Attempting Indian Food!

I can’t remember when it was or what I made, but I do know I’ve tried to make an Indian dish for dinner once before… and it wasn’t good.  Clearly not very memorable, but I just don’t recall being impressed with the flavor, mostly due to using a ton of curry powder (one of my least favorite flavors).  I think I got it in my head that all Indian dishes use curry powder, so I was done with it.

My favorite blog (smittenkitchen.com) has a “surprise me” button, which brings up random recipes from the site.  I could sit and press this button all. day. long.  Last week it brought up a recipe for yellow dal, which looked like a delicious, hearty meal.  The link actually included 3 recipes, one for the dal (yellow split pea based), one for black eyed peas in a curry sauce, and a simple cabbage “slaw”/salad.  I wasn’t sure it was essential to have all 3 together, but figured with having a meatless dinner I better make all I can.

We felt that the dal was just slightly bland, but still enjoyable.  I found the perfect bite to be a mix of both dishes and the cabbage together; honestly the cabbage was what made it all come together!  Everything tasted very fresh, and while filling, it wasn’t too heavy or anything.  I can see making this again in the next week even, I enjoyed it that much!

Tangy Shredded Cabbage Salad

2 cups tightly packed, shredded green cabbage (use the large holes of the grater)
1 small serrano chile, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more as needed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

Instructions: In a medium bowl, toss together the cabbage, chile, lemon juice, salt and sugar. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You are looking for a well-balanced, sweet and sour taste.

Heat the oil in a small skillet or butter warmer over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds, covering the pan with a lid or splatter screen. When seeds top popping, immediately pour the oil over the cabbage salad and toss well. Let the salad sit for at least 15 minutes before serving, to allow the flavors to blossom.

Everyday Yellow Dal

1 cup yellow split peas, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
1 large tomato (about 8 ounces), cut into 8 wedges (I used a can of petite diced tomatoes for this and the tomatoes in the curry)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, finely ground
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt

Instructions: Drain the dal (split peas) and place in a large saucepan. Add the tomato and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until peas are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Pick out any tomato skins and whisk dal to emulsify it. Keep warm over very low heat.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the cumin seeds, covering the pan with a lid or splatter screen. After the seeds have stopped sputtering, add the onion and saute over medium heat. About 3 minutes later, add the garlic and saute until most of the onion has turned dark brown, about 5 minutes altogether. Add the coriander, turmeric and cayenne, stir and pour mixture over the dal. Add the cilantro, butter and salt to the dal and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Black-Eyed Peas in a Spicy Goan Curry

1 cup dried black-eyed peas or two 15-ounce cans, drained
2 tablespoons, canola oil
1 small yellow onion, minced (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, finely ground
1/2 teaspoon finely grated garlic (about 1 large clove)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated ginger (about a 1-inch piece)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, finely ground
1/4 cup minced tomato
2 cups (or 1 cup if using canned peas) hot water
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste if using canned peas
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup canned coconut milk
2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice

If using dried black-eyed peas, rinse and soak them in enough water to cover for 6 to 8 hours. Drain.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat and saute the onion until it turns dark brown, about 8 minutes. Add the coriander, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne and cumin, and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomato and stir over low heat until it disintegrates.

Add the peas and mix well. Pour in the hot water, if using, add the salt and sugar, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer until the peas are cooked through, about 20 minutes. If using canned peas, simmer for only 10 minutes (it is essential to simmer the canned peas, too, so that all the flavors blend better). Stir in the coconut milk and simmer uncovered for another 8 to 10 minutes, again allowing the flavors to come together.

Add the cilantro and lemon juice, simmer for 1 minute more, and remove from heat. Serve hot.

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