Let me begin by saying that I was almost positive this was going to turn into an epic fail.
Onions played a starring role in both these dishes, and when I tasted the cashew sauce (containing an entire yellow onion) I gave Mark free rein to eat leftovers from nights past. He tasted the sauce – a blend of onion, cashews, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper – pronounced it “not too onion-y” and ate a whole serving, along with the onion-infused pilaf. What a trooper!
This was also my first experience making a tadka, which is the method used for quickly transferring the flavor from spices to the whole dish – this is done by heating the cooking oil until it starts to smoke, then throwing in the spices (whole cumin seeds for the pilaf), and stirring constantly. With cumin seeds, you have to quickly cover the pot because they’ll spatter for a few seconds when you add them to the oil – so keep that lid handy!
Substitutions/omissions: I only added half an onion to the pilaf instead of the whole, out of sympathy for my onion-opposed man. Half was plenty.
Mistakes: This was intentional, but I didn’t remove the tenderloins from the chicken breasts like the recipe instructed. Because of this, I believe, the cook time nearly doubled.
Repeat? If I made the chicken dish again, I’d reduce the ginger – I thought it was pretty strong. I wasn’t in love with the chicken though so it might not make a comeback. The lentil-rice pilaf is a definite repeat but I’d probably cut the recipe in half – two cups of rice and lentils makes a ton of leftovers!