15 July 2008

Easiest. Dal. Ever.

Some days V and I get home from work and we're in a creative cooking mood. Other days we're thisclose to calling for pizza, but since we're trying to save money we have to think of tasty things we can make quickly. One of our favorites is nimbu dal (lemon dal). V used to get this from street vendors on his way to school sometimes, irritating his mother who had just tried to feed him a big and filling breakfast only moments before!

All you have to do is cook the dal and then garnish it to taste with a few savory toppings. We like to cook a big pot of it so that we can eat it for dinner and then have leftovers to pack for lunch for the next day. What follows is not an actual recipe, but more of a technique.

Nimbu dal

Put some moong dal into a pot with water, and cook it until the dal is very soft and as thick as you like it. Serve it in bowls with the following things on top to taste:

Minced green chiles
Red chile powder
Black salt (a small pinch usually)
Burnt cumin seeds (just roast cumin seeds in a pan until they are dark brown, then crush them up in a mortar and pestle)
Chopped cilantro and/or cilantro chutney
A little butter
A couple dashes of lemon juice

Then you can mix it all up and enjoy! I like it by itself, and my husband likes it with parathas or rotis. I don't have a picture, unfortunately, but it looks nice with all the garnishes on top before you mix them in.

03 July 2008

The Pasta of Summer 2008!

People, if you must know one thing about my food habits, it's that pasta is my comfort food. Sometimes nothing but pasta will do...preferably some kind of pasta that has lots of garlic with it. This can be a problem considering that I'm married to an Indian man who was raised Jain--that means that he didn't grow up eating pasta, and in his family's religion many people do not eat garlic, so he does not like the taste of very much garlic. So if we're trying to decide what to make for dinner and I suggest something that has pasta or a lot of garlic in it, I hear, "awwwww, noooooo...no pasta; no garlic." And since I refuse to cook separate meals, that means that I have to be vigilant about chances to eat pasta or lots of garlic when I'm alone.

Tonight was one of those nights. V got home from work and was so tired that he just wanted a small snack and to fall into bed. I was very solicitous about making sure he was comfortable and had what he needed, but in my mind I was thinking, "here's my chance! It's pasta night, baby!" I'm so bad, hee hee. And I knew just what recipe I had in mind.

This was in the June 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine. You can't get any simpler than this: pasta with garlic and olives. I made a few changes to the original recipe and ended up with the following recipe. The original recipe suggests that you serve it at room temperature (for cookouts and picnics and such) but I couldn't wait very long and ate it while it was still fairly warm. It was so excellent, I can definitely see myself making it for potlucks and parties this summer.

Pasta with Garlic and Olives
(Originally Acini di Pepe Pasta with Garlic and Olives, Gourmet June 2008)

1/2 lb small pasta (I used Barilla mini penne)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, minced (1 1/2 Tbsp)
1/4 tsp hot red-pepper flakes (I used a little more than this)
1/2 cup pitted olives, quartered (I used Trader Joes' Mingling Olives)

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water (3 Tbsp salt for 6 qt water), stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain well in a sieve. Transfer to a bowl.

Meanwhile, heat oil and butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté garlic with red-pepper flakes until golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in olives. Toss with pasta. Season with salt and pepper.