Sunday, February 10, 2008

Daal: Don't leave home without it

This weekend was a symphony of overindulgence as my partner and I celebrated his birthday, first with a rib dinner for two at home on Friday night, and then a potluck party on Saturday night. Thank god for my friend Prajna, who brought chole as her contribution. I at least got a quasi normal dinner, but heartily laced with way more sugar than my system can really tolerate. It's such a cycle - one which I am so familiar with. Something trips up my cooking-eating system, and I eat something unusual: restaurant food, so much richer, saltier, fattier, then anything homecooked. The salt and fat makes me crave sugar. Then I am too wiped out from sugar crashing to cook properly, and the whole thing carries on.

Today I was determined that this week wouldn't be like last. Jeremy and I are going away on Thursday (my birthday) to celebrate our birthdays and a year since we moved in together. We're going to Idylwild, where his folks have a cabin - anyway, we will definitely be doing some eating for pleasure, as well as other things for pleasure, and I don't want to go away feeling exhausted, bloated, over-sugared and generally lousy. To that end, I hauled out my favourite book, Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, and made some of my trusty daal. Without Daal nothing is as good. It's the perfect fuel for me. I make it like she tells me too now, sllightly differently than how my mom taught me. Tonight I made moong daal. I flavoured it with mustard oil in which i fried black mustard seeds, fennel seeds and dried ginger, a fave combination of mine. So that's in the fridge, ready to nourish me through the week.

I stuck some sweet potatoes in the oven, and made another Madhur recipe, for sri lankan greens. You can make any greens this way, and they are really knock your socks off. As you can see in the pic, I bought some beautiful greens at the farmers market. I am trying to get closer to 100% my produce at the farmers market, and part of that is weaning my dependence on the prewashed bags of greens I buy at Trader Joe's.

Anyway, the greens are sauteed with spices: sliced onion, fresh chilies and curry leaves - those are the secret ingredient, giving a rich, buttery taste that is utterly unique. Add a little salt and turmeric, put the lid on until the greens are tender. I never used to cook my greens long enough. These ones, red and white chard and tuscan black kale, really benefited from the 15 minutes steaming in the spices. They became sweet and tender, taking on the flavours of the seasonings beautifully.

Anyway, I feel much more equipped to handle the week without having to stretch my belly or my budget at a restaurant: 4 or 5 meals of creamy dal, delicious sri lankan greens and comforting sweet potatoes. Bring it on!

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