beans and lentils: 4 posts

Simple Bean Salad Recipe With Variations

Do you remember the scene from Amélie in which Audrey Tautou’s character delights in sticking her hand into a barrel of dry beans in her local grocery? I suspect that my supermarket might call for security if I tried to follow her example but I love the idea of such simple pleasures. Anyone who likes cooking knows that the enjoyment starts even before the food touches the lips. Long before I start preparing the meal—provided that I am not in a rush—I anticipate the textures and scents: the crisp sound of a knife cutting through an onion, the murmur of a pot of soup on a low flame, the bracing freshness of grated lemon peel. Even something as simple as a bean salad can be a gourmet experience.

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Lentil Soup with Coriander, Cumin and Peanuts Recipe

Lentil soup and star fruit salad

The flavors of Gujarati cuisine made a strong impression on me during my first visit. Until I started exploring the Western region of India, which consists of the states of Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra, I had no idea what to expect. I suspected that the flavors would be very different from the Northern Indian fare one commonly finds in restaurants abroad, but I was unprepared for the diversity of tastes I was to encounter. It all started with a simple dish of dal, lentil soup, which is commonly served with rice towards the end of the meal. It looked unassuming—pale orange with green flecks of cilantro and black mustard seeds, but its sweet and tart flavors, with a delicate touch of toasted coriander and cumin, won me over immediately. It was simple, and yet elegant and memorable.

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Musabbaha Whole Chickpea Hummus Recipe

Hummus, a creamy paste of chickpeas and tahini scented with lemon and garlic, is rightly one of the most beloved Middle Eastern dishes. Similar chickpea pastes flavored with cinnamon, ginger, parsley and olive oil are mentioned in medieval Arab cookbooks as early as the 13th century. In recent years, hummus and baba ghanoush have become the emblematic dishes for pan-Middle Eastern cuisine. Yet, despite its ubiquity, when properly made, hummus offers one of the most comforting and satisfying dishes with its complex interplay of flavors and rich contrasts between spice, tartness and creaminess. In addition to the commonly encountered creamy hummus, Middle Eastern cuisine offers a number of interesting regional variations, out of which the Syrian-style hummus, musabbaha, is one of my absolute favorites.

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Red Kidney Bean Salad Georgian Style (Lobio) : Flavor Recipe

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are,” said the great French epicure and gastronome, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. If I were to divine this via my great grandmother’s recipe books, the answer would not be simple. Contrary to the popular stereotypes of Eastern European food as dense and heavy fare of cabbage and potatoes, generalization are impossible to make. Certainly, 70 years of Soviet rule have made an impact upon the cuisine in all of the former Soviet republics, but even before the revolution of 1917, the regional differences were quite pronounced and the cross-influences distinctly felt. The picture is even more complex if one considers the class differences in terms of food preferences. The yellowed pages of the notebooks which my great grandmother kept ever since she got married in the 1930s contain a fascinating array: poppy seed rolls, plum stewed meats and sour cherry vareniki (boiled stuffed dumplings) reflecting classical Ukrainian fare; walnut cream tortes alluding to influences from the former Austro-Hungarian provinces of Ukraine; and spicy meat and eggplant dishes betraying the love affair with the vibrant cuisine of Georgia, an affair that started since Georgia became a part of the Russian Empire in the 19th century. What better way to understand the culture than to eat through it!

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