[Recipe: Simplest Dal]
Do you realize what fun it is to shop for cardamom pods? Plucking what I I needed for a recipe, along with some extra for good measure, from the bin and placing them in the provided tiny plastic bag gave me none other than a little thrill. Oh, to be rescued by a recipe, by a spice, from an otherwise average existence.
It’s what I live for really. Or one of the things I live for, at least.
I’m trying my hand at this riff on Indian food. For all my claim to mostly vegetarianism (I eat fish), you’d think I’d be big on the stuff, well experienced with it. I’ve heard time and again that Indian cuisine has lovely vegetarian dishes, and though I can recount many an epiphany involving ethnic eating experiences, Indian cuisine isn’t one I’ve delved into. Yet (key word, that one).
I thought Mark Bittman’s Simplest Dal (“How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”) would be a rightful initiation, both for its technique (“largely unattended,” he describes it) and its flavors.
I can’t speak for other dals (or dhals, an alternate spelling) but this one was red lentils and spices simmered into creaminess, exuberant with flavor. We spread it on some roti I had hanging around (serendipity does strike, it would seem) and nibbled some accompanying carrots with dates and raisins, another Bittman recipe.
Up next: something with curry.
adapted from Mark Bittman
Bittman says this is the classic lentil staple of India. It was amazing served hot, and I’ve since eaten the leftovers cold, spread on a simple wrap with sliced tomatoes.
1 C dried red lentils, washed and picked over
2 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
4 cardamom pods
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ancho chile powder
1 tsp cracked black pepper
Combine lentils, ginger, garlic, cardamom, mustard, cloves, chile powder and pepper in a saucepan and add water to cover by about 1 inch. Cook at a steady simmer until the lentils are very soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Salt the lentils as they soften.
Remove the cloves and cardamom pods (you can eat the cardamom pods if you want). Adjust seasoning to taste, then stir in cilantro.