I sort of feel about kitchari the way Mary Oliver feels about mangoes. It’s a magical food—easy and delicious, and in the words of my first Ayurvedic counselor, “you should just eat as much of it as you want.” The basics of kitchari might seem humble, even ordinary once you have incorporated the dish into your regular menu (which I highly recommend, especially if you suffer from digestive instability), but the artistry comes in when you begin to incorporate seasonal elements.
This variation was designed as part of the rtucharya, or seasonal ritual, for the transition between summer and fall. I chose a mix of vegetables and spices that straddled the two seasons, give you a little bit of both—cruciferous cauliflower and a tarka (tempering) with a bit more fennel and coriander plus a hit of coconut cool off summer’s pitta, whereas rooting carrots, beet greens, onion, and garlic bring in tastes of the heaving foods that will balance the impending vata of fall. This recipe makes just enough for 1, maybe 1 ½ days of monodieting, so if you’re looking to eat it as part of a longer seasonal reset make sure you have enough ingredients on hand for a few batches.
I was especially delighted to incorporate a special ingredient from a dear friend’s garden: fresh nigella seeds, whose cloud-like pods are home to these tiny herbal powerhouses with an aroma that satisfies all on its own. When our food has elements of love and connection cooked into it, its ability to heal and deeply nourish our bodies is that much greater and longer-lasting.
Fall Kitchari with Cauliflower, Squash, Carrots, and Beet Greens
- ½ cup white basmati rice soaked for ½ hour or overnight
- ½ cup moong dahl soaked for ½ hour or overnight
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon mineral salt
- ¼ teaspoon hing asafoetida
- 2 cinnamon sticks or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 cups chopped cauliflower about ½ head
- 1 ½ cups delicata squash sliced into ½ moons (½ small squash)
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 4 cups chopped greens mixed beet greens and carrot tops shown
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 shallot chopped
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 inch fresh ginger minced
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut chips or flakes
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
- Wedges of 1 lime or lemon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Strain and rinse your rice and dahl 2 or 3 times until the water runs clear. Combine the rice, dahl, turmeric, salt, hing, and cinnamon in a large pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Do not stir. Check to see if the kitchari is drying out; if it is, add 1 cup of water.
- Add the cauliflower, squash, and carrots to the pot. Stir gently to combine, and cover for another 10 minutes. Add the greens for the last 10 minutes, give it all a stir to incorporate, then cover to wilt the greens. The kitchari should be very soft, like a porridge.
- Meanwhile, make the tarka: Lightly grind the seeds with a mortar and pestle. Warm the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the shallot, garlic, ginger, seeds, and coconut, and cook on low until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes. Be sure to watch the tarka, as spices can burn easily.
- When the kitchari is done, add the tarka and stir well to combine.
- Serve topped with cilantro, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, tahini, or additional salt and pepper, as desired.