Cambrian: Opinion

Curried lentil stew is fragrant and floral: Culinary Corner

Ingredients for curried lentil stew.
Ingredients for curried lentil stew. Special to The Cambrian

Cheers, Consuelo Macedo!

Kudos to the cook and columnist stirring up our enthusiasm for culinary adventures in The Cambrian since April 2000. I am proud to brag that I have read the Culinary Corner from the beginning. It is a privilege to carry on the tradition. Yours is a tall Toque to fill . . .

So dear readers, here I am, not as a stranger to the kitchen, newspaper deadlines or even Cambria, arriving as a part-time cottager in the early 1980s. Food, writing, cooking, collecting recipes and foraging provisions nourish and fuel me. I invite you to pull up a chair and share the table with me as we feast together.

Another thing about me, I possess a voracious appetite for reading, especially about food in all forms. Some years ago Mark Bittman, cookbook author and formerly editor of The New York Times weekly Food, began his January column with a resolution to get more beans, grains and legumes into his life. To accomplish this goal, he decided to cook a pot each of grains and beans weekly to use in soups, salads, sides and entrees. Prescient he was. Pick up a food publication today, and what do you read? Whole grains, beans and legumes.

Each January, I recall his words. Do I resolve, too? No, but I am mindful of striving to cook extra brown rice or quinoa and stocking a variety of beans in the pantry to create and embellish the weekly fare. With herbs, spices and a few well chosen vegetables, these down to earth ingredients rock!

Fortunately, in the late 1970s Narsai David, Berkeley chef and restauranteur, popped into my life in segments of Over Easy on KQED in San Francisco. Aimed at the senior population, there I was eating up Narsai’s chefness and scribbling recipes on the back of envelopes.

With two babes afoot, a husband working late hours in what is now called Silicon Valley, and mourning that it was hard to be hip over 30, albeit, just barely, I treasure the recipes culled from those years. Fragrant and filling, this is an all time favorite.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can make an individual portion or serve a family of four. The math is easy: For one, divide in half; for four, multiply by two.

Curried Lentil Stew as narrated by Narsai David (Serves 2)

1 tblsp. olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped

1/2 cup brown rice, unwashed

1/2 tsp. curry powder

2 cups water

1/4 tsp. salt (optional)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup brown lentils

1/2 bunch spinach, chopped (about 2 cups+)

Plain yogurt for garnish

Cherry tomatoes (optional)

In a heavy frying pan sauté onion, garlic and rice in oil about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with curry powder and stir. Add water, salt, lemon juice and lentils. Cover and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook covered for 5 minutes. Serve with a dollop of yogurt on top and cherry tomatoes to garnish.

A plate of medjool dates, sliced persimmon (dried or fresh) and a handful of pistachios pleases the palate with a sweet finale.

The Culinary Corner is special to The Cambrian. Send recipes and questions to Nancy Allen at
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