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Friday, October 24, 2014

Masoor and Toor Dal with Leeks

During a never-ending 4-5 hour drive home with never changing landscape, my mind struggles between dozing off (if I'm a passenger), singing (if there's good music such as Elvis or Cream in today's case), or concocting taste hallucinations in my mind (during any life situation, really.)
Today's taste hallucination involved some chopped leek greens I keep in my freezer whenever a recipe calls for the whites or tender parts of leeks.  Those green parts are quite useful in any leek situation, or in a green onion deficient situation.  They are pretty much the same vegetable, aren't they?  Leeks are just green onions on steroids.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
So when I'm out of town all week with no kitchen (it's torture to not have a single centimeter of kitchen during a whole week.. at least a fridge and microwave please??? but no.. not this week) I have taste hallucinations all week.  I've been currently taste hallucinating butternut squash roasted with apples, ginger, and drizzled with orange juice.. and also some golden egg style paneer in a cashew sauce.. and also some sprouted whole mung curry.
The thing is.. when I finally get home, I don't go food shopping, so I have to adapt my imaginative desires to my real life supplies... which I don't find to be so much of a challenge as I do during my "coming to" after taste hallucinating.  I have an intelligently stocked freezer and a whole cabinet full of lentils, bean, split peas, and rice.  Why should coming home after a week out on a friday at 7:30 pm be considered a hamper to my meal plan?  Well, it isn't once I get my hands on my happy place!
The secret ingredient this time around is Sambar powder.  That stuff is amazing.  It adds another dimension to the dish.  I'm talking beyond space time.  You know the 3 coordinates + time = 4 dimensions.  Well.. I'm giving you the taste-time coordinate.  Because how you process the taste depends on the mood at the time.  Something delicious may appear bland if you're not in a receptive mood.  Inversely, something ridiculously bland may taste exceptional if ingested at a dopamine-high moment of the psyche.
I may have gone out of hand again with my explanations, but what I was aiming for was the comfort emotion (and therefore taste).  Emergency items I always have on hand dried such as rice, beans, split peas, or lentils are always useful on evenings such as tonight, to bring my comfort as well as joy and a real world offering to one of my taste hallucinations.
Serves 4
1/2 cup masoor dal (red lentils), washed
1/2 cup toro dal (yellow split peas), washed
1 handful chopped leek greens
2 tsp sambar powder
juice from 1 lemon
3-4 cups water
2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
pinch hing
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 large red chile, seeded and sliced
1 handful cauliflower
pinch angel hair chile (or chile powder)
salt to taste
1 tsp yogurt per serving (optional)
1.  Soak the washed dal for at least 30 minutes in cold water.
2.  Rinse the dal and place in a pot with the 3 cups water, leek greens, lemon juice, and sambar powder.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
3.  Heat the oil in a wok and add the cumin, fennel, and mustard seeds.  Cook for about 30 seconds until they crackle.
4.  Add the hing, turmeric, curry leaves, ginger, garlic, and sliced chile.  Cook for another 30 seconds, then add the cauliflower florets.  Stir fry for 1-2 minutes, then add to the pot with the dal.
5.  Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Taste and add salt if needed, then add the angel hair chile and let infuse for about 1 minute.

Serve piping hot with some basmati rice.. and if you're feeling a bit "gourmand," add a tsp of Greek yogurt into your plate, 
and mix it around before indulging.

Prepare yourself for some serious bliss in all its forms..
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