I just made this recipe, which I found at The Post Punk Kitchen, and it was so delicious I decided to add the recipe here right away.

I’ve only made a few kinds of dal so far, but it’s really brilliant.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term “dal,”  it refers both to a type of split legume — like chana dal (chickpeas), moong dal (mung beans), and the type in this recipe, masoor dal (red lentils) — and to a stew made from these beans.  This stew is a very common dish in Indian cooking, with as many variations as there are regional and personal preferences, and it’s very nutritious and a good source of protein.  Split legumes cook a million times faster than other dried beans, essentially falling apart after half an hour of boiling and becoming a thick gravy (think split pea soup).  This makes them an ideal base for endless combinations of ingredients.

I did make a couple of small changes to the original recipe:  because I like a thick, chunky dal, I added a bunch of very small cauliflower and broccoli florets, a diced red bell pepper, and a couple of cups of curly kale.  I also added a pinch of salt after adding the tomatoes.  I kept the spices the same, but this would also be nice with a pinch of amchoor (mango powder).  Oh, and I also soaked the lentils for half an hour before cooking them.  This went great over cumin rice.

It’s worth it to take the five minutes to toast the whole spices.  Trust me!

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp peanut oil (I used vegetable oil)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated (or minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C dried red lentils
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 cups water
  • 5 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 C chopped, lightly-packed cilantro (I used 1/2 C parsley)
  • optional ingredients: I added 1/2 C broccoli & 1 C cauliflower, chopped into tiny florets, 1 diced red bell pepper, and about 3 cups of roughly-chopped kale

Spices:

  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 dried red chilies (I had to substitute 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric

This recipe, with my additions, made a BIG pot of dal.  Be prepared to freeze some unless you’re feeding a big family.

Instructions:

  • Pick over the lentils, then rinse them well in a mesh sieve, place in a bowl, and cover with water.  Set aside while you prepare the other vegetables.
  • Toast the mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, and whole cloves in a skillet, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.  Let them cool for a few minutes, then grind together with the chilies, cinnamon, and turmeric.
  • Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium to medium-high heat.  When hot, add the onion and saute for 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and ginger and saute 5 minutes.
  • Add the spices and salt, and saute 5 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups of water and stir.
  • Drain the lentils and add them, and the tomato paste.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  (I simmered 10 minutes, then added the cauliflower and broccoli, then got it back to a simmer for 10 more minutes)
  • Add the lime juice, tomatoes, and cilantro (or parsley).  (This is where I also added the pinch of salt, the red bell pepper, and the kale.)  Stir well, and add water as necessary if it’s too thick.
  • Simmer for 10 more minutes, or until lentils are completely tender.

So good!

I had really bad allergies today and wasn’t in much of a mood to cook, so I decided on something simple that would make use of several of the vegetables I have on hand, along with an easy-to-cook dried penne pasta.  We’ve been eating whole-wheat pasta lately, but we only had regular on hand today, so I used that.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb. tiny penne pasta with lines
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 a white onion, diced
  • 2 scallions (white and light green parts)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 stalks of broccolini, sliced (include florets and stalks)
  • 1/2 C red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cups of curly kale, washed and shredded
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • splash of good Balsamic vinaigrette
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Fill a large saucepan with water for the pasta.  Bring to a boil, and add the pasta.
  • Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  When hot, add the onion and cook until nearly translucent.
  • Add the garlic and cook 3 or 4 minutes, until soft.
  • Add the diced tomato and a pinch of salt and saute about five minutes.  During this time, the pasta should be  ready to drain, so do that and set aside.
  • Add the broccolini, red pepper, and herbs to the sauteeing mixture and cook a minute or two, until the broccoli turns a lovely bright green.
  • Add the kale in several bunches, waiting for a bunch to wilt and cook down a bit before adding the next bunch.
  • Add the splash of balsamic vinaigrette and stir well, incorporating all of the flavors, and cook for about another minute.
  • Add to the waiting pasta, stir well, and season additionally as needed.  If you have any on hand, some grated Parmesan would go lovely with this.
  • Enjoy!

