Much to the delight of the chard, mustard and collard greens growing in my garden, a steady rain has been coming down since late morning, thanks to a storm that came in over the mountains from across the sea. “I can’t believe you call rain a storm!” my husband said as we were talking about some possible flooding in town. “When I was coming up in Philly, we just called it rain. Every time there’s a little rain coming down in California, it’s ‘Oh, there’s a storm!’ It’s just rain.” But when I looked out the window, the rain was coming down hard and sideways. Natjve Southern Californian that I am, sorry Honey, this is a storm.
A stormy Sunday is simply a perfect day for staying home, catching up on laundry, watching some old movies and comedy shows, and (of course), cooking up some healthy dishes for Hubby and I to enjoy for the first couple days of the work week. On the menu? Masoor dal, Broccoli Raaj, and some lemony basmati rice.
Masoor dal is a spicy soup made with red lentils and varying combos of onions, ginger, garlic, spices and other ingredients. It is not only just about my most favorite dal in the world, it is also the fastest cooking, with no need to presoak the beans. Dal is traditionally served as part of a meal, at least with chapattis or rice, and subjee (curried vegetables), but you can also enjoy a bowlful on its own as a hearty soup.
I put a sauce pot with a half gallon of water on the stove and added just over a cup and a half of rinsed red lentils to get them cooking. Then I measured 2 cups of basmati rice, rinsed it well, and added to my rice cooker with 3-1/2 cups of water, a dash of salt, and a few slices of lemon (just for a little flavor). That would cook on its own. Next I peeled and chopped my fresh ginger, garlic and onions. and then made sure all the spices I would need for the dal and broccoli were within easy reach. My broccoli was already prepped (If you, like me, have more time to cook on weekends than weekdays, this is a handy tip… Rinse and chop veggies you know you will be using later and then store them in containers or bags in the fridge – handy and ready for stir-fries, salads, or whatever’s on the menu).
First I cooked up the masala (fried mix of onions, garlic, ginger, spices, and perhaps some chopped tomato) for the dal and added it to the now simmering lentils along with a sliced carrot and chopped potato. Then I cooked up the masala for my Broccoli Raj. (Broccoli Raj is a dish I learned from Yogi Bhajan that includes generous portions of parsley, ginger, onions, red chilies, and other spices. You will find the recipe in my cookbook, From Vegetables with Love – Recipes & Tales from a Yogi’s Kitchen.) When the masala was done, I added water, about a pound of chopped broccoli, and let it simmer covered for about 10 minutes.
I looked out my kitchen window, and what did I see? Sunshine!! I ran outside, and sure enough, some golden rays were peeking through the clouds. A beautiful break in the storm, and a chance to check on my little green babies. As happy as they could be!
Didn’t get these guys started until December, but you know what they say, better late than never, and in a couple months… saag!
Back in the kitchen, my rice cooker went “Beep Beep Beep!” announcing the rice was done, and so was everything else. That is, except for one important detail… frying up some whole cumin and black mustard seeds in sizzling ghee to pour over the dal. Frying these whole spices brings out their flavor and is really quite the finishing touch to the dish… along with a generous sprinkling of chopped fresh cilanto. Mmmmm!
Masoor Dal with Potatoes and Carrots – Dal for a Rainy Day
Yield: about 8 servings
8 cups water
1-1/2 cups red lentils (masoor dal)
1/2 pound red skinned potatoes, cut in bite size chunks, skins & all
1 medium carrot, scrubbed and sliced in rounds
2-3 tablespoons ghee or oil for frying
1 cup onion chopped in small dice
2 tablespoons peeled fresh finely chopped ginger
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red chilies (more, for more fire!)
1 scant teaspoon turmeric
2 black cardamom pods
1-1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped/diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1/2 teaspoon asafetida (hing powder)
1-2 tablespoons ghee or oil for frying
1 rounded teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Place water in 4-quart sauce pot and put on stove over high flame to bring to a boil. Rinse red lentils with cold water to remove any debris, and then add to the pot. Wash and chop potatoes and carrot and add to pot.
Heat 2-3 tablespoons ghee or oil in iron skillet, wok, or other fry pan over medium-high flame. When hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion, add chopped onion, ginger, and garlic and fry until beginning to turn golden brown.
Make space in the center and let small amount of oil pool there. Add turmeric, red chilies, and black cardamom and let them sizzle in oil a minute (you may need to add a small amount of ghee/oil). Then add cumin, pepper and tomatoes. Continue cooking over high heat, stirring frequently, until very well done, adding small a small amount of water as needed to facilitate cooking.
Add this “masala” to the pot of cooking red lentils, potatoes and carrots. Turn heat to medium and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have dissolved into a hearty thick broth and the vegetables are very well done. Add salt to taste (about 2 teaspoons).
When time to serve, pour the steaming hot dal into your serving bowl. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of ghee in a small fry pan (I have a 6-inch iron pan that is perfect) over high heat. It must be hot, but not smoking hot! Add whole cumin and black mustard seeds and immediately stir. Within 30 seconds they should be toasted enough that you will smell a lovely toasty aroma. Remove from heat at once, and pour the fried seeds and ghee/oil in a drizzle over your cooked dal. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.