Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dal with Chard (or Spinach)

I finally broke done and did it. After being without a slow cooker for the last 7 or so years, I caved last week and bought a crock-pot. This past month has been nuts cooking supper. M has swim practice every weekday afternoon smack dab in the middle of prime supper cooking time. Once we get home, I basically have 30 minutes to get supper on the table without my kids mutinying. I decided to attempt owning a slow cooker once again (I don't like how much space they take up to store) with visions of meals made in the morning or afternoon and ready for supper and the ability to have a roast in the middle of a Texas August without having to heat up the whole house.

After owning the thing a week, I finally took the final plunge and busted the thing out of it's box yesterday. On the menu? Dal with Chard. Now these aren't the lentils your frugal mom my have attempted making back in the late 70's/early 80's (which your dad probably complained about not liking---oh wait, I think I am projecting again). These are no honey baked/sweet and sour/loaded with bacon lentils. No, we're talking about good, flavorful somewhat Indian lentils.

Curtis, Little I and I loved the lentils. M and J decided not to touch then and instead survived on white rice and Naan. (There is a wonderful Indian restaurant right by our house. We've found picking up some Naan and aloo paratha--vegetable stuffed flat bread--on compliments my homemade psuedo-Indian meals perfectly.) Have I told you why I love my husband lately? He walked in the house yesterday, looked in the afore mentioned crock pot and said, "Mmm. Lentils." He was thrilled!

This was a simple recipe and tasted wonderful. It would easily serve 6 adults. I'm including both slow cooker and stove top instructions. Again optional ingredients are ones I omitted because I didn't have them.

Dal with Chard
adapted from Sundays at Moosewood
1 1/2 c red or brown lentils
4 c water
2 dried chiles, whole (optional)
1/4 t turmeric (optional)
1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil or ghee (ghee is preferable, but do you want to make any bets about me having it?)
1/2 t cumin seeds or 1/4 t ground cumin
1 c onion, chopped
1 t fresh ginger, peeled and grated
approx 4 c (one small bunch) chard or spinach, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t garam masala
salt to taste

Slow cooker version (I used a 6 qt): Dump lentils, water, chiles, turmeric, and 1/2 t salt in slow cooker. Turn to high and cook 3 - 5 hours (mine took just 3 hours) or until lentils are soft.
Stovetop version: Put lentils in a medium pot and cover with water. Add the chiles, turmeric, and 1/2 t salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, until very tender, about 30 minutes. Add more water if necessary to prevent sticking.

Then (both versions): About 15 minutes before serving, heat the oil or ghee in a skillet. Add the cumin seeds (if using) and cook 10 - 15 seconds. Stir in the onions and ginger (and dried cumin, if using), and cook until the onions 5 minutes. Add chard or spinach and cook 5 more minutes, until chard has wilted and onions are softened. Remove the chiles from the lentils and stir in the onion mixture, lemon juice, garam masala, and salt to taste. Serve over rice, ideally with a side of Naan or aloo paratha and a nice cold mango lassi.

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