This is a riff on this recipe I found at Redchillies for Moong Dal and Vegetables with Chole Masala.  All I was able to find at the store was Chole Chaat Masala, which isn’t the same thing, but it does share some of the tangy/sour qualities of chole masala, with ingredients like amchoor (mango powder), ginger, and black salt.  It ended up working fabulously, and this has become my favorite recipe to make with moong dal.

Moong dal is a very small yellow split pea, graced in English with the unfortunate name of Mung Beans.  They’re easily found in Indian/Asian markets, and are nutritious, tasty and versatile. Because they’re so small, it doesn’t take too much time to soak and cook them.  Make sure you put the moong dal in a mesh sieve and rinse really well before soaking and cooking, until the water runs clear.

(It’s important to note that moong dal, while being a yellow split pea, is not the same thing as “yellow split peas” that you can easily find with the dried beans at your everyday supermarket.  Moong dal is smaller, with a more intense color.)

After rinsing the moong dal, put them in a bowl and cover with water, and let soak for about 30 minutes.  Then put them in a pot with enough water to cover, and cook on a simmer for 30-50 minutes, being sure to add more water as needed so that they stay covered.  When done, they should be soft and mushy and easily mashed.  This dal will comprise the bulk of the sauce in the dish.

You can play around with the amount and type of vegetables used.  I’ve used as little as 1 cup and as much as 2.5 cups.  For veggies I’ve used kale, cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, potatoes, chard (not all at once) – if it makes a good curry, it could probably find a home in this dish.

Ingredients:

  • Veggies of choice, cut/chopped medium-small, 1-2 cups
  • 3/4 C moong dal, soaked and cooked
  • 3/4 C  onion, diced or sliced, your preference
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp grated or minced fresh ginger (try to use fresh, it tastes much better in this dish than ground)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder, according to your taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Chole Chaat Masala
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Parsley for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • pinch of salt

Instructions:

  • Cook the dal as mentioned above, mash it until smooth, and set aside.
  • Cook the veggies separately, by steaming or briefly sauteeing until tender.
  • In a good-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  When hot, add the cumin seeds, fry for a minute until the seeds have cracked and become fragrant.
  • Add onion and sweat until translucent.
  • Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt; stir well and cook for another minute.
  • Add chili powder and chaat masala and stir well.  If the mixture is very dry, add a little bit more oil.
  • Add the vegetables and a little water.
  • Add the dal, stir well, and season to taste (a little salt, a little more masala, whatever you like).
  • Simmer the mixture for a few more minutes, until all the ingredients are well-blended.
  • Garnish with parsley.  Serve with cumin rice and a spoonful of raita.  Yum!

Oh, how I love Indian food. And I’ve been finding that the best way to learn about it, is to learn to cook it.  There are more styles and variations of Indian cuisine than I could hope to cover here, but I’m working on it!

I used to go to the local Indian market when I needed a curry fix, and everything I bought was pre-prepared, frozen or in pouches; I couldn’t identify many of the Hindi-named staple ingredients that the local Indian and Nepali people were buying.  I vowed that someday, I would be able to actually purchase ingredients and make a meal myself.  Indeed, as I cook more and learn more, when I visit that market, my basket is filled instead with flours, beans, spices and nuts that I can take home and whip into something delicious and fresh.

This is the first Indian dish I cooked at home, one of my favorites when dining out: Aloo Gobi, a dish of curried potato and cauliflower.  This Punjabi-style recipe is a “dry” curry; there isn’t much sauce.  Traditionally, it does not contain any tomato, and is served with bread (usually roti, a small flat whole-wheat bread).  I like to put in a tomato, and serve it with cumin-spiced basmati rice, mostly because I haven’t yet learned how to make roti and I don’t want to heat the whole oven just to warm a couple of pieces of frozen bread.  And isn’t everything better with tomatoes?

