Monday, March 19, 2012

Makhani Dal (Lentils & Kidney Beans)

My sister recently gave me an Indian cookbook--Dances with Spices. Me likey a lot.

When Kevin and I lived in NYC, there was an Indian restaurant a few blocks away that was a substantial cut above and beyond all the other casual Indian restaurants I have ever been to.  It was called Earthen Oven, which sadly no longer exists.  I guess when we moved they lost a substantial portion of their takeout business.

One of the dishes that we loved was Dal Durga, a creamed black lentil dish.  While I was flipping through Dances with Spices, I came across a recipe for Makhani Dal, which was creamed lentils and kidney beans, and sounded pretty similar to our favorite Earthen Oven dish, so I gave it a whirl. And I'm so happy I did.

Adapted from Dances with Spices


1 cup dried kidney beans (you have to soak the beans the night before making the recipe--if you don't want to do that, you could substitute three 15-oz cans of kidney beans)
1 cup brown or green lentils
2 TBS ghee (you can make your own from one of the many recipes on the internet, but I bought mine from a store what you think I have time for making it myself?)
1 small onion, minced
1 TBS minced fresh ginger
1 TBS minced garlic
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs and stem removed, minced
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 tsp salt, or to taste (I think I added about a 1/2 tsp more)
1 cup half and half, or whole milk if you must
2 TBS minced cilantro

Served 4 to 6 as main course

Place the kidney beans (not the lentils) in a bowl and cover with water by at least 2 inches.  Let soak 8 hours or overnight.  I put mine in the refrigerator because I wasn't going to get to them until 24 hours afterwards.

Anyway, when you're ready to cook, drain the kidney beans and rinse them along with the lentils.  Place legumes in a saucepan and add about 5 cups of water.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, until beans are tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes.  Then drain dem bad boys.

Now for the aromatics.

Heat the ghee in a large saucepan or pot over medium high heat.  Add the onion, ginger, garlic and serrano and cook until onion turns light brown, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the coriander, cumin, and black pepper.  Stir for about 30 seconds and add the tomato paste.  Continue to stir for about 5 minutes.

Add the legumes, salt and milk.

Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir in cilantro.

Serve with basmati rice.  Ta-da!

Have you tried to recreate a favorite restaurant dish? How did it go?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Broccoli Slaw

There's a recipe for broccoli slaw that I found on Smitten Kitchen a few years ago that I love to make for company--I make a big batch and we eat the leftovers as lunch or a light dinner.  I try to eat it within 1 or 2 days after making it, though, unless you like eating things "funky".

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


1/2 cup buttermilk (I usually just use the ol' lemon juice in whole milk trick because buttermilk comes in annoyingly large cartons--to make 1/2 cup buttermilk, you add 1/2 TBS lemon juice to 1/2 cup whole milk and let it sit for a few minutes, and stir before using)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (the original recipe is for 1/3 cup--I found this to be a bit too much but I'm also not a fan of super-mayonnaise-y things so do what you like)
2 TBS cider vinegar (or 1 TBS cider vinegar and 1 TBS lemon juice, which I did because I had a lemon and also because I like the supa tartness)
1 TBS sugar
1 medium or large shallot, finely chopped (about 3 TBS)
Salt to taste--don't be shy, use at least a 1/2 tsp but you will probably want more because it's a lot of raw broccoli in this dish

2 heads of broccoli
1/2 cup sliced almonds or other nuts, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit
1/2 small red onion or 2 to 3 large shallots, finely chopped (the last time I made this recipe was about a month ago and dagnabbit I'm pretty sure I still that the unused half of that pesky red onion in the refrigerator--the shallots are more $$ but at least they get used up)

First, make the dressing. You can do this in advance to get it out of the way and to help the flavors meld.  I make dressings by putting all the ingredients into a jar, put the lid on, and shake away. So easy. I do this with cocktails as well since our cocktail shaker has a little inconvenience in that the f-in top doesn't come off but that is another story.

Dump in the shallots, buttermilk, mayo, sugar, vinegar...blah blah you get it.

Then, chop the living daylights out of your broccoli or run it through the food processor with the slicer attachment.  I've done both and they have the pros and cons.  Chopping by hand is more effort, and you have to make sure that you chop it pretty small so that you end up getting a decent ratio of raw broccoli:dressing.  With the food processor, the chopping part is easier but I made an even bigger mess than when I hand chop--you have to empty out that sucker pretty frequently, and in the process things get flung everywhere and you will have fuzzy green hands.  You can also use a mandoline, which I have not done because honestly I am scared of my mandoline. I took a big slice out of my fingernail once and it made me jittery.

With the food processor, you still want to hack up the broccoli into big chunks.

Then run them through the food processor to get this:

And then...well let's skip a few steps where you toss the broccoli with the dressing, and season with any extra salt and pepper to taste.  Best to let it sit in the refrigerator for about an hour to get the flavors to meld.  When ready to serve, sprinkle with the almonds and cranberries.


Monday, March 12, 2012

I went to California...

...and spent time with some lovely ladies--human, canine, baby...I keep a wide circle of friends.

 My sister and I did a raging impression of ladies who lunch by feasting on oysters and steamed clams at Hog Island Oyster Company.  We were planning on following it up with a furious afternoon of shopping and then cocktails and dinner, like ladies out on the town.   We were going to hit it hard.  In the reality that is my life, we fell asleep, hard, for 2 hours after lunch and instead of cocktails, decided to watch Star Trek.  We did stumble out of our comfy positions in order to grab some dinner, so we really lived it up big time and don't you say otherwise.

And then, oh my goodness, I met some delicious dumplings that I almost ate except that their mommy would have been very upset...

I have a very strong maternal instinct. Just *look* at how happy that baby is in my arms.  I don't want to boast but I got her to talk and she called me "baby charmer". I said, "I know."

My sister had a different effect--I'm not trying to be critical here, but as "baby charmer" I think I'm allowed to say that the baby is not just a little alarmed. It's okay, sister, not all of us have that magic touch.  And clean that spit-up, please.

 The momma was the only one who could comfort this dollop of cuteness. 

 Of course, we cannot forget about the true ladies of California--my sister's three pugs. Wait, this is two. And you may be able to tell that one is older than the other.

 There's the third one! Hello my sweetie. Aren't you a vision in hot pink.  My sister made that pug sweater--isn't it adorable?

I love California.