Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Dal Before the Storm

Right about now you're probably thinking to yourself, “Wait I thought this was a blog about some crazy French diet and French cooking. What happened to the complicated French recipes, lady?” To which I would tell you a woman has needs. In this case the need for spices, specifically the need to sniffle in joyful pain over a bowl of stew perfectly seasoned with curry and cayenne. Therefore I've taken a break from insane French recipes that have me online translating ingredients like courgettes, aubergines and fresh coriander into plain English in order to cook. (Zucchini, eggplant and cilantro, in case you were wondering.) I just can't take it right now. Sorry, Boulud it's not you, it's me.

Also I'm a little scared about Sunday. It's Easter and I've invited my family over for a feast. I've never had a family holiday dinner at my house before so I'm entitled to a tiny dose of freaking out, right? Rather than doing something simple like roasting a chicken I had to go and make things as complex as possible by promising Boeuf En Daube. Five pounds of beef, a bottle of Burgundy, and a pound of shallots cooked for eight hours, this couldn't possibly go wrong. There is nothing to be anxious about at all. Oh no. There is also a complicated torte involved for dessert, I should add. It will be fine, really. Did I mention I have to work on Easter morning? There really need to be more hours in a day and less yuppies needing to by wine and lattes.

Thankfully I thrive in stressful situations, they turn off the part of my brain that over thinks and is busy keeping track of all of the people I'm currently holding a grudge against in chronological order. Take that out of the picture and suddenly the genius part of my brain kicks into gear and amazing things happen. However I need to rest that part of my brain until Sunday so until then I'm going anti-Emeril and taking things down several notches. Bam.

Dal surprisingly enough is one of the easiest things in the world to cook. I would have never thought it after the many highly flavored satisfying bowls of it I've cooed over in ethnic restaurants certain that it was too complex for me to ever try my hand at. This is why I need the fella around (okay one of about a million reasons, he is also useful for reaching things on high shelves) he gets in the mood for things and insists we make then regardless of their difficulty. He is either very brave or very silly because we've made some nutty stuff on the spur of the moment to curb a craving. This particular craving worked out very well because I will now being making Dal quite often.

The original recipe calls for split peas and requires an hour of cooking. The heck with that I say. We used lentils. Unfortunately in the excitement of buying $30 worth of organic boeuf we forgot the lentils. The good news is we had red lentils hiding in the back of the cupboard and they were lovely not to mention they cut down the cooking time even more. They are the tenderest lentil so only need about 10 minutes or less to absorb water. So we sat down to Dal while waiting for the vegetable curry to takes it's sweet time cooking. During which time the fella asks, “Is this what it means to eat in courses?”

It's a fair question considering we usually sit down and eat our various dishes in one frenzied swoop as I'm not very good at planning out cooking times in order to eat any other way. This was a nice change of pace. And we even got to eat while the sun was out.


8 ounces lentils
2 1/2 cups water (more if you want a thinner soup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, or 2 medium fresh, skinned and diced
1 medium onion, diced

2 tablespoons oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon mustard seed

cilantro for garnish

Combine lentils, water, salt, curry powder, tomatoes, and onions in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer to cook covered until lentils are tender, time will depend on variety of lentils being used. Add more water to adjust the consistency of the soup as the lentils absorb the liquid.

Add the oil, garlic, and mustard seed and simmer another 5 to 10 minutes, until garlic is tender.

Add salt and pepper to taste and top with cilantro if you like.

Original recipe from The New York Times Cook Book by Craig Claiborne.

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