Yellow split peas with red peppers + greens (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

This recipe works with yellow or green split peas, any split legumes (aka dals), lentils, or a mixture. If you live near an Indian market, you have a wonderland of dals from which to choose. Although not required, soaking in hot water, covered, for a couple of hours reduces cooking time. You can stir in the greens as detailed below, or you can steam or sauté them and serve them alongside with hot cooked rice, quinoa, another grain, or pasta.

Ingredients
  • olive oil
  • fresh or jarred red sweet peppers, chopped
  • jalapeño chile or other fresh chile, thinly sliced
  • yellow split peas or legumes of choice, soaked in hot water and drained
  • bay leaves
  • fresh rosemary sprigs
  • fresh tomato, chopped, or canned tomatoes with juices
  • turmeric
  • greens (such as beet tops, kale, collards, Swiss chard, spinach, turnip tops, or a mixture), stemmed and leaves cut into ribbons
  • balsamic vinegar or vinegar of choice (optional)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • chopped fresh cilantro and/or fresh parsley
Method
  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the peppers and chile and cook until softened and fragrant. Add the legumes, water to cover by ½ inch, the bay leaves, and rosemary sprigs. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, until soft, adding water as needed to keep the legumes submerged.
  2. Stir in the tomato and turmeric and simmer until the tomato breaks down into the liquid. Stir in the greens and cook until the greens are done to your liking.
  3. Drizzle with the vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with the fresh herbs, and serve.

Chickpea salad with tofu, avocado, peppers, nuts, seeds + pesto (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

No cooking is required for this refreshing main-course salad.

Ingredients
  • cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained if canned
  • super-firm tofu or seasoned tofu, cut into cubes
  • mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Asian, English, or Persian cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise and thinly cut crosswise
  • red or yellow sweet pepper, chopped
  • jalapeño chile, thinly sliced
  • store-bought or homemade pesto of choice or mayonnaise of choice
  • toasted slivered almonds
  • raw or toasted pumpkin seeds
  • balsamic vinegar or vinegar of choice
  • avocado
  • rice cakes, preferably brown rice
Method
  1. In a large bowl, add the chickpeas, tofu, mushrooms, cucumber, sweet pepper, and jalapeñol. Add a tablespoonful of pesto and the nuts and seeds, season with vinegar and more pesto, and toss well.
  2. Cut the avocado into cubes and place on top of the salad. Break the rice cakes into tiny bits. Gently toss the salad until just combined and serve.

Potato–split pea rounds (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegetarian)

Lots of options for using these little, savory baked goodies: inside a pita instead of falafel, in a taco or burrito, on a pizza, with spaghetti marinara, inside lettuce cups or fresh spring rolls, on a salad, etc. Feel free to add or omit seasonings—the recipe is very flexible!

Ingredients
  • split peas, rinsed
  • potatoes, quartered
  • carrot, grated
  • onion, minced
  • granulated garlic or garlic, minced
  • ground cumin
  • dried thyme
  • chipotle chile powder or other chile powder (optional)
  • fresh lemon juice
  • Dijon mustard or prepared mustard of choice
  • tomato paste
  • tamari or coconut aminos
  • flour of choice (chickpea, rice, coconut, gluten-free, whole wheat, etc.)
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper
Method
  1. In a large saucepan, bring water (1½ parts water to 1 part split peas) to a boil, add the split peas, and simmer, covered, until very soft, checking to see if more water is needed. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peas to a large bowl.
  2. Add the potatoes to the same saucepan plus water to cover and simmer until very soft. Drain, add to the split peas, and mash with a fork.
  3. Add the carrot, onion, garlic, cumin, thyme, chile powder, lemon juice, mustard, tomato paste, and tamari. With a rubber or silicone spatula, mix the ingredients together, adding enough flour to make the mixture sticky. Taste and adjust with salt, pepper, or any of the other seasonings.
  4. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Form the mixture into small balls and place on the prepared pan. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Pull the pan out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Bake, turning the pan as needed for even baking. When the balls are browned but slightly soft when squeezed, turn on the broiler and broil until completely crispy, making sure they don’t burn. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Indian-spiced mixed legumes (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

An Indian market has an endless supply of legumes to try, and this dish is a great way to experiment. This particular combination has sweetness and chew from the chana dal (split baby chickpeas) and the split peas, while the lentils  thicken the mix. If you don’t have an Indian grocery nearby, use whatever canned or dried beans, split peas, and lentils you enjoy. Soaking the legumes shortens the cooking time, and curry powder is a good substitute for the list of spices. Serve as a side dish or over rice or pasta.

