Guest Post by Chris Coyle of Hye Thyme Cafe
Hi there. I’m Chris over at Hye Thyme Café, a little food blog I got talked into starting by some friends. The inclusion of Hye in the title is a nod to my Armenian heritage – more specifically, my maternal grandmother, who taught me to make goodies like Paklava and Stuffed Grape Leaves. Back then, the kitchen was Mom’s domain, so I was typically only allowed to jump in around the holidays.
When Val asked if I would be interested in guest posting for Veggie Love Month, it got me thinking – I recently received ingredients from Marx Foods to be used in a recipe challenge, so why not go vegan? The participants were required to use at least two of the five ingredients provided: Bamboo Rice, Dill Pollen, Green Eston Lentils, Whole Cardamom, and Mint Herb Crystals.
I decided to use the rice and lentils in a filling for Lettuce Wraps. My mind wandered back to another challenge, when I received Coconut Sap Sugar, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Wid Rice, Guajillo Chilies, and Granulated Pasilla Chilies. At that time, I decided to make rice krispie-like treats by puffing the rice and incorporating the coconut sugar and chilies into the marshmallow. I completely tanked that one by drowning the rice in too much marshmallow, but I learned just how easy it is to puff rice, so I used it for this recipe. I incorporated a third ingredient by stewing dried apricots with the cardamom to serve as another texture and act as a bit of a sauce.
If you are not familiar with these exotic beauties, here’s the rundown:
Green Eston Lentils: Small green speckled lentils with a mild earthy flavor. The lentils break down well and are often used for thickening soups. These particular lentils are said to contain more fiber than others and contain high levels of protein and iron, making them a great option for vegetarians/vegans to pair with rice to result in a complete plant-based protein.
Bamboo Rice: A short-grained white rice infused with bamboo juice during the milling process. In addition to a lovely light jade color, this gives the rice a boost of Vitamin B and a flavor/aroma slightly reminiscent of jasmine green tea. This rice is often used in risotto and sushi dishes.
Green Cardamom (pictured with apricots): I was surprised to learn that this member of the ginger family is the world’s third most expensive spice by weight, after saffron and vanilla. Stored in its pod (each contains 17-20 seeds) in a glass jar, cardamom is said to last indefinitely, however, as with other spices, once ground, it quickly loses its strength. In addition to its familiar culinary uses, the seeds are sometimes chewed like gum. Apparently, even Wrigley’s jumped on board and started using cardamom in its Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint gum. According to the package: “with Cardamom to Neutralize the Toughest Breath Odors.” Although the jury is still out as to its effectiveness, cardamom is touted to have medicinal properties used to treat everything from the average cough and cold to heartburn and IBS. When purchasing ground cardamom, be aware that many producers “thin the batch” by grinding the pods along with the seeds in order to lower their prices.
I really enjoyed creating this dish. From a flavor standpoint, you first smell the lentils and scallions, so you taste those first, then you get the sweet/flowery combination of the apricot and cardamom, followed by the hint of heat from the sriracha and the lingering earthiness of the soy sauce. As for textures, you have the soft, slightly chewy texture of the apricot, the meatiness of the lentils and the two levels of crisp from the water chestnuts and puffed rice. There is certainly a lot going on.
It was fun having an opportunity to play with new ingredients. I had never heard of bamboo rice or cooked/baked with cardamom. Although my favorite soup is Lentil, I had never used this particular type before. Aside from their diminutive size, I did not notice a particular flavor difference. So, have you played with any new veggies or grains lately? If so, what were they, and how did it turn out?