intuitive cooking, sensible eating.

Spice Blends & Lentils

This summer I had the pleasure of working at the Spice House in Chicago, IL.  It is an amazing place that specializes in sourcing the highest quality, fresh spices and selling them in bulk at reasonable prices.  They work with many restaurants in the city, and have an online catalog that offers their entire selection via mail order.  It is a fantastic place run by lovely, knowledgeable people.

They offer whole spices as well as their own signature blends.  Some of the blends focus on the neighborhoods of Chicago and the ethnic groups which dominate those particular areas.  They also have premade salad dressing bases, BBQ rubs, and classic blends (like Jerk Chicken, pesto, etc.).  t is cool because all the spice blends are hand mixed, so the proportions are always spot on, and all the component spices are properly cared for/stored before being mixed together.  Spices are extremely delicate in terms of storage, and are vulnerable to humidity, temperature, and insect infestations.  When mixing spices it is important to take into account the varying properties of everything going into it and ensuring that the quality is not compromised requires careful storage and proper mixing techniques.

The blend I used for this recipes is called Sunny Singapore.  As quoted from the blend’s description, the ingredients are: tellicherry black pepper, turmeric powder, powdered lemon peel, citric acid, coriander, cumin, ginger, fenugreek, garlic, fennel, nutmeg, cinnamon, white pepper, onion powder, red pepper, cloves, and cardamom.

Lately I have been trying to use different grains and protein sources as we transition between summer to autumnal fare.  I am also working to push myself out of my tendency to focus on grilling, and also finding delicious ways to eat less meat, get enough protein, and try new things.

That said, lentils are  something I have not cooked very often.  Since I was making something new to me, I decided to combine the simplicity of using a quality spice rub on the fish, and then focusing on making my lentils.  For that, I decided to use a basic Ethiopian lentil recipe that my co worker Salem shared with me.  She is Eritrean, and spent many years living in Ethiopia as well.

Ethiopian Red Lentils

1. cups red lentils

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 knob of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

3 tablespoons butter or oil

1-2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

salt and pepper

about 3 cups of water

I used a little chicken bouillon and tossed in half a lemon (including the rind)

cilantro to garnish

Saute the onion first until it is browned. Add in the garlic and ginger to release their flavors, toss in the tomato paste and brown it up a bit.  Next add in everything else and bring it to a boil.  Simmer 20-30 minutes.

To finish the lentils I decided to take out the lemon rind, scoop out the pulp and stir that in with the rind that I had rough chopped.  It adds a zing to the dish which I enjoyed.

For the fish, I just rubbed on the spice blend with some oil and baked it at 425 for about 8 minutes.

A simple meal for a weeknight dinner.

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