Ingredients
  • chana dal or whole moong dal
  • split peas
  • red lentils or lentils of choice
  • avocado oil, coconut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • leek, halved and sliced, or shallot, chopped
  • halved cherry tomatoes, chopped regular tomatoes, or canned tomatoes
  • kosher salt
  • garlic, sliced or chopped
  • fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • jalapeño chile, sliced
  • fennel seeds
  • curry powder
  • ground turmeric
  • ground coriander
  • ground cumin
  • chile powder
  • freshly ground pepper
  • fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
Method
  • Wash and drain the legumes. Put them in a large bowl, cover with hot water by several inches, let soak for an hour or two, rinse, and drain.
  • Warm the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and leek and cook until softened. Add the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt, and cook until the mixture becomes saucy.
  • Stir in the legumes and cook for a minute or two. Add enough water to cover by half an inch, cover, bring to a boil, and then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the legumes are almost soft. Add more water if the mixture becomes dry. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and jalapeño and cook for a minute or two. Add the spices and cook until the legumes are completely soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with fresh herbs, and serve.

Creamy lentils with garlic, rosemary, and beets (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

What makes this dish creamy is the chana dal (split baby garbanzo beans). If you can’t find them, use yellow split peas. Why add beets? They give texture plus sweetness to balance the savory in the garlic and rosemary, but you can substitute potatoes, carrots, zucchini, or another vegetable if you like.

Ingredients
  • extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee
  • beets, preferably Chioggia or golden beets because they don’t bleed, cut into ½-in. dice
  • green lentils
  • chana dal* or yellow split peas
  • homemade vegetable stock, store-bought broth, or water
  • rosemary sprigs or dried rosemary
  • garlic, minced
  • salt
  • pepper

* Find chana dal online or at Indian markets.

Method
  1. Heat oil in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add beets for a minute or two and then the lentils and chana dal. Cook, covered, stirring often, until beets begin to soften.
  2. Add stock (about 3 parts stock to 1 part lentils/chana dal) to pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, until the legumes are almost soft. Stir in rosemary and garlic and cook until rosemary has fallen off the sprig and legumes are completely soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Warm lentil salad with roasted brussels sprouts + citrus dressing (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

This one-bowl meal brings an exciting mix of flavors in every bite. The citrus dressing adds sweetness, saltiness, and sparkle (thanks for the idea, Josie). Use lentils that keep their shape when cooked, such as brown or French lentils—not red lentils, which turn creamy. You can roast broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or any other vegetable in place of the brussels sprouts.

Ingredients
  • lentils, rinsed and drained
  • homemade broth or water
  • kosher salt
  • brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • chopped raw vegetables, such as radishes, kohlrabi, jicama, fennel bulb
  • orange juice
  • lime or lemon juice
  • toasted sesame oil
  • Dijon mustard or prepared mustard of choice
  • hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced
  • green onions, thinly sliced 
  • toasted sunflower seeds
  • pepper
Method
  1. Preheat toaster oven or standard oven to 400º. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Put 1 part lentils, 2 parts broth or water, and a sprinkle of salt in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Cover, bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until lentils are soft. Turn off heat but keep lentils warm.
  3. Meanwhile, toss brussels sprouts with oil and roast cut side down in the lined baking pan until browned and soft. Sprinkle with salt. Transfer to a bowl.
  4. Make salad dressing: Whisk together orange juice, lime juice, sesame oil, and mustard in a small bowl, tasting as you go.
  5. Assemble individual salads in bowls: Layer lentils, brussels sprouts, raw vegetables, egg slices, green onions, and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Red lentil stew with coconut + cabbage (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

A can of coconut milk and red lentils made the perfect thick stew for our recent blustery and rainy weather in the San Francisco Bay Area. Serve over your favorite grain, pasta, or cooked vegetables.

