Sometimes, there is no excuse, the brain just does NOT want to sit down and get down to writing a post. And I believe in giving myself that luxury. As much as I enjoy whipping up dish after dish, getting the ingredients ready, Taking notes down to the last pinch, tweaking, trying to make it presentable even within a low maintenance 'plonk & shoot' configuration. There are recipes that linger on in a rough copy format, chicken scribbles that only I can make sense of. This recipe is one of those comfort food dishes that finds a place on my table multiple times (Perhaps the familiarity of the dish is the reason why It hasn't found its way to the blog).
The dish by itself is one of those elegantly easy dishes that defies being categorized into any one particular cuisine, a touch of Mujaddara from the Middle East, spiced with Harissa , a generous chunk of Indian Paneer cheese, and the star ingredient and the chief flavor: Traditional American Pumpkin puree. I paired it with quite possibly the easiest & best tasting Cranberry Sauce one could get, A no cook recipe from David Leite's blog, Leite's Culinaria.
Roasted Pumpkin Pilaf:
For the Rice:
1 cup Basmati rice
2 cups scalding hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
Melt the butter in a heavy bottom pan. Rinse & clean the rice until the water tuns clean. Add the rice to the butter and saute until the grains begin to turn opaque. Add the salt & 2 cups of hot water and stir thoroughly to dislodge any grains ticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the water begins to boil, decrease the heat to the lowest setting, cover and cook until done (~ 20 min). Transfer the rice into a large mixing bowl & fluff with a fork to separate the grains & cool down.
For the Pilaf:
1 can pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
1 cup cooked Beluga, Puy or regular whole lentils
2 cups shredded paneer
1 cup sliced shallots
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons Harissa spice blend
Salt to taste
chopped Cilantro or Parsley for garnish.
1 cup sliced toasted almonds.
Heat oven to 400 F. Pour the pumpkin puree in a baking dish and place in the oven until the quantity reduces by half ( ~ 30 -35 minutes), ensuring to stir the pumpkin at 10 minute intervals. Scrape off the thickened puree (which by now resembles a thick paste) into a bowl & set aside.
Heat the ghee/olive oil in a skillet and add the sliced shallots along with the minced ginger & garlic. Once the shallots just begin caramelizing, add the roasted pumpkin paste, Harissa, , salt and the shredded paneer. Combine well, and cook on low heat until the flavors combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning (remember the rice also has salt, so be judicious with the NaCl)
Transfer the pumpkin lentil mixture to the mixing bowl containing the fluffed up rice. Add the toasted sliced almonds and gently fold the rice into the lentil mixture until the grain are all evenly coated. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with cilantro or parsley & serve warm with the cranberry sauce & a side of Raita & paapad (toasted / fried lentil wafers)