coriander

When I was in Brazil recently my niece took me to a fun restaurant in São Paulo that offered dishes from South East Asia, Peru, Japan and northern Brazil. The flavors were very exciting. We ordered a lot so we could taste everything. For my main course I had a white fleshed Brazilian fish served in a thick green curry with coconut broth that was divine! The fish was ultra fresh and the curry well balanced. It came with a bowl of perfectly cooked fragrant jasmine rice.

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

This eating out experience reminded me of the green curry we made while in Chiang Mai several years ago in a traditional Thai cooking class. I realized that I had never actually made it home, despite my vows to the contrary throughout our glorious trip to that lovely country, until now.

I prepared the green curry from scratch. You can refrigerate the leftovers for later use.

fresh Pacific cod in Thai green curry

for the curry paste:

dried spices:

1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ pepper corns

fresh ingredients:

1 inch piece of galangal root, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bunch cilantro, stems, leaves and roots
3 tbsp minced lemon grass (white and tender part)
4 kaffir lemon leaves, cut thinly, center stem removed
5 small shallots
10 to 15 Thai green chilies
1 cup Thai basil
10 cloves garlic
1 tbsp salt

preserved ingredients:

1 tbsp shrimp paste

Place dry ingredients in shallow pan and toast until aromatic. Let cool. Grind in a coffee mill.

Add all fresh spices plus shrimp paste to food processor and whiz until mix turns into a paste. Use a spatula to push down spices so it blends uniformly. Add dry spices and blend again. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside.

Steven and I at Thai cooking school in Chiang Mai--in 2005

Steven and I at Thai cooking school in Chiang Mai–in 2005

for the dish proper:

2 cups coconut milk
1 lb fresh cod, cut into chunks
A few leaves of Thai basil
1 tsp brown sugar
1 chili pepper cut into small rounds
1 kaffir lime leaf
3-4 spoons green curry paste (prepared above)
1 tbsp canola oil
2-3 tbsp fish sauce

Heat up canola oil in a pan, add green curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes without burning. Add coconut milk, sugar, kaffir leaf and bring to a quick boil. Reduce temperature to low, add fish sauce. Taste it, adding more fish sauce if needed. Lay cod fish over sauce and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Add basil leaves and chili pepper. Remove from heat and serve with Thai rice.

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I am a big fan of lentils of all kinds. They’re super versatile, tasty and perfect for a vegetarian diet, as this legume packs a good amount of protein. This recipe, adapted from the book Homestyle Vegetarian published by Bay Books (strangely there’s no author named) is nice because it has an Indian flair, which I like. Any time I cook with red lentil (dal) I get sentimental (it even rhymes!) and enjoy revisiting other dal recipes, like this soup, this pilaf, or this red lentil cabbage soup. I think I’m obsessed.

fried red lentil patty with leafy salad

fried red lentil patty with leafy salad

I made this dish for an early dinner on the day we happened to have a solar eclipse. We are blessed with having our kitchen, dining and living rooms with a Western exposure. So in the afternoon on most days, these rooms are flooded with beautiful sunlight. On that Sunday at a certain point the sunlight dimmed in an odd way. We’d just assumed that the fog was rolling in. But not so: the sky was clear. For five or perhaps ten minutes, it all looked strangely dark and ominous. Could Edward, Bella and the Cullen entourage be joining us for dinner? Would we be the dinner? I heard vampires don’t like garlic so I think we’d probably have been safe.

eerie view of the solar eclipse

eerie view of the solar eclipse: full sun yet it's dark out

The original recipe for this latest dal delight calls for breadcrumbs, which I lacked at the time. It also asks for green peas, another item I didn’t have. So I improvised. This was supposed to be made into patties and fried in oil. I tried that but thought they got too oily. So I prepared a few patties or rissoles and the rest ended up as balls, which I baked in the oven till golden brown.

