Thursday, February 4, 2010

Indian Lentil Stew to Please

My blog posts often revolve around what's good and what's bad, expounding on the interplay of flavor and texture present in a certain dish, nearly always raving about how great something I made is and thus how great I am by association. It's all very boring. And pretty untruthful. When I started this blog, kitchen disasters occurred every other day, but now that I've got the hang of things, dinner preparation is less eventful. So all I've really got to say is that this dish was incredible, this dish was unpopular among my friends, this surprised me by its greatness and this surprised me by dreadfulness. I've lost touch of the stories.

And I love the stories. But there's a lot of unknown that goes into my food. I buy it at Wohlner's or HyVee, and even if I buy my produce at a farmer's market, I rarely drill the growers with questions. I'm a little shy. No, it's not shyness. I am a people pleaser, and I fear the growers will be too busy to answer my questions to fill me in on what they love about their stuff. And then there's the process of cooking. I almost always cook just for myself. While this has abolutely magnificent perks (I always get what I want and if I screw things up then I'm the only one disappointed), it makes cooking and tasting my new creation the whole of the story.

That's not to say I'm bored. After I saw this recipe for palak daal (lentil stew) on 101 Cookbooks, I was immediately hungry and couldn't wait to get home to start cooking. Last night, I made three brand new things. And had a great time chopping, stirring, tasting, seasoning to perfection. What I'm saying is reading this here blog is probably not that exciting because last night I didn't break anything or start a fire or burn the stew but instead made my dinner and breakfast for the following day, did laundry and watched The Office. I loved it. I've been running around like crazy for the past month--I even opted out of two fantastic things with friends just to sit at home and be--last night was exactly what I needed. But that still leaves me with the problem of a boring blog post, boring because I only cook for myself. And the solution to that problem, I think, is to cook more with and for others. But, and here's the but, I'm afraid to.

Like I said, I am a people pleaser. So if I'm cooking for someone, I want be damn certain that they're going to like it because I want them to be happy and I want them to like me. Megan I can count on to like everything, but Megan (along with half my friends) is a vegetarian or rather a pescatarian. The other half of my friends love meat and would be disappointed and probably still hungry if some sort of meat, poultry or fish were not included in a meal. But I hate to be limited by these restrictions. I don't really plan ahead and send out an invite for a dinner I would like to share, and Megan and I have never gotten into a rhythm of cooking with and for each other. When I cook I do sort of throw things together. Maybe there will be beans (which my mom loathes), maybe there won't be meat (which my dad would scoff at), maybe I'll have a craving for wilted kale with a poached egg (who likes that?). My dilemma is that I don't know how to cook to please myself and others, so I just please myself.

That said, I appreciate my friend Elijah's request for more potlucks. And I think this Indian lentil stew shall be the next featured item.
The snow last night was beautiful--huge fluffy flakes.
Oh my gosh I love my Dutch oven.
I got these lentils at an international market in Atlanta when visiting Craig.
This is the best I could do trying to capture the delicate flakes on the railing to my apartment with the softly falling snow.
Indian Lentil Stew: from 101 Cookbooks from Kasa Indian
1 cup lentils
6 cups water
1/2 pound spinach, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
dash cayenne pepper (optional)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (or acutal tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Rinse and drain the lentils. In a pot on medium-high heat, bring the lentils and water to a boil. I added a couple chicken boillion cubes to the water to give it some more flavor. Once water is boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and add the ginger, turmeric, cayenne, spinach and tomatoes. Simmer for 60 to 90 minutes. Season with salt and pepper after 30 minutes of simmering.

When lentils are nearly cooked through and the water has been reduced in volume, melt the butter in a skillet on medium heat. Add the cumin and chili and a bit of salt and pepper. Once incorporated, pour butter mixture into the stew, stir to combine and continue to let simmer another five minutes until you serve. Can be garnished with cilantro and lemon juice, but mine was fine without.

1 comment:

Craig Henry said...

haha, i remember those lentils! (that's not a sentence I get to say everyday)