Beans and rice, in one form or another, have been chic for the past 20 years -- but every five years it has been for a different reason.
In the late '60s, it was beans and rice as complementary protein -- the socially responsible replacement for meat. In time, the complementary protein arguments relaxed -- it turns out there's no need to calibrate those amino acids as assiduously as we were doing, and protein itself isn't much of a problem after all, as long as enough calories are consumed.
By the mid-'70s personal health was the ruling obsession and a steady diet of refined foods was found to be as life-threatening in its own way as malnutrition. Once again, beans 'n' rice got top billing: plenty of dietary fiber, very little fat, and heaps of complex carbohydrates.
Then, suddenly, beans became chic in gourmet circles, featured in Cajun cooking, in Tex-Mex menus and so-called California cuisine, tricked out now with fresh chilies, star anise, cilantro and balsamic vinegar. And rice came into its own with the discovery of Indian basmati rice.
Now, as 1987 closes, beans 'n' rice are once again the diet of choice. Sobered by the antics of a stock market run amok, you'll be eating them for the same reason your grandparents did: You can afford them.
KICHADI (Makes 6 cups)
1 cup mung beans
2 medium onions
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 pod cardamom (seeds only)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups raw brown rice
6 cups hot water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Soak the mung beans for half an hour. Cut onion in paper-thin slices. Saute' in oil until golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions and set aside. Using the oil remaining in the pan, saute' the mung beans and spices for 5 minutes, stirring madly. Stir in the rice; when it begins to stick, add 5 cups of the hot water and bring to a boil. Turn to low and simmer very gently about half an hour. At that point, check to see if you think the remaining cup of water will be needed, and stir in the salt. Continue to cook for 15 minutes or longer, until rice and beans are tender. Garnish with onions.
DAL (Makes 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups yellow split peas
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 green bell pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
Juice of 1 lemon
Bring the yellow split peas to a boil in 3 cups of water, then reduce and simmer for about 30 minutes, until they are tender, but not so long they lose their shape. Add water while they are cooking if necessary, but cook off extra water at the end -- the peas should be rather dry, like mashed potatoes. Stir in salt.
While the peas are cooking, chop onion and green pepper. Combine with turmeric and curry powder.
Heat oil in a large, heavy pan with a lid. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds and cover. The seeds will pop noisily; when the sound quiets down, immediately add onion mixture. Saute' until onion is transparent and golden, and stir into peas along with lemon juice. Serve over brown rice.