large plate of baked red lentil croquettes

large plate of baked red lentil croquettes

red lentil (dal) rissoles, patties or croquettes

2 cups red lentil, rinsed
1 large white onion, cubed small
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander
3 carrots, diced small
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup fresh frozen organic lima beans – steamed al dente
3 tbsp canola oil
Olive oil
1 cup oatmeal
~1 cup cream of wheat
Black pepper
Kosher salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Put canola oil in a saucepan, crank temperature up, add cumin and cook until aromatic, about a minute or so. Throw in onions and cook until translucent. Add carrot, garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Then add lentils, salt, pepper, and 3 cups of water. Stir to combine then cover. Bring to a boil then lower temperature to medium and cook, stirring every now and then, to the point lentil dissolves and becomes pulpy, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid towards the end if lentils look ready but still watery this will allow the mix to firm up a bit. Likewise add a bit more of water if not ready. You don’t want it to be soupy.

frying up the red lentil patties

frying up the red lentil patties

Remove from heat and let it rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. Mix in lima beans, walnuts, nutritional yeast and oatmeal. Adjust flavors if needed. Add just enough cream of wheat to allow the lentil dough to be shaped. Mine needed approximately 2/3 of a cup.

If you are frying add a layer of oil to a frying pan, while oil heats up, shape patties to the size and thickness you like, coat with cream of wheat and fry them for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towels to soak up oil excess. I fried 4 of them.

these red lentil croquettes just need a splash of olive oil to be ready for the oven

these red lentil croquettes just need a splash of olive oil to be ready for the oven

With the rest I shaped them into ping-pong size balls, drizzled them with olive oil and baked them in the oven at 450F for about 12 minutes.

Serve with leafy salad.

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Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

We’re constantly trying to add new legume-inspired recipes to our repertoire. After all, how can one be almost vegetarian without eating beans? I think, perhaps, that we don’t feature black-eyed peas as we should. Recently Steven made a delicious black-eyed peas and polenta dish. Every now and then I make a brown rice and black-eyed pea risotto that’s quite enjoyable. Black-eyed peas are delightful in croquettes, certainly. But all told, that’s only a few measly (albeit wonderful) ways of preparing something that’s so versatile, flavorful and nutritious.

So today’s inspiration comes from Indian cuisine. I’ve been following Manjula’s Kitchen for a while now and am blown away by the many creative ways she employs beans and pulses. This recipe is based on one from her blog. I made a few adaptations. We loved it.

the sunset on the night we enjoyed Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

the sunset on the night we enjoyed Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

Indian inspired black-eyed pea curry

2 cups dry black-eyed peas, rinsed and soaked in water for ½ hour then drained
1/8 tsp asafedida
2 tbsp canola oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes
¾ tsp mango powder
¼ tsp garam masala
½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
Sea salt to taste

for the curry paste:

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
½ tsp chili powder
2 jalapeño peppers, seeds partially removed
2 tbsp coriander powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder

Add all ingredients for the curry paste to a food processor with a couple of tablespoons of water and whiz into a paste.

Add canola oil to pressure cooker. Bring temperature to high. Add cumin seeds and cook until aromatic, about a minute or so. Add asafetida followed by the curry paste. Cook on medium temperature until raw flavors are gone and oil floats on the surface of the curry paste. Toss in black eyed-peas with 3 cups of water. Cover pressure cooker, and when it starts whistling, turn temperature down and continue cooking for another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let pan cool down. Check for doneness. The beans should be soft. If not return pan to burner and cook a little longer.

Add tomatoes, salt, garam masala, mango powder and continue cooking, uncovered, just long enough to warm tomatoes through. Add cilantro, adjust salt and serve. We had this stew with a side of Japanese rice cooked Brazilian style.

