chopped (drain most of the oil- keep 1 tbsp to add in the pesto)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
1/2 cup pecarino cheese, grated or shredded
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
1 tbsp large capers
1 tbsp pine nuts
6-8 large garlic cloves
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor or blender. Pulse a few seconds until all the ingredients combine together coarsely. Drizzle in the olive oil and continue pulsing until you get a thick coarse paste. Add the remaining 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes and mix it in to keep it chunky and to give a bite to the otherwise smooth dish.

For the Pasta

1 pound campanelle pasta (substitute: fusili, gemelli or shells)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pound asparagus, the thick bottom part snapped off
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp crushed red peppers
1/2 cup sun dried tomato pesto
1/2 cup light cream
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 tsp salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for 7-8 minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add sliced onions and crushed red peppers. Saute until the onions are cooked(they turn translucent). Add the asparagus, salt and cook for 5 minutes.

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Add the sun dried tomato pesto, mix and just after a minute stir in the cream, remaining basil and shut the heat off.

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Add the cooked pasta mix well and serve. I served it with shaved pecarino cheese on top and side of my favorite roasted garlic sourdough bread.

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Gnocchi in Roasted Red Pepper, Caper and Roasted Garlic Sauce

What’s better than pillowy soft gnocchi in warm herbed sauce on a rainy cold day? Nothing! So here’s what’s for dinner tonight.

I used gnocchi bought from my local italian store. If you have extra time on your hands, you could always make your own. Here’s how.

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1 pound gnocchi
Whole tomatoes, peeled and canned
1 whole bulb garlic, roasted
1 red pepper , roasted
2-3 tbsp large capers
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp + 1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp +1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp crushed red peppers (adjust to your level of heat)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Brush the entire bulb of garlic (skin on) with canola oil. Place it in a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes until golden. Remove and let cool. When completely cooled, gently squeeze the soft roasted garlic from the skin and set aside.

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Bring salted water to a boil and drop the gnocchi in. The gnocchi will float and come up to the surface when it is cooked. Drain the water and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, add the whole canned tomatoes, 1 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp salt , onion and garlic powders and roasted cloves of garlic and crush into a pulp using your hands. I prefer using whole tomatoes and hand crushing them instead of using tomato puree or pre crushed tomatoes.

In a skillet  heat olive oil over medium heat, add the blended tomato-garlic mixture, crushed red peppers, salt, capers, dried oregano and remaining 1 tbsp dried basil. Mix well together and warm through for 6-7 minutes and drop the cooked gnocchi in.

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Just before serving add the chopped roasted red peppers, mix well and serve.

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Cabbage Lentil Pancakes

Try this and you will never complain about cabbage being bland. The crispy pan fried pieces of cabbage and the hearty spiced lentils are a wonderful combination.

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1 cup bengal gram dal (Channa dal)
3 cups cabbage, shredded
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8-10 dried red chillies
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1″ piece ginger, minced
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
5 curry leaves, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp rice flour

Soak the channa dal for an hour in water. Drain and grind into a coarse paste with the dried red chillies, 1/2 tsp salt and asafoetida powder.

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Add the minced ginger, chopped onions, cumin seeds, cilantro, curry leaves and salt to this mixture. Mix well, add the shredded cabbage, rice flour toss together and set aside.

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Heat oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Take 2 tbsps of the cabbage-lentil mixture, slightly flatten it with your palms and gently place on the oil. Fry for 4-5 minutes on one side until completely cooked through and browned. Flip over and cook for another 4 minutes.

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Place on paper towels to drain and serve warm with mint chutney.

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Simple Pureed Spinach

This authentic Tamilian(Southern Indian) dish is simple yet comforting. The toasted fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds add to the flavor and aroma, the urad dal gives it texture and dried red chillies for spice. It makes a great side dish with rice. Typically served over a hot bed of cooked rice with ghee drizzled on top.

2 large bunches of fresh spinach
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp urad dal
3 dried red chillies, halved

Wash the spinach leaves and roughly chop them. Bring 3-4 tbsps of water to a boil in a pan and add the salt and spinach. Cook over medium heat. Since spinach leaves contain a lot of water, you do not want to add too much water. Cook until the spinach is tender.

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Using a hand blender mash the spinach into a smooth puree.

In a dry pan, roast the fenugreek seeds, watch closely to avoid burning. Roast them until golden and powder them using a blender.

In another small pan, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, just when they splutter add the urad dal and crushed red chillies. Remove from heat, stir in the powdered fenugreek seeds and add this to the pureed spinach. Mix well and serve hot.

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Roasted Basil Potatoes with Garlic Sour Cream Topping

This is super simple, yet incredibly tasty. It makes a great snack, side dish or an appetizer. This one is standard fare in my parties.

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4 medium potatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Topping :

1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 tbsp dried basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red peppers
1/8 tsp salt

Pre-heat oven to 450 F.

Slice potatoes into 1/4″ slices. Use a paper towel to pat them dry. Toss with olive oil, basil, pepper and salt.

Spread the potatoes out in one layer on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

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After 15 mins when the potatoes begin to brown on the bottom side, flip them over and roast for another 8 minutes. When the potatoes have roasted on both sides, remove from heat and set aside.

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Mix sour cream, basil, garlic, crushed red peppers and salt in a bowl and set aside.

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Serve the roasted potatoes with a dollop of the sour cream mixture on top.

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(Inspired from this recipe)

South Indian Stir Fried Lentils

A common dish from back home, this makes a filling and healthy snack. You could use a a couple of varieties of Indian Lentils or even the regular green lentils or puy lentils for this dish.

