Avner Samuel has been around. Born in Jerusalem, he earned his chef’s toque at the celebrated La Varenne cooking school in Paris and has successfully navigated the tricky culinary waters of London and Dallas. He did stints at the Mansion on Turtle Creek and at the Pyramid in the Fairmont Hotel before starting his own restaurant in Dallas at the end of 1991. At Avner’s (2515 McKinney), stark white walls and blond-wood furniture set off bright contemporary sculpture, and an eclectic menu manages to be creative and comforting at the same time. The restaurant’s fragrant chicken tikka with curried lentils draws on India for inspiration, with lightly sautéed mixed vegetables adding a French accent.

Chicken Tikka with Yellow Lentils and Crispy Pappadums

Yellow Lentils

2 tablespoons each celery, onion, and bacon, finely chopped
1⁄2 ounce olive oil
5 cups (40 ounces) chicken stock
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 cups dried split yellow or pink lentils
Kosher salt to taste

Sauté celery, onion, and bacon in oil for 5 minutes. Add stock, curry powder, lentils, and salt. Simmer uncovered until lentils are soft, adding water if necessary, about 40 minutes. Texture will be mushy. (If you soak lentils first, use 4 cups chicken stock and simmer 20 minutes.)

Chicken Tikka

3 tablespoons tandoori masala spice mix (available at imported food stores)
3 tablespoons tikka masala spice mix (for chicken)
1⁄2 ounce water
1⁄2 ounce olive oil
2 whole chickens (preferably corn-fed), split in half and deboned
Mix spices, water, and oil and marinate chicken 24 hours, refrigerated.

Place chicken on hot grill, skin side down, and cook 5 to 6 minutes; turn and cook 4 to 5 more minutes, until done. (May also be sautéed.)

Sautéed Vegetables

1 ounce olive oil
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup fennel, cut in strips 1⁄4 inch wide and same length as green beans, below
1 cup red and gold bell peppers, cut same size as fennel
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1⁄2 cup baby green beans
1⁄2 cup corn, cut off the cob

Place oil in a sauté pan and add broccoli, fennel, bell peppers, oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, then add green beans and corn. Cook approximately 5 minutes more, until just done.

Crispy Pappadums

4–6 cracked-pepper pappadums

Crisp pappadums in a hot skillet (no oil) for 30 to 60 seconds, over medium heat, flipping them constantly so that they don’t brown.

To serve, place chicken, skin side up, in center of plate. Arrange vegetables on left and lentils on right. Break pappadums in half and stand them up in lentils. Garnish with oregano sprigs. Serves 4 to 6.

Recipe from Avner Samuel, chef owner of Avner’s, Dallas.