Khichuri

1/2 cup mung dal (skinned and split mung beans)
1/2 cup Basmati rice
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tejpatta (Sold in Indian grocery stores as “Indian bay leaf”)
6 cups water
1 Russet potato, cubed into 1″ pieces
1/2 head of a large cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated coconut (could substitute with unsweetened dessicated coconut)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Vegetable oil for sauteing
1-2 tablespoons Ghee (could be substituted with butter)
2 tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon sugar

On medium heat, in a dry wok, add the mung dal and toast until it changes color to a light brown and becomes very aromatic. Keep stirring frequently while you toast the dal – don’t let it burn! Once the dal changes color, add 3 cups of water, add the bay leaves, bring it to a boil, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, add the rice, one teaspoon of Kosher salt and another 3 cups of water, bring to a boil, cover with a lid and cook for another 10 minutes.

While the dal starts boiling, start sauteing your vegetables. In a large skillet, on medium heat, add about 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. When the oil starts shimmering, add the cumin seeds and ginger paste and saute for a few seconds. The ginger is going to splatter like crazy, so be careful! Add the potatoes, cauliflower, turmeric, cayenne and one teaspoon of Kosher salt and saute until the veggies are evenly browned on all sides. This should take about 20 minutes or so.

Once the rice has cooked for 10 minutes, add all the vegetables into the wok, scraping the skillet to get all the spices. Add the tomatoes, mix well, cover with a lid and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Check frequently to make sure that there is enough water in the wok and the khichuri is not getting stuck at the bottom.

Meanwhile, in the same skillet, add another teaspoon of oil and saute the coconut until it gets browned at the edges and becomes very aromatic. Set aside.

After the vegetables have cooked in the wok for 10 minutes, check to see if they are done. At this point, both the rice and dal should be cooked through and about to turn mushy, and the tomatoes should have disintegrated. Add the sauteed coconut, raisins, peas, sugar, zest and juice of the lime. Mix well. I like my khichuri to have the consistency of risotto, so I let it cook with the lid off until the texture is just right. Taste for seasoning. Mix in the ghee just before serving. Enjoy immediately with your favorite vegetable fritters, papads and extra wedges of lime!

Khichuri (Stovetop or Pressure Cooker)

1/2 cup white rice
1/2-cup moong dal (split yellow mung bean)
Half of a small cauliflower, cut into about 10 florets (not so small that they will melt)
2 or 3 small potatoes, peeled and cut in half, or 1 medium potato cut into 4-6 pieces
1/3 cup of frozen peas
1 bay leaf
2 green cardamom
2-3 cloves
1 thin sticks of cinnamon
1 or 2 dry red chili (I often use green chili instead)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon grated ginger
Ghee (clarified butter)
Turmeric and salt as needed

Dry roast the moong dal on medium flame till it starts to brown and you can smell its nutty aroma. (Other khichri recipes use a range of lentils that don’t involve this step.) Stop when about half the beans have become light brown in color, then set aside in a bowl with 2 cups of warm water in it.

Into a pan add a tablespoon of ghee (or mustard oil or vegetable oil) and heat on high or medium till the ghee looks hot.

Throw in the bay leaf. As it starts to brown, lower the flame to medium and add the cardamom pods, clove and cinnamon. Stir with a spoon. Then add the cumin seeds and the chilies. Once the cumin seeds start to sputter, throw in the grated ginger, and stir.

Now add the potato, carrots and cauliflower. Sprinkle some turmeric till veggies turn light yellow. Stir fry for a few minutes.

At this stage, add the dal with the water and salt to taste. Cover the pot and cook till water starts to boil.

Cook for 4 more minutes so that the dal, which takes longer to cook, starts to soften.

At this point, you can transfer everything to a pressure cooker, add the frozen peas, rice and one more cup of water and cook it using the rice setting. (If you’re using a stove top pressure cooker, wait for two whistles before you switch off of the stove.)

Or if not using a pressure cooker, add the rice and two more cups of water to the pot once the dal starts to soften. Cook with a lid on medium or low with occasional stirring to make sure rice and mung beans don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Frozen peas will cook quickly, so add them 5-10 minutes after the rice. Add more water along the way if it starts to look too dry.

Consistency should be like that of a thick porridge, although some people like it drier.

Cook till rice, dal and vegetables look cooked, but not too mushy. Serve with a teaspoon of ghee on top, mango or lime pickle on the side.

This very well with papad or papadum, which are flat, round, tortilla shaped crispy snacks that are usually deep fried or roasted over the fire.

Pull-Apart Pepperoni Knots

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 ounces sliced pepperoni, cut into 1/4-inch squares
Pinch red pepper flakes
6 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives (optional)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
Flour for dusting
1 pound homemade or store-bought pizza dough (see note)
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Homemade or store-bought pizza sauce for serving

Heat butter and oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat until butter melts and foaming subsides. Add pepperoni and cook, stirring, until pepperoni begins to crisp, about 2 minutes. Add pepper flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add parsley and chives and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in Parmesan cheese. Do not wipe out skillet.

On a lightly floured surface, divide dough into two even pieces. Working one piece at a time, roll or stretch into an oblong about 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. With a bench scraper or knife, cut crosswise into 12 strips. Repeat with other half of dough.

Tie each strip into a knot and transfer to bowl with pepperoni/garlic mixture. Toss and fold with your hands until every knot is thoroughly coated in mixture. Transfer the knots to the skillet in a single layer. Drizzle with more olive oil, cover tightly with plastic, and set aside until doubled in size, about 4 hours. Alternatively, refrigerate until doubled in size, 12 to 16 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425°F and adjust oven rack to center position. Unwrap garlic knots. Sprinkle with Romano cheese. Transfer to oven and bake until golden brown and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately brush with more extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle lightly with more Parmesan. Serve right away with warmed sauce on the side.

Classic Beefaroni

1 pound elbow macaroni or other tubular pasta, such as cavatappi
Kosher salt
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large green pepper, finely diced (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley leaves
1 pound 80/20 ground beef
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, plus more for serving
1 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound low moisture whole milk mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 ounces roughly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Place macaroni in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Season generously with salt. Let rest, stirring twice during the first ten minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients.

Using a hand blender directly in the tomato jar or a regular countertop blender, process tomatoes until mostly smooth. Set aside.

Heat oil and butter in a 5 quart straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, swirling, until better is mostly melted. Add onions and peppers, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and half of parsley, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Clear a space in the center of the pan and add meat. Increase heat to high. Cook, breaking it up first with a wooden spoon, then with a potato masher, until broken into small pieces. Continue cooking until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add pureed tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Drain noodles in a large colander set in the sink. Add to pot with beef. Add Worcestershire sauce and chicken stock and stir, folding noodles through the sauce until noodles and sauce are well-integrated. Cover and cook at a hard simmer until noodles are mostly cooked, about half of cook-time indicated on box.

Remove lid and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add half of cubed mozzarella and stir to incorporate rapidly (do not overstir or the mixture will stretch and stick to your spoon). Spread remaining mozzarella over surface of dish. Sprinkle half of Parmesan over dish. Cover and cook over the lowest possible heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest with cover on for 5 minutes.

Uncover, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and herbs and serve immediately, passing extra Worcestershire sauce at the table.