Ingredients
  • coconut oil
  • onion, diced
  • root vegetables, such as turnips, potatoes, and carrots
  • mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • salt
  • dried chiles, such as poblano, chile negro, chipotle, habanero, or cayenne, stemmed and seeded
  • red lentils
  • homemade vegetable broth, store-bought broth, or water
  • chopped green garlic or minced garlic cloves
  • canned coconut milk
  • green cabbage, cut into 1-in. dice
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • sugar-free dried, shredded coconut
  • green onions, thinly sliced
Method
  1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, root vegetables, and mushrooms; sprinkle with salt. Cook, covered, until vegetables soften.
  2. Meanwhile, put chiles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. When soft, cut with scissors while submerged and stir chiles with soaking water into pot. Add red lentils and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add broth just to cover and cook, covered, until lentils are soft.
  3. Add garlic, coconut milk, and cabbage. Cook, covered, until cabbage softens. Stir in Sriracha, shredded coconut, and green onions just before serving.

Smoky stew with cauliflower + black-eyed peas (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Chipotle chiles (smoked and dried red-ripe jalapeños) add the essential smokiness in this stew. Although black-eyed peas do not require soaking, you can shorten the cooking time by pouring hot water over them and allowing them to sit on the counter for an hour or more. Serve this stew over pasta or your grain of choice.

Ingredients
  • extra-virgin olive oil or ghee
  • onion, chopped
  • jalapeño chile, diced (optional)
  • potatoes, chopped
  • black-eyed peas, soaked, drained, and rinsed
  • homemade broth, store-bought, or water
  • chipotle chiles*
  • salt
  • cauliflower, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • greens, such as collards, kale, or Swiss chard, center ribs removed and leaves chopped and washed
  • parsley, chopped
  • chile powder (optional)
  • pepper
  • hot sauce (optional)
Method
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeño, if using, and potatoes. Cook until vegetables soften.
  2. Add black-eyed peas, broth, and chipotles. When chipotles plump up and soften, use scissors to cut each into several pieces. Cook until black-eyed peas are soft.
  3. Add salt, cauliflower, and more broth if needed. When cauliflower is soft, add greens and parsley, and cook until greens are soft. Add chile powder, if using, and pepper. Adjust seasonings and serve with your favorite hot sauce if you like.

* Find at well-stocked groceries or Latino markets.

Chickpea spread—savory and sweet

I enjoy chickpea spread with vegetables mixed in—see my post about adding steamed broccoli to hummus. This version was inspired by the fresh beets and cooked chickpeas waiting for me in the fridge. Don’t be surprised by the lovely color of this spread!

Chickpea spread with beets and olives

For a quick version, whirl the cooked beets, olives, and herbs, and mix in your favorite prepared hummus.

I prefer Chioggia or golden beets because they don’t bleed and aren’t as fibrous as red beets, but any beets will work. There’s no need to wash, scrub, or peel the beets because the skins slide off easily after the beets are cooked.

  • beets
  • cooked chickpeas
  • tahini (sesame paste)
  • lemon juice
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • pitted green olives with pickling liquid as needed or olive tapenade
  • garlic (optional)
  • fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, chervil, cilantro, basil, tarragon, dill, oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Cut beets in half. Put in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, covered, over medium-high heat. Cook until easily pierced with a fork. Pour off cooking water, keeping beets in the pan. Cover beets with cold water to cool beets quickly. Rub beets to remove their skins.
  2. Whirl beets, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, oil, olives, garlic (if using), and your choice of fresh herbs. Adjust seasonings and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Discovering coconut milk

Yes, I’ve had curries at Indian, Thai, and other restaurants, but I’ve never made anything with coconut milk that tasted good—until now.

California curry with red lentils and vegetables

I call it a “California curry” to distance it from a specific world cuisine, given I combined the flavors of New Mexico chile powder, olive tapenade, and whole-fat coconut milk without a hint of curry paste. The red lentils give the rich coconut sauce a nice thickness. I served this curry over packaged precooked polenta that I sliced and broiled until crisp.

  • coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • leeks, cut crosswise into rings
  • potatoes, cut into 1/2-in. dice
  • zucchini or other summer squash, cut into 1/2-in. dice
  • cauliflower, cut in half and then into 1-in. steaks
  • full-fat coconut milk
  • vegetable broth
  • red lentils
  • chile powder, such as New Mexico and/or chipotle
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive tapenade or pitted chopped olives
  • hot sauce (optional)
  1. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks, potatoes, zucchini, and cauliflower. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften.
  2. Add coconut milk and vegetable broth to just cover vegetables (use water if needed). Bring to a simmer and stir in lentils and chile powder. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils and vegetables are soft. Add more water if needed so the sauce doesn’t get too thick.
  3. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and olive tapenade. Serve with your favorite hot sauce if you like.