Monday, June 30, 2008

Chana Dal with Cucumbers and Kale

I love kale. I mean, I really, really love it, with a passion that is deep, pure and abiding. In my humble opinion, it makes pretty much everything better, with the possible exception of oatmeal raisin cookies, but then again I haven't tried that, so I can't be sure. Anyway, this recipe is heavily adapted from Madhur Jaffrey: so heavily, in fact, that about the only things they still have in common are chana dal and cucumber. That said, I believe in giving credit where it's due, rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, etc. In any case, when I was first thinking about making this recipe, it occurred to me that it would be vastly improved by the addition of--you guessed it--KALE! And boy, was I right. Served with basmati rice (we are currently sort of obsessed with FORBIDDEN RICE, which tastes great, in addition to its astonishing purple color), mashed sweet potato, extra garlicky greens and/or spicy stir-fried okra and some hot pickle on the side, this is one of our favorite dinners.

~1 tbsp. mustard oil
~1 tsp. each: mustard and cumin seeds
~2 tbsp. minced garlic
~1 tbsp. minced ginger
~1 tsp each: garam masala, curry powder, fenugreek, sea salt
~1/2 tsp. each: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cayenne pepper
~Fresh black pepper to taste
~1.5 cups chopped shallots
~1.5 cups rinsed chana dal (or lentils, or a combination: go crazy!)
~8 cups chopped kale
~3 cups chopped, seeded cucumber 
~5 cups vegetable broth

~In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until they begin to sizzle and pop.
~Add garlic and ginger and saute another minute or two.
~Add shallots and seasonings, and cook until the shallots turn glassy, about 3-5 minutes. Use a splash of water or broth if necessary to keep the mixture from sticking. 
~Add the chana dal and mix well to make sure everything is combined and coated with the spices. Saute another 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
~Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
~Cover and cook over low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
~Add the cucumber and kale, mixing thoroughly; replace the lid and cook 15-20 minutes longer, or until you've achieved a fairly thick, stew-like consistency.

Serve over steamed rice with your favorite pickle and/or chutney: yummy!

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