Padma Lakshmi’s Kitchari
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi loves to serve her family and friends kitchari, a much-loved Indian food that she describes as a savory rice-and-lentil porridge. Lakshmi makes the dish a bit healthier by tweaking the traditional recipe. For example, the dish usually is made with 2 cups of rice to 1 cup of lentils, but Lakshmi reverses that so the lentils are the main ingredient. The legumes are boiled with a bay leaf and a bit of salt. When she makes the dish for family and friends, she sautés vegetables and adds them to the porridge, which makes it healthier still. Here, the kitchari is made with more pantry-friendly ingredients. It gets its spice from black mustard seeds and dried red chile peppers. Adapted from “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi.
• 1 c. (7 oz.) yellow or green lentils
• 1/2 c. (6 1/2 oz.) basmati rice
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 tsp. kosher salt, or more to taste
• 1/2 c. diced carrots (about 1 large)
• 2 tbsp. canola oil
• 2 to 3 dried red chiles, or more to taste
• 3/4 tsp. black mustard seeds
• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter or ghee, optional
Rinse the lentils and rice until the water runs clear. In a large stockpot, add the lentils, rice and bay leaf and enough cold water to cover the ingredients by about 3 inches. Stir in enough salt so that the water tastes lightly salty.
Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Stir in the carrots and cook, stirring a few times, until the rice is tender and the porridge is the consistency of oatmeal, about 10 minutes. If any foam forms during cooking, skim it off. If the mixture seems too dry during cooking, add water, a little at a time, as needed.
When the rice is just about cooked, in a shallow pan over medium-high heat, heat the canola oil until shimmering. Add the chiles, mustard seeds, cumin and pepper and cook, stirring, until the mustard seeds begin to pop, about 3 minutes. Add the oil and spice mixture to the porridge. Stir in the butter or ghee, if using. Remove from the heat, divide among bowls and serve.
Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:
Calories 270 Fat 6 g
Sodium 200 mg Carbohydrates 45 g
Saturated fat 0 g Total sugar 1 g
Protein 10 g Cholesterol 0 mg
Dietary fiber 6 g
Serves 1 to 2.
Note: A reliable pantry staple, packaged instant ramen, enjoys cult status with many, from cash-strapped college students to gourmet chefs. The slice of processed American cheese adds comforting, savory creaminess and is a nod to the days following the Korean War when iconic American foods flooded South Korea. Adapted from chef Edward Lee.
• 3/4 c. coconut milk
• 1 (3-oz.) packet instant ramen noodles, such as Maruchan Ramen Noodle Soup
• 1/4 c. frozen green beans
• 1 tbsp. creamy peanut butter, optional
• 1/2 tsp. curry powder, plus more for garnish
• 1 slice American cheese, such as Kraft
Add 1 cup of water to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Add the coconut milk, noodles, green beans and peanut butter, if using, and cook, stirring now and then, for about 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the curry powder and half of the spice mix from the ramen packet and stir until fully dissolved, about 1 minute. (Discard the remaining spice mix.)
Transfer the ramen and its broth to a large bowl and place the cheese on top. Dust with more curry powder and serve.
Nutrition information: Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful nutritional analysis.