Cure-All Kitchari

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Heads up: This recipe asks you to soak peas/lentils overnight if you don't have a pressure cooker, and it takes some time to cook.

Kitchari could be the ultimate healing food. For us, it's hard to beat soup, but this is very close competition. Kitchari isn't just a dish, it's a classic Ayurvedic remedy for, well, nearly everything. Got a cold? Eat kitchari. Need to lose weight? Try kitchari. Doshas out of balance? You guessed it... (In fact, there are different recipes for different doshas, but I leave to the the people who know way more about Ayurveda than we do. We just stick with this version, which is a "pitta" recipe.)

Kitchari also has a special place in our hearts because a beloved mentor and soul friend made it for Mala when she was recovering from labor with our first child. It was made with so much loving attention and intention there was healing magic in each bite.

I've been experimenting with kitchari recipes for about two years trying to find one that hits just the right tones of spices and consistency, and finally I came up with a version that includes our own touches, such as subbing brown rice for white and leaving out spices that are just too much of a pain in the butt to track down unless you're also using them in other dishes. We've also found that soaking the peas/lentils overnight gives us the consistency we want.

You can use any veggies you like. We prefer carrots and green zucchini. They give a nice chew, flavor, and appearance. Mild veggies are typically best for this dish.

I did not list the cilantro that tops this dish as optional. Its flavor enhances the kitchari so much it feels like a necessity to recreate the kitchari experience we love. Also, cilantro is hella good for you. It even helps rid the body of heavy metals, so pile it on! (But if you're one of those people who says that cilantro taste like soap to you, fair enough--go ahead and do without.)

1.5 C. dried yellow split peas/yellow lentils
1.5 C. brown basmati rice (can sub regular brown rice)
10 C. water (approx.)
1 medium zucchini, sliced in small pieces
2 medium carrots, sliced in small pieces
3 t. coconut oil
2 T. cumin seeds
2 T. turmeric
1/2 t. asafetida (Okay, so this one's obscure, but my mom found us some gluten-free asafoetida so we get to use it, but you can easily omit it if you don't do much Indian cooking.)

We usually have easier access to yellow split peas than yellow lentils. The peas are a little harder, thus, the soaking, You may not need to soak of you use yellow lentils. So, soak the peas/lentils overnight, or for at least 12 hours.

Most recipes also advise you to wash the beans and rice to get rid of excess starches first, and if you're using basmati, it's a good idea.

In a large pot, combine peas/lentils, rice, and about 6 cups of water. Bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot, leaving a crack open so the water doesn't cook over. As the water level goes down, stir in more. The goal is to cook it enough that the beans become soft and fairly mushy. You don't want dry or semi-crunchy kitchari.

As it's getting soft (and this can take an hour or two), stir in the veggies and cover again.

In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil over low-medium heat. When it's melted, stir in the cumin seed. Listen for a quiet crackling sound (that's the cumin seeds popping), then stir in the turmeric and asafoetida, if you're using it. Some people also like to add some powdered ginger. Turn off the heat right away. Don't heat this too long or too hot or the cumin seeds will burn.

Stir the spice mix in to the pot.

If it's a good consistency for you at this point and the veggies are cooked, you're good to go! If not, add a little more water if need and keep cooking.