This fall, I will be a bridesmaid for one of my best friends, who is engaged to a man from India. The two of them are excellent chefs, often preparing meals inspired by their Italian and Indian roots. Like me, they have an experimental spirit in the kitchen, rarely opening cookbooks or abiding by the instructions of recipes.
I often heard tales of Sara’s cooking adventures while living in India – working in a kitchen without a stove, sweating in 100 degree heat, stocking up on spices for mere pennies. As I began to cook for myself, she obviously became my go-to person for all things Indian.
While I often measure my ingredients when developing recipes, Sara is an avid proponent of simply throwing things into the pot. In high school, I saw her bake (the best) chocolate chip cookies without measuring a thing, and that hasn’t changed as we’ve gotten older. So when I call her to consult on an Indian dish, I typically receive a flexible list of ingredients and guidance only to use my best judgment. I like those kind of rules.
Tonight I tackled dal, which is one of the Indian dishes I feel I have a good handle on. As Sara would say, the spices are flexible, based on whatever is available in your kitchen.
basic dal for one
- 1 t evoo
- 1/2 c onion, chopped
- 1/2 c tomatoes, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 t curry powder
- 1/2 t coriander
- 1/4 t turmeric
- 1/2 t cumin
- 1/2 t garam masala
- 1/4 c dry lentils
- 3/4 c vegetable broth
- 2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
Heat oil in saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion; sauté until soft, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, sauté 30 seconds. Add spices, sauté 30 more seconds. Add tomatoes, lentils, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer, covered, about 25 minutes, until lentils are soft and liquid has been absorbed. Stir in cilantro just before serving.
Traditionally, this would’ve been eaten utensil free, with only naan to scoop up the dal. Without easy access to freshly baked naan, I served it with rice, broccoli, and a fork.
Have you learned any recipes from a friend?