Back home in South India, Sunset reader Kavita Aiyar's mom made traditional lemon rice scattered with channa dal (a yellow, lentil-like legume). At her home in Silicon Valley, Kavita cooks quinoa instead of rice and adds spinach or other greens, "basically California-izing it," she says. She suggests split peas instead of the dal because they're easier to find. You can serve the recipe as a side dish or a vegan entrée.
Photo: Annabelle Breakey; Styling: Robyn Valarik
2 tablespoons yellow split peas
5 teaspoons mild olive oil
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 fresh curry leaves (optional)*
1 serrano chile, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
About 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 qts. (5 oz.) loosely packed baby spinach
1 cup red or white quinoa, cooked as package directs with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
About 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Simmer split peas with 2 cups water in a small saucepan until just tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry on a towel.
Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add mustard seeds, cover, and cook until they pop, 1 minute. Stir in cumin; cook a few seconds until sizzling, then stir in split peas, curry leaves, chile, turmeric, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring often, until split peas start to turn light golden, 2 minutes. Scrape into a bowl.
Add spinach to frying pan, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain any liquid. Stir in quinoa, split-pea mixture, and 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice. Add more lemon juice and salt to taste. Scatter cilantro on top.