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • About 14 oz. of cauliflower florets (you can use frozen, if that’s easier)
  • 2 large or 4 small potatoes, diced large-ish
  • 1 small onion, diced or sliced, your preference
  • 1 tomato, diced (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Half an inch of fresh peeled ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (you can substitute cayenne if needed)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala

Instructions:

  • Heat oil in a good-sized saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add onions and cook until translucent.
  • Add garlic and ginger and cook 2-3 minutes.
  • Add all spices except garam masala, and the potatoes.  Stir well to mix the spices with the potatoes.
  • Add a little water (about 1/4 cup), cover, and cook until the potatoes are half-done.
  • Add the cauliflower, and tomato if you’re adding one, add a pinch of salt, and stir really well so that the cauliflower gets coated with spices too.
  • Re-cover, and cook until the cauliflower is soft.  Sprinkle with the garam masala and stir.  Serve with bread or rice, as you’d like.

In my efforts to try and, hopefully, like some new vegetables, so we don’t get into a boring rut of four staple dishes, I try to pick up a new-to-me veggie every few weeks or so.  It’s dicey to try something new, because I don’t want to waste money or spend the time on cooking something yecchy.  So when I spot something that looks nice at the market, I’ll do some Googling and see what I can find about the flavor, how to choose, and different preparations.

I came upon some very pretty Swiss chard, which I’ve heard of but never tried.  After discovering, via kale, that I do like cooked leafy greens (prior exposure to creamed spinach made me think I hated them), I explored further.  The consensus seemed to be that it’s kind of close to spinach in flavor… hmmm, could be bad, but could work with the right preparation.  People tend to take it in a sweeter direction with cheese and raisins (ew) or sautee it with olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar.  This seemed more promising, so on the last trip to the market, I picked up a mixed bunch: big fluffy leaves with vibrant red and yellow stalks.

Upon testing the flavor, which was indeed very strong and earthy, I decided that the best way to introduce this new food to my fussy palate would be to include it in a big mixed dish with lots of ingredients – a bit like sneaking vegetables to a child.  I had some beautiful broccolini, red bell peppers, and lots of garlic, so I went with a primavera-type dish with whole-wheat pasta shells.

To start, I washed the chard, and separated the leaves from the stalks.  The leaves, I tore into small pieces.  The stems, I trimmed and cut into quite small pieces, slicing 2-3 times lengthwise then chopping crosswise.  I similarly separated the stems and florets of the broccolini, as I wanted to cook the chard leaves and broccolini florets for less time than the stalks.  I diced about 1 small red bell pepper and put that with the broccoli florets.  A roma tomato was deseeded and diced and set aside.  (I would’ve used 2, but my spouse is sensitive to too much tomato.)  Finally, I chopped about 3/4 C of white onion and minced 5 cloves of garlic.

I set about 2 Tbsp olive oil in a sautee pan, and sweated the onions, then added the garlic.  After a few minutes, I added the tomato and a good pinch of salt.  At this time I set the water on to boil for the pasta.  After cooking the tomato for about 2 minutes, I added a good pinch of thyme, basil, oregano, black pepper, and a smidge of cayenne.  Then the chard stems and broccolini stems went in.  After 5 minutes or so, I added the broccolini florets and the peppers, and continued to cook, stirring, until the broccolini started to show that beautiful bright green.  I added some good balsamic vinaigrette, another pinch of salt, and slowly added the chard leaves, adding more as they wilted and shrank.  Added the pasta to its now-boiling water, to cook for 6 minutes.  Continued sauteeing the vegetable mix until the chard leaves were nice and tender and all the flavors were melded together.  Took veggies off the heat, drained pasta, mixed both together, ta da!

The Swiss chard came out really nicely, tender and not very bitter.  And we both went back for seconds!  I’ll continue to explore the use of chard, but it seems like it may be a keeper.

