Life is Good, Right Now, Right in This Moment, while cooking Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions.
All parts of the recipe for Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions and Spiced Pita Chips are being cooked right now, except for the Spiced Pita Chips that are supposed to accompany this dish. Since good is better than perfect, in this little specific moment, right here and now, life is good.
What makes life good for me, is when I have energy flowing in my body, after a week of blah. Looking at the garden, where plants are waking up and starting to stir, leaf out, peek their heads above the ground, this season of spring parallels my feelings. Perhaps some low energy stems from the long winter, and high energy returns with the season of spring. The cardinal I just spotted outside my window right now, warms my heart.
The subject of energy is of interest to me, as I have been going to some acupuncture sessions lately, and have learned that the point of acupuncture is to unblock the energy channels, so energy flows throughout the body. I also attended a yoga seminar which talked about unblocking the energy channels, this time, through the breath. More specifically, three-part breathing involving the belly the chest, and the throat.
I have always been a person who could not sit still, a trait inherited from my dad. My dad liked to drive in his car to new places, go to the racetrack, and go to the Jersey Shore to to chill out by fishing, I like to garden and have many projects to work on, usually involving making things. No matter what your purposes are, like fishing for my dad, or quilting for me, there seems to be a rhythm to the energy required for any endeavor. The energy rhythms are like the waves in the ocean. Sometimes I am at high energy, and sometimes at low. In the low energy points, I need to be quiet, go inward, give some time to myself, in order to eventually get back to that high energy space. It is easy to ignore myself when my to do list goes from Earth to the Moon. If I ignore myself too much I lose my drive to do anything, so life is a constant balancing act.
Yesterday, I was ready to give in and just buy some takeout food, feeling too lazy to cook. But then I was walking past a small market that stacks its wares outside to entice. They had me at the fresh corn and beautiful skinny asparagus. For something like only $2.69, I purchased two pieces of corn, and a bunch of the asparagus, and made the best supper ever, hard-boiling a couple of eggs for protein. I could not believe my good fortune, and supper last night was a moment of grace in life.
I have never made the recipe featured here today. It is from a book called "Veganomicon, The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero. This book has been sitting on my shelves forever, and I refer to it when I want to know how long to cook a grain or bean. But I aspire to cooking more from it, as the recipes always look so tasty, as well as healthy. In this recipe for Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions, the cinnamon stick, ground allspice, and cumin are new notes on the keyboard of cooking, for me. Will they be for you too?
I think I may try to bastardize the spiced pita crisps recipe with some baguette I have in my freezer, and make spicy croutons. But the grains in the recipe are probably sufficient for me. I substituted freekah for the rice, and black lentils for the red.
The authors describe this recipe as being a "different version of comfort food." In their notes they state that "This is referred to as Mujadarah or Enjedra and a dozen other names in the Middle East." On this rainy and raw weather day, as the coming spring is one step forward, and two steps back, this recipe seems spot on.
One word of caution is to open your windows while baking the onions, or they will smell up you house, clothes, and hair, really good. And on a positive note, try simultaneously roasting some beets while you are cooking the onions, as I am doing right now. Thinking about how less is sometimes more, I bought one orange beet and one red beet, when shopping in the food coop the other day. It will make just the right amount for a side or two, or snacks on the upcoming afternoons, perhaps with a little yogurt.
Lastly, I recommend listening to the podcasts, "Person Place Thing," with Randy Cohen, while cooking. The one with May Lin, the architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, is especially good. For those of you who miss what song is playing in my head, try Ten Year Night by Lucy Kaplansky. I recently saw her at The City Vineyard venue at Pier 26, and she was wonderful. This link to her on You Tube will let you see and hear her play this song, one of my favorites.
Do try this recipe for Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions and Spiced Pita Crisps and enjoy!
Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions
- 3 large yellow onions peeled and sliced into thin rings (about three pounds)
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 1 cup long-grain basmati rice brown or white, rinsed
- 1 cup red lentils rinsed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1-½ teaspoon ground cumin
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large, deep baking pan, toss the onion rings with the olive oil to coat. Be sure to separate the rings and spread them out in the pan. Roast in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring often. The idea is to get most of the onion rings deep brown, crisp, and even burned on the edges. The deeper they roast, the sweeter they will taste. When done, remove from the oven and set aside.
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the rice, cinnamon stick, ground cloves, and allspice. Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Uncover and add the lentils, cumin, and allspice; stir gently only a few times (too much stirring can break the rice grains); cover, bring to boil again, lower the heat to low, and cook for an additional 45 minutes, until the liquid is completely absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside the covered pot for 10 minutes.
Use a fork to gently fluff the lentils and rice. Remove the cinnamon stick. Gently fold the caramelized onions into the lentils and rice, making sure to drizzle on any remaining olive oil from the roasting pan. Stir thoroughly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Spiced Pita Crisps, serves 4, time: 15 minutes.
white or whole wheat pitas
olive oil fro brushing
teaspoon or more per pita of the following spices; pick just one and stick with it or be like a crazy person and experiment with these mixtures:
Garlic powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt or
Lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice open a pita along the edges, and carefully open and separate each half. Brush with olive oil, then sprinkle with your seasoning(s) of choice. Spread the pitas on cookie sheets (a little overlapping is okay) and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Watch and be careful not to burn.
Cool on the cookie sheets and store in plastic bags.