New York Dals

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It is not that I’ve never cooked dal, the family of Indian legume dishes that is a staple for the hundreds of millions of vegetarians of India, as well as who knows how many millions of omnivores; it’s just that I’ve never cooked it especially well. I realized this when I first visited northern India about 10 years ago and — even in a Sikh langar, a canteen where food is free for all — ate dal that was infinitely tastier than my own.

 

Part of that, probably, was the thrill of eating food where it belongs, and part of it was that many dals contain unconscionable amounts of ghee, a form of clarified butter. (Western Europe is not the only part of the world where cooks have recognized that butter makes many things taste much better.)

But part of it was some lack of feel for making dal, a kind of ignorance that I couldn’t overcome simply by experimenting or following cookbooks. As legumes have become a more important part of my cooking, I decided that my dal problem needed to be remedied. I turned to Julie Sahni.

Read the rest of this column, and get the recipes and video here.

Posted in Indian

Dal with Rhubarb

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By Alaina Sullivan

Rhubarb, with its stringy stalk and rouge skin, is often paired with fruits, though it is actually a vegetable. Its tart flavor is typically tempered by sugar (think pie, compotes, etc.), but here it is incorporated into a savory dish that preserves its natural zing.

The rhubarb stalks join a pot of red lentils (prepared as a traditional Indian dal with ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cloves, cardamom, and dried chile for heat). As the dish simmers, the rhubarb practically dissolves, leaving behind molten flesh and its tangy trademark flavor. The dal is delicious sprinkled with fresh cilantro and served over rice or another grain, or spread on toasted pita. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Simplest Dal

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 40 minutes, largely unattended

1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

4 cardamom pods

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

2 cloves

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 dried ancho or other mild dried chile (optional)

salt

2 tablespoons cold butter or peanut oil (optional)

chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Combine all the ingredients except the salt, butter or oil, and cilantro in a saucepan, add water to cover by about 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and keep cooking to the desired tenderness. The lentils should be saucy but not soupy.

2. Remove the cloves and, if you like, the cardamom pods (they’re kind of fun to eat, though). Stir in the butter or oil if you’re using it. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then garnish with cilantro and serve.

Dal with Rhubarb. The rhubarb almost dissolves into this, leaving behind its trademark flavor: To the pot along with the other ingredients, add 3 or 4 stalks rhubarb, strings removed and chopped.

Posted in Indian, Recipes

Spiced Red Lentil Dal

It’s getting cold (at least in New York). This will warm you up.

Posted in Indian

Dinner with Bittman: Simplest Dal

Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Simplest Dal

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 40 minutes, largely unattended

The most basic dal, the staple dish of India. It’s almost always nicely spiced and becomes creamy if you add butter or oil. Dal is usually eaten hot, but you can also serve it at room temperature or even cold, to spread on toasted wedges of pita.

Other beans you can use: brown lentils, yellow split peas, split mung beans without skins (moong dal).

1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

4 cardamom pods

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

2 cloves

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 dried ancho or other mild dried chile (optional)

Salt

2 tablespoons cold butter or peanut oil (optional)

Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

1. Combine all the ingredients except the salt, butter or oil, and cilantro in a saucepan, add water to cover by about 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and keep cooking to the desired tenderness.

2. The lentils should be saucy but not soupy. Remove the cloves and, if you like, the cardamom pods (they’re kind of fun to eat, though). Stir in the butter or oil if you’re using it. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then garnish with cilantro and serve.

 

Posted in Indian, Recipes

Disaster Dal

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by Laura V. Anderson

Some days, dinner does not go as planned. I’ve been working some late nights lately, and I wanted to throw together a fast, easy dinner that didn’t require a trip to the grocery store. Since I already had red lentils and spices in my pantry, dal was the obvious solution. I also had a bag of red potatoes lying around, so I decided to add a few to my lentil stew for heft. 

Tired, hungry, and harried, I peeled and chopped fresh ginger and garlic, and I cubed my potatoes. I transferred these to a soup pot as I rustled around for the other ingredients I needed. My kitchen is small—the two square feet or so of counter space it offers are perennially taken up by a dish rack and an electric kettle. There wasn’t really enough room for the soup pot on the counter, but I managed to balance it pretty well on the edge—or so I thought. Five seconds later, as I reached into my cabinet for coriander seeds, I heard a bang and looked over to see cubes of potato and flecks of garlic and ginger bouncing across my studio apartment.
 
Posted in Indian