Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Persian "Adassi" Lentil Stew (Not Really For) Cooked the Books: December/January Selection: Undercooked by Dan Adhoot

So big confession, I am currently failing at life. I could go on and on, but it seems like I am always whining about being busy or being sick, so I won't belabor it here. On the plus side, I did finish (and enjoy) Undercooked: How I Let Food Become My Life Navigator and How Maybe That's a Dumb Way to Live by Dan Ahdoot, our December/January Cook the Books selection (hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats)  last week but on the downside, I got bronchitis and never made it to the kitchen. With better timing of my life, I would have read the book earlier and not while ill, but procrastination is my middle name (actually it's Ann, but you get the idea.) I started feeling somewhat better yesterday, but I had no plan in place so the options were: 1) Sit out this round 2) Try to run to the grocery store after work and cook something tonight and get a very late post in (not that appealing) or 3) Repost a Persian dish from the ones on my blog. We are going with 3) and hoping I am not drummed out of the club! 

I made (and modified) this Persian Adassi (Lentil Stew) back in May 2018 from the gorgeous cookbook, Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour. It was tasty and warming and if I were to run to the grocery store and cook something to get away from my current chicken noodle soup and toast diet, it would be a soup like this. 

Publisher: ‎Crown (March 21, 2023)
Hardcover: ‎240 pages

My Thoughts on the Book: I had not heard of actor, writer, and comedian Dan Ahdoot before reading Undercooked (I got my copy through the library as an e-book) but found his story interesting. I think he's a good storyteller and I enjoyed his humorous essays. He's a very bad boyfriend and I don't think I would want to hang out with him (he seems both judgey and needy and very high pressure to go to a restaurant with) but I did start following him on Instagram and plan to check out his podcast and Food Network show, and he's pretty funny overall. I enjoyed the tie-in to food and family and loss and comfort that food always seems to bring. That part was extremely relatable. I didn't like the hunting stories--I still lean vegetarian overall but the learning he got about himself and others when he joined in with Meals on Wheels was endearing. Overall, it was an engaging read and I enjoyed it. 

From undercooked risotto to fusion fine restaurant dining, plus French food, offal to both Jewish and Persian cooking, there was plenty of food inspiration in Undercooked. I love a good falafel and I have made a lot of great Persian food over the years. My old roommate's uncle was from Iran and an excellent cook and made a similar Persian rice recipe like he got from his mother (at the end of the book--probably the part I laughed the most at!) with chicken and fava (or often lima beans in Oregon)  and served it with yogurt. It was amazing and I still think about it--even though I have never gotten the recipe quite right. 

As mentioned above, I picked a recipe I made a few years ago from one of the several Persian cookbooks I own. It's a simple soup but if you search Persian in my blog search bar you can find other dishes and recipes.  

I can't vouch for how authentic this soup is as the recipe is written, and I, of course, added my own touches (coconut milk for creaminess) but here you go! 

Persian (Adassi) Lentil Stew 
Slightly Adapted from Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour
(Serves 4)

3 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
1 large onion, finely diced
1 1/3 cups Puy lentils
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 heaping Tbsp medium curry powder
flaky sea salt
1 1/2 quarts or so hot water from a kettle
(I added I can coconut milk)
(I added 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper)

Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat (or medium heat, if you are cooking on an electric stove). add the oil and fry the onion until translucent. Add the lentils and stir for 1 minutes. then stir in the tomato paste and curry powder, season with salt, and add a couple of tablespoons of water to hydrate the mixture (spices absorb moisture quickly). Stir well for about a minute, until the ingredients are evenly mixed in. 

Then, in stages, stir in a few ladlefuls of hot water at a time, stirring well and allowing each ladleful of water to be thoroughly absorbed by the lentils before adding the next. Once all the water has been absorbed, taste the lentils to check you are happy with the texture and that they are cooked thoroughly. If not, add another 1-2 ladlefuls of water until you are satisfied. (At this point I stirred in a can of coconut milk and seasoned with a bit of extra salt and some Aleppo pepper.)

What I Said: Notes/Results: A simple soup, but great flavor from the curry and another demonstration of why Puy lentils are my favorite for soups. I love the texture and body they give it--staying firm rather than melting into the liquid or getting mushy, like other lentils do. I really didn't notice what gradually adding the liquid to the lentils did or didn't do for the soup--I'll have to look into it more. Since there are few ingredients and a good amount of curry, use a curry you really like for it as the flavor stands out. The one I use the most is on the milder side of medium, so I added a bit of Aleppo pepper for a little kick. In the end, I liked it as it was but felt it would be even better with coconut milk added to make it creamy. I thought it made it even better, but you can certainly leave it out. I served my soup with a prantha--Indian flatbread I stock in my freezer but think it would pair well with any bread or flatbread or rice, I would happily make it again.

The deadline for this round is today (surprise, surprise) but if you like food and books, and foodie books, join us for February/March when we will be reading the graphic novel, Relish by Lucy Knisley (hosted by Simona at briciole

It's a reread for me and I am going to attempt to have my act together!