No egg salad recipe here, I decided instead, to go for the amygdala/almond metaphor and provide an almond recipe. But what? I’ve already done almond cookies. And I thought it was interesting that other than Proust and my Sara Lee-loving friend, the other seminal foods of the past are savory, not sweet.
Left to my own devices, I would do a spicy Romesco, that fabulous sauce of ground almonds and roasted red peppers, or an elaborate biryani, but for the dish to work, it must be child-appropriate and simple. Yet not boring for adults, either. Huh.
The biryani got me on the right track. I remembered the rice with toasted slivered almonds we ate one evening in the desert in Morocco, miles from civilization. One lone cinnamon stick seemed to perfume the utterly comforting dish. Even my slightly tarted up version seems something a child would willingly eat and perhaps years later be a small part of “the immense architecture of memory.”
Being me, I suggest of course, you make it with brown rice. It’s not only healthier, it plays up the nuttiness nicely.
- 1 cup brown rice
- 3 cups vegetable broth or water divided use
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion sliced
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 3 Medjool dates chopped
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
Bring 2 cups vegetable broth or water to boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add brown rice. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 30 minutes, or just until the rice absorbs the liquid and leans towards tenderness. It will continue cooking later. Set rice aside and let cool. May be prepared a day ahead, covered and refrigerated overnight.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion, stir until coated in oil. Cover and reduce heat to low, letting onion cook for about 20 minutes. The onion will still be pale and will have thrown off quite a lot of liquid. This is good. Add pinch of saffron and raise heat to medium.
Add red lentils to the onions. Stir to combine then add remaining 1 cup of water or broth. Cover again and cook. Red lentils are speedy and should be rosy and tender after 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast almonds at 375 for about 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and fragrant.
Add the cinnamon stick to the lentils. Stir in allspice, rice and chopped dates. Season with sea salt to taste.
Heat through at medium heat. Stir in toasted almonds just before serving.