Wednesday, August 15, 2018

India's Independence Day Dinner - Split Red Lentil with Roasted Red Pepper, Basmati Rice, and Blistered Fushimi Chile Peppers (No Added Fat)

Today is Indian's Independence Day! My wife had the suggestion of putting a dinner together that has orange, white, and green from the Indian flag and I agreed that it was a good idea. (The Indian flag picture here is from and is in the public domain.)

I thought that I'd make a "striped" plate with white Basmati rice in the center (we prefer the taste and nutrition of whole grain rice, but white Basmati is also tasty and welcome for an occasional change). I chose split red lentils to form the basis of the leftmost stripe and some Fushimi chile peppers that I found at the local farmers' market a few hours earlier.

The farmers' market visit was quite productive. Among my purchases were these three interesting items, including two that were new (to me):

  • Fushimi frying pepper or chile pepper, said to be like the shishito pepper that I enjoy but with less heat and more flavor,
  • Petit Mersaillais pepper, a sweet yellow pepper
  • Habanada pepper, looking and tasting like Habaneros but with no heat (I have have had these before)

  • Split red lentils cook in a 1:2.25-2.5 ratio of lentils to water for 13-18m; I went with a ratio of about 1:2.25 and 18m cook time. To make the dish more orange than yellow, I blended some roasted red peppers in. Here is what I did:

    • 1 1/2 cup lentils
    • 3 1/2 cups water
    • (optional) 1 -  1 1/2 cups green tomato cut into 3/8" cubes (I used a small tomato which yielded a cup)
    • 1T ginger, finely (1/8") grated
    • 3 cloves garlic, finely (1/8") chopped
    • 1t turmeric
    • 1/2 t cumin seeds
    • 1/2 cup onion cut into approx. 1/4"x3/4" slivers
    • 2T lemon juice
    • 1/4 t garlic powder
    • 3/4 t salt
    • 4 roasted red bell peppers (about 1/2 of a 16 ounce bottle)
    • (optional) 6 Habanada peppers cut into quarters lengthwise
    1. I put the lentils, water, green tomato, ginger, garlic, turmeric, and cumin into my Instant Pot pressure cooker and cooked for 18m.
    2. After the cooking was done, I waited a few minutes and gently released pressure, then mixed in the onion, lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt.
    3. It looked good but needed to be more orange, so I blended the dish with the roasted red peppers.
    4. Finally, I mixed in the Habanada peppers which were surprisingly close in color to the lentil dish.
    I also made white basmati rice (1: 1.5 ratio of rice to water simmered for 15-20 minutes (I used 1 1/4 cups rice and approximately 2 cups water). Finally, I cooked on cast iron over medium heat Fushimi peppers till slightly blistered.

    Wow, dinner came out better than I had expected! I've tried for some time to get a thick dhal and today's dish was just right - any less water and I'd get some sticking. I was surprised how nicely yellow the red peppers made the main dish. We all enjoyed the taste and colors.

    Ideas for the future

    I should experiment with more color tuning in general, using foods and not coloring to harmonize my plates even more than I usually do. More rice would have been welcome. An option with the Habanada peppers could be to blend, taking away the chunk they contributed.

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