Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fast, Filling, and Veggie

I hear people say that they want to be vegetarian (or at least that they want to eat less meat) but they don't know what to make instead.

It's readjusting the way you plan meals. Most people start with the meat ("roast chicken") and fill in from there ("hmm, rice is nice").

Here's an alternative menu that is filling, simple to make, and beautiful on the plate:

Preparing the Plate

A beautiful plate makes the meal more appetizing.
  • Mound the rice on the plate and dig a hole in it.
  • Place the dal in the "rice hole".
  • Arrange the Brussels Sprouts around the rice.
  • Garnish the dal with cilantro, if you wish.

Indian Style Dal
Indian cuisine is filled with lentils and beans, peas and pulses, known generically as "dal" in Hindi. There's no single English word that covers all these different small, round or oblong, nutritious gobbets: garbanzos, red lentils, brown lentils, black beans, black-eyed peas, Great Northern beans, kidney beans, navy beans...and many others I haven't listed.

Gandhi, a proponent of the simple lifestyle, won India's independence from Great Britain while eating meals of "dal chaval" ("dal and rice").

Make this recipe with your favorite dal. You can also mix a few types together, to get nice contrasts in shape, size, and color.

The proportions below are flexible. You can add more chili pepper, more onion, more garlic. Or less, depending on your taste.

1/2 cup of any dal
1 chili pepper, cut in pieces
Canola or other oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
A quart of an onion, sliced
Two cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Lemon juice
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Put the dal and chili pepper together in a good-sized pot and set on the stove to boil. Boil gently until the dal is soft. Use plenty of water. There should be some water left in the pot after the dal is soft.

While the dal is softening, prepare the onion-spice mix:
  • Add oil to a frying pan and let it heat
  • Add the cumin seeds and wait for them to sputter and turn black
  • Add the onion and garlic
  • Fry until the onion is soft and light brown
While the onion is frying, cut the cilantro, if you will use it for garnish.

When the dal is soft, add the onion-spice mixture
Add salt to taste
Add lemon juice

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