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2 cups green lentils ( you could also use Split Bengal Gram(channa)  or Split Green Gram (moong) Dals)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp split black gram dal(urad dal)
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
4-5 dried red chillies, crushed
8-10 curry Leaves, finely chopped

Bring salted water to a boil. Add the lentils and cook until soft, around 10 minutes. Drain and let sit for 5 minutes.

In a nonstick pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and as soon as they start popping add asafoetida, salt, dried red chillies and urad dal. Fry until dal starts to turn golden. Add the curry leaves, salt and stir.

len11len21Add this mixture to the cooked lentils, toss together and serve warm.

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White Bean Soup

Although I love Michael Chiarello’s creations, I have always thought that they are time consuming. This  “Super-Tuscan” white bean soup however beats the norm. The basil topping completely sold me this dish and it is versatile enough to use on many types of soups and salads. I have tried to simplify and de-meatify it (yes I said de-meatify) for an easy weeknight meal. I also added a slight zing of spice to the soup itself and another layer of texture with asparagus tips that give a crisp bite to the creamy white bean soup.

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1 13 oz can cannellini (Italian White) beans
1 yellow onion, quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup asparagus tips (Snip off the tips, around 1″-2″ from 1 bunch of fresh asparagus and save the rest for a pasta or salad later)
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 bay leaf
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil|

Basil topping:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp salt

To make the topping :

Heat the 1/3 cup olive oil In a small pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to turn golden brown. Add the red chilli flakes and cook for a few seconds, then add the basil. Cook until basil wilts , stir in the salt and set aside.

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Heat the 3 tbsp olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic and red chilli powder. Cook until the onions turn translucent and soft, around 4-5 minutes.

Add the bay leaf, salt and beans mix well and cook for a couple of minutes. Pour in the stock, cover and cook for 20 minutes over low heat.

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Uncover, carefully remove the bay leaf and blend this mixture until smooth using a hand blender. Add the asparagus tips to the soup, cook for an additional 5 minutes and remove from heat. Ladle into a soup bowl, top with a tsp of the basil topping and serve with parmesan crisps.

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This dish goes to Food In Color event hosted by Tongue Ticklers.

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Rotelle with Spinach and Ricotta

I have been hooked on Lidia’s Italy recently. I love everything she makes and find the entire authentic Italian experience fascinating. It makes you understand how not Italian many Italian restaurants in the US are!

Anyway, this was one of her recipes I just had to try with a few tweaks here and there. The creamy ricotta, spinach and basil over warm pasta with nutty pecarino on top, you know you have a great dish there!

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1 pound Rotelle
2 bags fresh baby spinach, washed and rough chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp crushed red peppers
1 onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup light cream
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp dried basil
1/3 cup pecarino romano cheese, grated or shredded

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, around 7-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, crushed red pepper and garlic and cook until onions turn translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the spinach, a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Add a ladle of the pasta cooking water and let simmer over low heat.

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In a mixing bowl stir the ricotta, light cream and basil until smooth with the rest of the salt and pepper. Add this to the spinach mixture, mix well, warm through and remove from heat.

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Drain the pasta and add to this mixture with more pasta water if needed. Toss thoroughly so the sauce coats all the pasta.

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Serve warm with cheese sprinkled on top.

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Curry Leaf Chutney

Curry leaf is one of my favorite herbs. It is the soul of Tamilian (Southern Indian) cooking. They add such a complex layer to food with their savory, fresh and slightly lemony taste. It is common misconception that curry powder or any and all curries are made from curry leaves. They have nothing to with curry powder or most northern indian curries.

This chutney was a staple during my childhood. It is versatile and makes a great condiment to most crispy indian snacks like pakorasbhajjis and samosas. They also pair well with south indian breakfast dishes like idly, dosa and upma.

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5-6 stems curry leaves, washed
1 inch piece fresh tamarind (substitute 1/2 tsp tamarind paste)
2 tsp black gram dal
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
4 dried red chillies
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp canola oil

Pluck the leaves from the stem, discard the stems and wash the leaves well and set aside.

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Heat a pan with 1 tsp oil over medium heat. Add the tamarind and curry leaves and cook for 2-3 minutes until the curry leaves slightly wilt. Transfer this to a blender.

In the same pan, add another tsp of oil and heat over medium heat. Add the black gram dal and fry till it starts to turn golden. Add the red chillies, asafoetida and fry for 30 seconds. Transfer this to the blender along with the curry leaves

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Add salt and blend everything together into a smooth paste. Use a few tablespoons of water or as needed. Serve at room temperature.

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This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once. Here are the rules if you want to participate and  here’s Who’s Hosting Weekend Herb Blogging if you’d like to join the weekly celebration of cooking with fresh herbs.

Pine Nut-Parmesan-Basil Pilaf

I love pilaf/pulao dishes. I experiment a lot with flavor combinations and this is one such attempt, which was a success! The nuts, basil and parmesan that makes a great pesto or pasta accompaniment, added so much flavor to the rice.

It was also well balanced from the crunchy pine nuts, cheesy and salty parmesan, nutty toasted rice and the intense basil.

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2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 tbsps crushed red pepper( I like a lot of spice, for a milder version use 1/2 or 1 tbsp)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp dry basil

In a large pan, heat the olive oil for 30 seconds and add crushed red peppers and rice. Over medium-high heat, stir continuously until the rice turns opaque and starts to turn golden and looks slightly toasted. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

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When the stock starts to boil turn the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes. Check to make sure all the liquid is absorbed. When it is, turn off heat and let rice sit for 5 minutes.

While rice sits, toast pine nuts in dry pan until slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Shake pan a few times and watch them closely so they don’t get too brown.

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After the rice sits for 5 minutes, fluff with a fork, stir in parmesan cheese, chopped basil, and pine nuts and serve immediately.

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I am entering this to Culinarty’s Original Recipes.
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