Smoked basmati rice!!! And smoky red lentil and pine nut croquettes

Red lentil and smoked basmati croquettes

Red lentil and smoked basmati croquettes

Well, I’m still thinking about American mythologies, and today I’m thinking about our creation myths. Maybe because it’s Thanksgiving-time, or because I’ve been helping Malcolm study for his social studies test, I’ve been thinking about the birth of our nation. The boys have been steeped in comic book culture lately, so I’ve been thinking of the whole situation more as an origin story than a creation myth. We think of ourselves as a super-power, after all. A superhero nation, coming to the aid of everyone else in need. “With great power comes great responsibility” could be our national motto, particularly when we’re trying to think of excuses to invade other nations, for one reason or another. And like all good origin stories, ours is fraught with drama, well-intentioned, and deeply flawed. Like all heroes, we have a weakness, visited upon us before our birth, deeply entangled with everything in our history, everything that has ever befallen or ever will befall our nation. I will admit to you that while I was studying with Malcolm, I was moved nearly to tears. (It doesn’t take much these days!) I was moved to think about these men talking about ideas, and to think that they recognized the gravity of their task. They knew how momentous a thing it was to forge a nation, and in doing so to discuss ideas such as natural rights. Natural rights! What a mind boggling concept! Every man is entitled to Life, Liberty, and Property. It’s such a beautiful thought. Until you read further, and you realize that, of course, it’s every white man. And there it is, the fundamental flaw. The system was created by white men to be protected by white men to protect white men. Any changes to it were made by white men for hundreds of years. For far longer than we’d like to admit to ourselves. And certainly things are changing, slowly and haltingly. But the fundamental fault in our foundation still resonates in every decision we make, every action we take, as people and as a nation. We can never forget that, and when we tell the myth of our creation, which has so much to admire and to celebrate we have to tell that part, too.

Smoked basmati rice, pine nut and red lentil croquettes

Smoked basmati rice, pine nut and red lentil croquettes

Smoked basmati rice!! Who knew? Not me. I found this at Wegmans and I was so ridiculously excited about it. It smells amazing when you open the bag, amazing while it’s cooking. It’s decidedly smoky tasting. I made it once just to try plain, and found it delicious. Then I had the idea to try it like this. And I’m quite proud of myself, because I wasn’t at all sure that it would work, but it did! First I soaked the rice and the red lentils (separately) for about eight hours. You could probably get away with five or so, but I don’t know for sure because I haven’t tried it. Then I drained them and processed them till coarsely ground. Then I added some smoked gouda, and egg, some pine nuts, some garlic and some smoked paprika. And I processed them again until fairly smooth. Like thick cookie batter. Then I fried them in a shallow pan of olive oil. Crispy, flavorful, and smoky like bacony baconless croquettes. We had them with a smooth creamy dipping sauce of pine nuts and (store-bought) harissa. And that’s that! You could easily add other herbs and spices if you like. I think you could make this without the egg and cheese, if you wanted it to be vegan. If anybody tries it, let me kwow! And you could easily make this with non-smoked basmati rice, if that’s all you have. Although, honestly, I’m putting smoked basmati rice in everything I make from now on!

Here’s Blind Willie McTell with Amazing Grace

1/2 cup smoked basmati rice, soaked for about 8 hours
1/2 cup red lentils, soaked for about 8 hours
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated smoked gouda
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 egg
1 t smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, roasted or toasted
1 t baking powder
salt and pepper
olive oil to fry

Drain the rice and lentils and combine them in the food processor. process until coarsely ground. Add everything else and process until quite smooth. Add a little water if you need to–I think I added about 1/4 cup. You don’t want it to be completely smooth. It will be like a texture-y cookie batter. Let the batter sit for 20 – 30 minutes.

In a frying pan or wok warm about 1/3 inch of olive oil over medium-high heat. When it’s hot enough to fry a bread crumb, you’re ready to go. Drop the batter by large spoonfuls into the oil. Alternatively, put a quantity of batter on a spatula and use a butter knife to push off a bit into the hot oil. Turn the batter until it’s browned on both sides, and seems light and crispy. Drain on paper towels, and then put in a warm oven to keep till all of them are cooked.

TO DIP

1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 t rosemary
1/2 t (or to taste) harissa
1 T olive oil
1 t balsamic
salt and lots of freshly ground pepper

Combine everything in the processor and process until smooth. Add enough water to make it as thin as you like it and completely smooth. Mine was about the consistency of heavy cream.

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