Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Still with the flu

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Believe it or not I'm still not over the lingering flu, and because of that, tonight's beans will be the comfort food I crave when I'm sick -- simple Indian dal. For this I'm relying on my personal cooking goddess, Anna Thomas, author of The Vegetarian Epicure Books One and Two, The New Vegetarian Epicure, and the newer Love Soup.

I became vegetarian sometime in 1976 and struggled with how to cook without meat for a few years. I had some fairly radical input from friends who were macrobiotic, and experimented with unusual ingredients that were hard to find at the time. What I found challenging was putting food on the table that was both meatless and hearty without being overly dairy-laden. I was raised on meat and potatoes and I wasn't ready to live a life of salads.

Enter Anna Thomas, who proved that meatless cooking can be hearty and flavorful.. Many of her foods taste like they might be heirloom dishes handed down through generations, largely because she honors her Polish heritage even as she explores other cuisines. Book Two includes a chapter of Indian recipes and I admit they were the first Indian foods I ever ate. I think I made every one of those recipes, then went on to learn some more authentic Indian cooking, but the simple Dal on page 310 became an instant household favorite. During college I would make a batch and take it to school for lunch. Through the years it's been my go-to easy comfort food, especially when a head cold or upper respiratory infection calls for something spicy and sinus-clearing that doesn't require slaving over a hot stove all day. 

The rice accompaniment on page 311 is another Anna Thomas favorite, Plain Pilaf. It's an easy, fragrant rice flavored with green peas, almonds, cardamon, cinnamon and raisins. Together, the rice and lentils constitute a vegetarian meal we categorize in this house as "brown and lumpy," but it's so delicious and comforting that we don't care what it looks like.

Thanks, Anna Thomas!

1 comment:

  1. I bought a bag of dal... chana dal I think... because I wanted to try something new... sadly... several months later, it's still languishing in my pantry!