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?
- ½ c bamboo rice
- canola oil
- 1 c Green Eston Lentils
- 20 dried apricots
- 8 whole Green Cardamom pods
- 2 t soy sauce
- 1 t sriracha
- 2 t fresh lemon juice
- ½ c sliced scallion
- ¼ c sweet red onion, diced
- 3 oz water chestnuts, diced
- lettuce leaves (I used iceberg)
- Because bamboo rice is short-grained, it's too small to fish out of a pot with a spider, so you will want to prepare by having a metal strainer fitted over a pot or other heat-resistant vessel.
- Fill a small pan with approximately ¼" of oil and heat over high. It should be hot enough when you see rippling in the oil.
- Pour in the rice, and it will puff up very quickly. Pour it into the strainer to leave the hot oil in the pot below, then pour the rice out onto paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
- Simmer the apricots and cardamom in 2c water until tender.
- Using the back of a spoon, lightly mash the apricots and crush 3-4 of the cardamom pods, releasing their seeds into the mixture. Remove the remaining pods.
- Stir in the soy sauce and sriracha, ending with the lemon juice for a hit of acid [no pun intended]. Set the mixture aside.
- Boil the lentils with a bit of salt to your preferred tenderness.
- Drain and return to the pot.
- Gently stir in the apricot mixture until well coated.
- Add the scallions, peppers, and water chestnuts.
- Spoon the mixture into lettuce leaves and sprinkle with the puffed rice.
Chris Coyne is the magic behind the blog “Hye Thyme Cafe.” She was talked into starting the blog by some admiring friends as a repository for all her wonderful Armenian-and-otherwise dishes. Travel on over and be transported and transfixed, like I was, to see the variety of foods from Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and more. A photo of Chris’ Armenian grandmother graces her site and it’s won a number of online awards. Check out the gajillion of recipes (vegetarian and omnivore) in the recipe index and you’ll find fascinating research behind the foods. Thanks, again, Chris! See you soon on Twitter @HyeThymeCafe!
And don’t forget, everyone, to comment or share this post to enter yourself into our Amazing Foodie Book Giveaway during this month of Veggie Love!