We always feel that Indian food is a delightful break from any kind of meatloaf-macaroni and cheese-spaghetti-pizza rut we may find ourselves in. Aromatic, richly colored, complex flavors...what's not to love? My husband is always happy to discover the kitchen smelling of Indian food when he arrives home from work.
Dhal, or lentil puree, is a wonderful meatless dish that satisfies. Naan is a barely sweet leavened bread made with yogurt, and I can't do better than to point you at this recipe for it, from Madhur Jaffrey. Same ka bhaji, or spicy fried beans, are a quick and versatile side dish that I wouldn't hesitate to pair with other main dishes, American or Indian.
Both of these following recipes come from The Complete Asian Cookbook, an indispensible tome by Charmaine Solomon.
Dhal (serves 4-6)
- 250g (8oz) red lentils
- 1 1/2 T. ghee or oil
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
- 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 3 cups hot water
- 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp. garam masala
- Wash lentils throughly, removing those that float on the surface. Drain well. Heat ghee or oil and fry onion, garlic, and ginger until onion is golden brown. Add turmeric and stir well.
- Add drained lentils and fry for a minute or two, then add hot water, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are half cooked.
- Add salt and garam masala, mix well and continue cooking until lentils are soft and the consistency is similar to porridge. If there is too much liquid, leave the lid off the pan to speed evaporation. Serve dhal plain or garnished with caramelized onions (highly recommended!) and basmati rice.
Same ka bhaji (spicy fried beans)
- 500 g (1 lb) green beans
- 1 T. oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 garam masala
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
Fry onion in oil until golden, then add turmeric, chili, and garam masala and stir for a few seconds. Add beans and salt and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Cover and cook on low heat until beans are just tender. Check for salt & serve.
We've made this recipe with beans fresh from the garden and with beans from the freezer; both do well.