Growing up on staple South Indian vegetarian cuisine - vegetables and legumes and grams along with rice and yogurt and a variety of pickles - I find that these still offer the comfort of sumptuous yet quick-fix meals.
Over the last decade, rather than white rice, I opt for quinoa or brown Basmati rice, sometimes millet or barley, with barley being more of a soup additive by preference than a rice alternative.
Combining vegetables with lentils for the protein boost is one of my favorite side dish or starter, if not the main course. The classic example is the Paruppusili dishes I make on and off and can't have enough of.
Just about any vegetable lends itself to this method of presentation, except the squashes (summer and winter) and bittergourd and beets and greens, according to my mom. And, Kovakkai/Tindora Paruppusili used to be a very special treat during season.
Of course, I beg to differ... Beets+Potatoes Paruppusili is quite delicious with a unique combination of textures and tastes. And there is nothing like the crunch and nutrition of Kale Paruppusili.
The typical method is to soak the toor dal with some cumin and dry red chilies and then grind it into a coarse paste, steam it, then pan fry it before tossing it with the cooked vegetables. Seems elaborate, but after arriving at some short-cuts and alternatives over the years, this is something I enjoy making on and off.
An alternative to the typical paruppusili is to roast and coarse-grind lentils and stir it into to finish the cooking vegetables:
Simply toast some Urad dal and chana dal till golden brown, along with some dry red chilies, asafoetida and cumin seeds and grind it in a spice-grinder to a coarse powder. Toss in some roasted peanuts, if preferred, while grinding.
I start with tempering for these dishes first - heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan, when it is shimmering add mustard seeds and when they pop add some curry leaves if available, then add the chopped vegetable, a pinch of salt and water as needed to cook the vegetables. Finish off the dish by stirring in the ground dal mixture. And for want of a better word, since 'paruppu' means lentils/dals, I still call this style of dish as Paruppusili.
Chayote Squash, Carrots and Cabbage Paruppusili