Yellow Peas and Rice with Onion Relish

Split yellow peas and basmati rice cooked with cumin seeds, turmeric, Garam Masala and cilantro and topped with a spicy, lemony onion relish.

One of the best things about living in this era is that we can experience so much of the world through food and the people who share it wherever they end up. What began with the Spice Trade as much as 2500 years ago and continues in varied forms today is a global exchange of flavors, cultures, and tastes that enrich my life and all of our communities, I would argue, every day. I use turmeric and cardamom, cumin and mustard seeds as well as fish sauce and coconut milk, capers, chocolate, and cinnamon . . .pretty regularly. And they all work beautifully with our local produce and products.

I am also a devout farmers’ market shopper and supporter of CSAs and generally try to purchase what we need (food and otherwise) as close to home as possible but with the above exceptions and a few more! Thanks to my current project with the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council my global and local interests are converging nicely.  I am working on some videos for their new, soon-to-launch consumer-facing website on how to prepare dry peas and lentils. I am testing recipes with yellow split peas, red lentils, whole dry green peas, garbanzo bean flour and much more, which is making me particularly grateful for culinary traditions world-wide. Indian and Italian preparations are serving me particularly well, but so are  Mexican and French ones. So the fact that we grow such a huge variety of peas and beans in the U.S. that I can then prepare based on hundreds of years of cooking wisdom from far-flung places, climates and cultures is a joy.

While I did not intend to post two recipes back to back with the same colors and almost the same spice-scheme, I hope you’ll consider them both.

Yellow Peas and Rice with Onion Relish (Golden Kichuri)
–adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

2/3 cup yellow split peas (matar ki daal)
1 2/3 cup basmati rice
3 tablespoons ghee, coconut or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
3-4 cups  veggie bouillon broth or water
Salt

Onion Relish

1/2 a small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste — 1/2 teaspoon  makes this VERY spicy)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/3 cup of Greek yogurt or plain whole milk yogurt (optional)

Soak the peas in ample warm water for 2-3 hours. Soak the rice in ample warm water for 1 hour. Drain both.

Heat the ghee or oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet and add the cumin seeds. Cook just for a scant minute until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Add the rice and peas and stir to coat well with the fat. Add the Garam Masala, turmeric, cilantro and broth or water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (unless your broth is quite salty–if you’re using water add a generous teaspoon of salt). Stir well, bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook, partially covered for about 20 minutes. You may need to add more water or broth, in 1/2-cup increments if it seems too dry. When the peas and rice are tender and the liquid is absorbed let it sit off the heat, covered, for 10 more minutes to steam.

While the peas and rice are cooking, stir together the relish ingredients. Serve the rice and peas with the relish and some yogurt, if you’d like.

Quinoa and Beets

In this recipe raw, grated beets are added to cumin scented quinoa.

I have a bit of a funny relationship with beets. I like them and often am attracted to beet-related salads on restaurant menus. They are not, however, the first thing I grab at the farmers’ market. And if I do, they often sit in my crisper longer than most other items. Luckily beets last a long time  in the fridge.

I have my few go-to recipes for them like this one. And today’s recipe was recommended to me by a trusted friend and I had actually mentally made note of it when I saw it on Culinate.com a few months earlier. It is a recipe from Maria Speck’s book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. I taught it in a recent class (Grains and Beans in Winter Salads) and it was a big hit.

Be careful when you grate them as the juice flies everywhere and easily stains.

I don’t think I had ever used raw, grated beets before  making this dish and they are surprisingly sweet this way. In my experience red beets work much better than the golden beets both in flavor and appearance in this dish. (Maria suggests using golden ones as an alternative. ) The dish is quick to make, the color is unbeatable and the balance of the sweet beets, the nutty quinoa, the whole cumin seeds and plenty of lemon juice (and a bit of cayenne) is really, really lovely. And of course the garlicky Greek yogurt topping is the perfect complement.

It’s best eaten warm or at room temperature not long after it’s made. I just had some for breakfast this morning right out of the fridge and it was not quite as soft and fragrant so be sure to bring leftovers to room temperature before eating.

This would make a lovely addition to any holiday meal.

Quinoa with Beets, Cumin and Garlicky Yogurt
–adapted from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck

This quick, room temperature dish uses raw, grated beets. The original recipe also calls for sumac, the powder from a red berry found and used all over the Middle East. It has a tart flavor so I substitute a bit of lemon juice (which she also suggests) which works well.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sumac (optional, see note above)
3/4 cup plain whole-milk or Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. sumac, for sprinkling, or 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1¼ cups shredded raw beets (about 1 medium-sized beet, rinsed and peeled)
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 pinches cayenne pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds (they will sizzle) and cook, stirring, until the seeds darken and become fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in the quinoa and cook, stirring frequently, until hot to the touch, about 1 minute. Add the water, salt, and sumac, and bring to a boil. Decrease the temperature to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the yogurt and the garlic in a small bowl until smooth. Sprinkle with the sumac (if using) and set aside.

To finish, remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the shredded beets, cover, and steam for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and the cayenne. Taste, adjusting for salt and lemon juice, and serve with the yogurt topping.