Rainy Day Stew

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It’s officially fall. That means it’s cold and rainy and I don’t want to leave my house — not even to go to the grocery store. Fortunately, the only thing I had on my mind was dal — a spicy stew of Indian origin made with split peas — and I happened to have pink lentils in my cupboard, so I wouldn’t have to venture out into the rain for any ingredients.

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Before I went to cooking school, I thought I could get away with calling pink lentils boiled in chicken broth with a bay leaf dal. I couldn’t have gotten it more wrong.

I referred to The Splendid Table for ideas. Their recipe called for actual chickpeas, no chicken broth, a potato and a bunch of spices. I was dubious about the lack of chicken broth, but I was certain my lentils would work.

Rachel’s version of Dal

  • 1 cup dried pink lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into large dice
  • ¼ tsp curry powder (or turmeric)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 TB coriander seeds
  • 1 TB cumin seeds
  • 4 dried red chiles
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into large pieces

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Rinse lentils. You can work them in the water a little bit until the water gets cloudy. Do this several times.

Combine lentils and water in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes and curry powder and reduce heat to medium low and let cook for about 20 minutes or when the lentils are soft.

Heat a small skillet. Add coriander, cumin and chilis. Toast the spices while moving the pan quickly until the spices are smoky, but not burnt. Tip the spices into a blender with the tomatoes and salt to puree. Stir into lentils and potatoes. Let cook for about ten more minutes.

By the time I was done with all that, the rain let up and I was able to go to the grocery store to get cilantro. I chopped that up and stirred two tablespoons into my spicy stew.

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 What I did forget was to get yogurt to make raita, so I improvised: I made it with cucumber and sour cream. It worked. Particularly with the mango chutney I had leftover from who knows what.

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I also didn’t have rice or naan, so I ate it with Greek pita. It was fucking awesome and perfect for a rainy day. And totally vegetarian. I suspect you can apply this recipe to many mild-flavored legumes.

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