How easy should easy be? One step? Two steps? Which came first, the chicken or the egg, and can I cook them both in the same pot? I've always been fascinated by those "as seen on TV" dealies, the one step, magic touch, never fail, only three easy payments of 29.95 plus shipping and handling, and while you're at it you also get... well, you get the idea.
So as fond as I am of all those nifty little doo-dads, when it comes to Indian cooking I always go back to the basics. I've got my clay pots and stainless steel, my fire (okay electric stove) and that's all I really need. Soaking, grinding, stirring... rinse and repeat.
While trying to figure out what to cook today, I decided to go back to basics, and you can't get more basic than a savory spicy dal. Even though Sonoma is starting to bring the heat and Summer is definitely on its' way, dal always hits the spot whether on a cold stormy winter night or a day that's turning toward the hot side... fast. After all there's a reason the Indians who live in some of the hottest territory one can find, enjoy chilies and other hot stuff. This article I found in Nat Geo talks about the natural connection between spicy foods and antimicrobials. So when the weather gets hot, don't worry about turning up the heat on your food. It's good for you!
The dal I fixed today is not the spiciest but it's got great flavor, and easy? Like they used to say in those TV infomercials..."Set it and forget it!" Put the dal up to soak for a couple of hours, drain it, boil it for 25 minutes, add the spices and you are done, done, done!
The dal dish I chose to make is from Rajasthan where they don't just want one dal in a pot, they like to serve their dals all mixed together. The one I made contained 5 different dals which gives it a rich and complex and pardono the expression "meaty" flavor.
5 Dal Curry
Here's what to do:
1/4 cup of masoor dal
1/4 cup of toor dal
1/4 cup of chana dal
1/4 cup of urad dal
1/4 cup of mung dal
Drain the dal
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of turmeric
Bring it al to a boil and then lower the heat and cook on medium for 25 to 30 minutes until the dal is tender.
When the oil is hot toss in:
1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
4 or 5 cloves
2 dried red chilies torn in half
When the cumin seeds start to turn color and get aromatic, add in:
green chili/ginger paste (place a seeded green chili and 1 inch piece of sliced fresh ginger in a spice grinder or processor with a bit of water and grind to a paste.)
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of coriander
1 tsp of Kashmiri chili or (1/2 tsp of cayenne mixed with 1/2 tsp of paprika.)
3 chopped tomatoes or 1 can of good quality chopped tomatoes.
Let everything cook for about 10 minutes or so, then add in:
the cooked dal, liquid and all
1 and 1/2 cup of water.
Toss in 1/2 tsp of garam masala and give it a stir.
Sprinkle with 2 Tbs of chopped fresh cilantro and serve it up!
After all this dal cooking, I took off for Santa Rosa on a vegetable and fruit run. I needed 2 big sacks of urad dal also, as this recipe used up the last of my stores. Paula Wolfert requested some bottle gourds and I got her an extra ridged gourd too. I found frozen, grated, fresh casaava, tiny Indian eggplants, bitter melons, the perfect rice papers to do gluten-free samosas for my friend who's recuperating, and treasure of all treasures, one of my favorite fruits... lychee!!! I can't wait to get to work on my finds, especially the rice paper as a wrapper for all sorts of things including (fingers crossed) samosas. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori