Wednesday, August 25, 2010

chana dal, again

Some days I think there's nothing to cook at home, and I realize I can still come up with a nutritious and decent meal. A few days ago, I had weird left overs. The butt end of a bunch of parsley, with some leaves still attached, the green stalks and fronds of the fennel, the last few slices of bacon. And my kitchen is almost never without green peppers, carrots and onions. Plus all kinds of legumes for protein. OK, another chana dal dish, I decided.

I cut up the bacon, cooked it well to render the fat, and discarded most of the fat. Then added to the pan chopped green peppers, chopped fennel parts, chopped parsley stalks and leaves, sliced red onions, sliced carrots. Now that's heavy duty aromatics. Looked pretty.

Then I added the chana dal without pre-cooking it. It works, but it takes quite a long time to cook. Not like lentils.

I added a bit of water, and simmered until the chana dal was done.

It tasted very nice, but it was one of those days when I needed something sharp and strong.  I remembered that I had some chimichurri which had been sitting in the fridge. Dumped it all in there. Now we had more herbs, lots of garlic, and some acid. That was what it needed.

What starch to accompany it? I don't know how this happened, but I was out of bulgur. But I had farro. I had used some of it when I was baking bread, and now it was time to see how it cooked into a pilav. I kept it simple. Added some tomato paste and a bouillon cube to the olive oil in the pan, added 2 cups of water and brought it to a boil, then put in 1 cup of farro. Turned it down and let it simmer until done. Verdict? Unexciting but very pleasant. Nice toothiness -  texture not as chewy as wheat berries but more 'alive' than bulgur. The more I ate it, the more I liked it as an accompaniment to something else with rich flavours. Just right for the chana dal.

So I had a delicious dinner. Patted myself on the back for cooking something so healthy (and frugal, though I must admit that's not a major concern when it comes to food) with whatever was lying around.

And then it hit me. True, a dish made out of staples and left overs. True, it tasted excellent. But it was way too complex. Somehow I yearned for something naked and pure and simple. And then my daughter posted about simple pleasures. Yup, we're like that, my baby and I.

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