The Huffington Post recently posted this article about scientists who calculated there are 8.8 billion earth-like planets in our galaxy–that’s more planets than there are people on earth. About 1 in 5 of the stars in our galaxy are stars like our sun, and it’s the planets around these stars that were calculated. And that’s just in our galaxy. The complexity and possibility is both exciting and staggering to the imagination. It certainly captured mine.
Right now, outside my window, countless little snowflakes are falling, each one designed in intricate patterns I can’t see with the naked eye. They are covering everything, making more patterns against the roof shingles, the ground, the wrought iron table and the bicycles leaning against the house next door. Infinite variation and infinite complexity.
So today, in honor of infinite suns and infinite variation and complexity, I’m celebrating a simple meal that cooks up as bright as yellow sunshine. It has just a few ingredients combined in one pot. But once you have it cooked up, the ways to serve it are endless. It goes with any combination of vegetables–and even fruit–that sounds good. And any further seasoning style that appeals to you. You can even double my proportions, and eat it all week if you like, with a different presentation of its basic goodness each time. There’s nothing like an easy, hot, bright yellow meal on a day when the color scale outside is white, black and gray.
A few years ago, I found the most basic components for this little miracle of a meal in the McDougall Forum’s Food and Recipes section in a thread called “3 Ingredients Recipes. Quick. Creative.” Thank you to tazi752000 for posting the “curried rice and split peas,” which is the source for what I’m posting here. Being a person who can’t resist tweaking and embellishment, there are now five ingredients. But they are simple, easy to obtain, and boost the taste, digestive and anti-inflammatory properties of this dish, which, to my mind, is well worth the changes and 2 “extra” ingredients.
Decades ago I read in Laurel’s Kitchen that yellow split peas are the vegetarian equivalent of chicken soup. It sounded strange to me at the time, but now I understand why this can be so. According to World’s Healthiest Foods, they are high in fiber, protein, potassium, vitamin B1 and a substance called molybdenum, which can help the body detoxify from reacting to sulfites. They can help stabilize blood sugar too. The yellow split peas I use in this recipe are actually grown locally, right here on the Palouse and sold in bulk at the Moscow Food Co-op. I like to add cauliflower to this one pot pilaf because it absorbs the flavors into its own buttery taste, and, as PCRM’s Nutrition Rainbow points out, it’s rich in indoles and lutein, which help eliminate excess estrogen and carcinogens. And World’s Healthiest Foods says it’s a good source of Vitamin K.
Bright Yellow Split Pea and Rice Pilaf
3/4 cup of short grain brown rice
3/4 cup of yellow split peas
3/4 cup of cauliflower florets, broken up small
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp powdered fennel
3 1/2 cups of water
Put everything in a heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil. Turn down to simmer. Cover and let cook 30-40 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Keep covered and let sit for about 10 minutes. (If you have a glass cooking lid, that helps to see without lifting the lid at all, which I recommend.) Serve with any of the following steamed vegetables:
kale, arugula, green beans, brussel sprouts, broccoli, broccolini, carrots, spinach, cabbage, bok choy, mushrooms, eggplant, summer squash, zucchini;
also goes good with diced cooked sweet potato or winter squash or any roasted veggies.
Other toppings: chopped green onion, diced cucumber, grated ginger, garlic or garlic powder, Sweet Red Chili Sauce (or any other hot sauce you like), a dab of baba ganoush, lemon or lime juice, extra curry powder, ground flax or pumpkins seeds.
“Fruity” toppings: tomatoes (can be steamed for a minute at the end of steaming other veggies if you like), diced apple or pear (can also be steamed)–even sliced grapes or raisins are good add ins. Pineapple too.
Notes: I use tumeric instead of curry powder because I love its mild, earthy taste and excellent anti-inflammatory properties. I use powdered fennel because I learned from a Dreena Burton cookbook I took out of the library when I first began eating this way that adding a small amount to beans and peas while cooking makes them easier to digest. Plus I love the mild sweetness. I’d rather add a little heat as a topping. The other reason I use these spices is that they are fine for Romeo. He likes this too. So I cook it without garlic or onion, so he can have some, and I add those to my own portion.
Leftover pilaf can easily be reheated in the steamer, along with any other veggies and/or fruit you’d like to go with it.
When I was in grade school, I loved to read about the planets and outer space. I daydreamed about being an astronaut. I still like to wonder if perhaps on any one of those billions of planets out there, someone else is wondering what I wonder about. When I let my mind wander amid such vast possibilities, it’s comforting and grounding to cook up something simple, healthy and local, right here on earth; a bright yellow meal which is hearth and home to me, like the heart of the fire in the masonry stove on a cold wintery day, while billions of planets spin “out there” in infinite space, and I watch the snowflakes fall.