Month: March 2016

Kitchari: A Wholesome Cleanse

I have been extremely tired over the past few weeks, and knew that I needed a quick pick-me- up – a sort of detoxing cleanse to get me back on my feet. However, fasting or following a juice diet didn’t appeal to me during the winter season — a time when food provides needed warmth. It was then that I remembered kitchari (khichdi), a comfort food used when convalescing or as part of an ayurvedic diet in order to rejuvenate a fatigued system.

Kitchari is a preparation of rice, lentils, and vegetables, with a soupy, risotto-like consistency. Each of the components in kitchari contributes to wellness, and comprise easily digestible and water-soluble ingredients. The cooking fat is ghee (similar to clarified butter made without the milk solids), which acts as a fuel for digestion and elimination, the start of the detoxification process. The pale yellow lentils are hulled green mung beans, which cooks easily; and represent a simpler and lighter way of consuming protein and fiber. Spices such as mustard seeds, cumin, coriander and fennel add flavor to an otherwise mild and creamy dish.


Ghee – 2 tbsp

Basmati rice – ½ cup, rinsed several times

Mung Lentils (yellow mung dal) – ½ cup, rinsed several times and left overnight in water to soak

Vegetables – 2 cups, finely chopped (combination of carrots, pepper, beans, squash, asparagus)

Red onion – 1, medium finely chopped

Ginger – 1 tsp, finely sliced

Garlic clove – 2, finely chopped

Chili – 1, slit into half and deseeded if desired

Black mustard seeds – ½ tsp

Cumin seeds – ½ tsp

Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp

Coriander powder – 1½ tsp

Asafetida spice (optional) – ¼ tsp

Fennel seeds – ½ tsp

Vegetable stock – 4 ½ cups

Salt – to taste

  • Drain and rinse the mung lentils that had been left overnight.
  • Heat the ghee in a pot.
  • When the ghee melts, add onions and cook until translucent.
  • Add the garlic, chili, and ginger and cook until garlic is pale brown.
  • Add the black mustard seeds, and watch for the seeds to pop.
  • Add the cumin seeds and wait until you hear them sizzle (a few seconds), and immediately add the remaining spices (turmeric powder, coriander powder, asafetida, and fennel), stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds or so).
  • Add the drained rice and lentils and stir until lightly fried, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add the diced vegetables and continue to cook for about 10-12 minutes.
  • The dish is ready when the rice and lentils are soft to touch and the vegetables cooked.
  • For the desired soupy consistency, add more water or boil off any excess liquid in the pan.
  • Eat immediately.

Note: Try herbal tea with shavings of ginger to complement the meal.






The Vegetable Butcher

Most Indian meals comprise a medley of vegetable dishes ranging from mixed vegetable curries to simple stir-fried dishes. Fish and meat are usually served as a side item, and often, they aren’t missed at all. During Lent, when I sometimes crave a little meat or fish, it is vegetables with distinct textures, such as fibrous plantains, nutty tubers, or dense elephant yam that stand in for the “meaty” substance to a meal. 

It is a good a time to eat more vegetables: Local farmers are growing vegetables that were once deemed exotic, and grocery stores are offering creative plant and soy-based substitutes for meat. “Vegetable butchers,” at food markets like Eataly in New York, give basic lessons on cooking this new produce; you can ask for tips on how to cut artichokes or how to finely slice jicama in order to add it to your existing salad repertoire. Vegetables are even tossed with spice rubs and marinades, and cooked like meat on the barbecue grill.

I was inspired to try the marinade on broccoli (one of my least favorite vegetables), as it is in season and packed with vitamin C. The spiced and roasted broccoli “steaks” were caramelized by the seasonings and flavorful – and the result was (almost) as good as ribeye!

Broccoli Steaks

Broccoli – 1 bunch

Soy sauce – 1 tbsp

Hoisin sauce – 1 tbsp

Rice vinegar – ½ tbsp

Hot sauce – ¼ tbsp

  • Preheat the oven to 425ºF
  • Mix all sauces (soy, hoisin, hot sauce, and rice vinegar) together.
  • Trim the bottom of the stem and discard leaves.
  • Slice along the entire length of the broccoli stem and floret. This cut gives broccoli the “steak” texture when cooked.
  • Place sliced broccoli on an aluminum foil, spreading them out evenly.
  • Roast for 25 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time.
  • Serve hot broccoli immediately.