I first heard of quinoa a long time ago, but only tried it recently, with this recipe.  It’s so good that we’ve added it to our diets as a staple grain.  Quinoa, long popular in South America before the Spanish conquest, is classed as a grain, but it isn’t, really – it’s a seed, and a relative of spinach and swiss chard.  It’s got a low Glycemic Index rating for a grain-type food — 51 — making it good for those who need to watch their blood sugar.  Also important to this vegetarian, it is a source of complete protein, with all of the necessary amino acids.  It’s also a good source of minerals, like magnesium, manganese, copper and iron.

Unwashed quinoa should be stored in the refrigerator, as it is prone to rancidity due to the oily saponins that coat the grains.   Rinse them very well in a sieve, swishing the seeds with your hand, until there is no bitter taste remaining.  You can also buy pre-washed quinoa, which I did when I didn’t have a sieve fine enough to strain the tiny seeds.

The nutty flavor of quinoa is really brought out by toasting it before cooking it.  Put quinoa in a dry skillet, and toast over medium-low heat, stirring and shaking so that it won’t burn, until the grains are lightly golden and smell fragrant.  Don’t let them get brown.  Allow to cool a bit before using in your recipe.

I found this vegan Quinoa Pilaf recipe at The Savvy Vegetarian, and it was excellent.  The only change I made was to increase the amount of turmeric from 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp.  I also chose to garnish with parsley because I don’t like cilantro.

You can easily find asoefetida at Indian markets, where it is known as Hing.  Just use a pinch.  Raw, it smells awful, like burnt hair.  When cooked, it has a wonderful mellow aroma and flavor, sort of garlicky.  You can sub in a pinch of minced garlic if you don’t have any hing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 C quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 C celery, chopped small (or sliced thinly)
  • 1/2 C raw cashews, toasted
  • 1/2 C red bell pepper, chopped small
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of asoefetida/hing, or a pinch of minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-3/4 C water
  • 1/4 C parsley or cilantro
  • ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  • Rinse the quinoa well and toast; set aside to cool.
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan.
  • Add garlic, celery, red pepper, and cashews.
  • Stir-fry until cashews are golden.
  • Add the rest of the spices and stir well.
  • Add quinoa and stir until all the oil has been absorbed.
  • Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed.
  • Remove from heat and allow to sit covered about 5 minutes; fluff with a fork, add pepper to taste, and garnish with the parsley or cilantro.  Enjoy!

Bhajis, also known as pakoras, are one of my favorite Indian appetizer/snacks.  They’re deep-fried fritters made with chickpea flour (besan), onions, and various other ingredients.  The original recipe by Victoria Blashford-Snell and
Brigitte Hafner
, which I got from Cookstr.com,  called for onion only, but I wanted to throw in a green vegetable for interest.  Spinach is frequently used in vegetable pakoras, and kale is a good sub-in for spinach (which I don’t like that much).  I also subbed in some salt for some of the cumin, and added more coriander.

These are quick and delicious – the thing that takes the most time is heating the oil!  The batter can be made an hour or two ahead of time; if it gets too thick, add a bit of water.

Ingredients:

  • 1 C chopped onions
  • 1/2 C kale or spinach, finely chopped
  • 3/4 C chickpea/garbanzo flour (also called besan, or gram flour)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp freshly-ground coriander seeds (you can crush them w/ the back of a spoon)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 spicy chile, green or red, minced (de-seeded, if desired)
  • Handful of kale, about 1/2 C, shredded and sauteed lightly until tender
  • small amount of water (about 1/2 C)
  • vegetable oil for frying

Instructions:

  • Put 2″ of oil in a large, deep saucepan and heat to 350.
  • In a good-sized bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients, adding water slowly, up to about 1/2 C, to make a smooth, thick batter.
  • Carefully add spoonfuls of batter to hot oil,  in batches of three or four.
  • Fry about 3 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden.
  • Drain on paper towels, season, and serve with pakora chutney.