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fish biryani

by Heguiberto on November 8, 2011

This is our recipe for the biryani cook-off that the delightful Heavenly was so good to sponsor. Though after making this marvelous, complex dish; I’m starting to think that she might have been misnamed, as it appears that a tiny bit of a devilish streak lies hidden among all that domestic goodness and glamour. Have you ever seen one of those cartoons with the good angel and the bad angel sitting on the main character’s shoulders, giving opposite confusing advice? Then you know where I’m coming from here.

fish biryani

fish biryani

Okay I always promise myself whenever I’m about to cook Indian that I’ll get the spices out first, so I don’t get mixed up or forget anything, then proceed to the actual cooking adventure. But no, I didn’t do that again! Perhaps that was my evil angel’s counsel. I got dizzy from relentlessly having to go back and forth to the pantry and spinning the lazy-susan over and over and over again to locate the next needed spice for this dish. How funny that now that we have a new kitchen with a dedicated place for spices, I still find myself unable to find anything. I hope that one day they add some computerized artificial intelligence with a soothing voice to kitchen cabinets that will both find anything that I want via verbal-command and will calm me with his/her flattery and encouragement as I freak out at the stovetop. Then no more getting lost in the aromatic black hole I call my spice cabinet.

spice chaos as I look for ingredients for fish biryani

spice chaos as I look for ingredients for fish biryani

I must confess I think I have never made a dish that was so complicated. Lots of steps! I quite liked the result, but this was an effort. I am going to test the recipe again using spices in different proportions. I feel sure each time it will come out tasting slightly differently, so I can mix it up some. I’m excited to read about everyone else’s versions in the cook-off. You should be too. Follow these links for the other “contestants’” biryani masterpieces.

Heavenly Housewife from donuts to delirium
Vanessa from sweet artichoke
Glamorous Glutton
moinetteTeczcape: An Escape to Food
Laura from healthyjalapeno

fish biryani

Make Masala powder first. See below for recipe.

toasting the spices for the Masala powder

toasting the spices for the Masala powder

for the rice:

2 cup basmati rice
1 bay leaf
2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
Few peppercorns
¼ tsp kosher salt

Soak rice in plenty of water for about one hour. Drain. Place rice in a saucepan with 5 cups of water. Drop in salt, bay leaf, pepper corn, and parboil the rice for about 10 minutes. Do not overcook it! Drain and set aside.

for the fish:

1 lb monkfish cut into individual pieces, or any other firm white fish
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp Masala powder*
1tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp kosher salt

Make a paste by mixing lemon juice, garlic and ginger paste, salt and powders. Rub on fish pieces and marinate for about ½ hour. Keep it refrigerated if your kitchen gets too hot.

gently poaching the monkfish in the Masala sauce

gently poaching the monkfish in the Masala sauce

for the Masala sauce:

1 large onion, cut into thin half moon slices
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Serrano peppers, minced, ribs and seeds partially removed
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
A few mint leaves, julienned
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp fresh garlic paste
1 tsp fresh ginger paste
2 tbsp Masala powder *
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ajwain seeds
1 tsp black peppercorn
½ tsp allspice powder
¼ tsp clove powder
¼ tsp onion seeds
1½ cups plain yogurt
2 tbsp canola oil
A few strands saffron
1 tsp sugar

Add oil to a large skillet followed by onion and minced Serrano pepper. Cook until onion becomes wilted and translucent. Push onion to the side of skillet. Add ginger and garlic pastes, ajwain seeds, bay leaf, black peppercorn, Aleppo pepper, Masala powder, turmeric, allspice and clove powder, saffron, onion seeds, sugar and cook until raw smells dissipate. Add tomato, stir everything together and cook until tomatoes begin to dissolve. Mix yogurt with half cup of water and fold into the sauce. Carefully lay fish pieces over the Masala sauce, cover pan and cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Mix in cilantro and mint leaves.

At this point heat up the oven to 450F.

ready to layer the baking dish with rice and fish

ready to layer the baking dish with rice and fish

several layers of rice and fish to form my biryani

several layers of rice and fish to form my biryani

*for the Masala powder for fish

5 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks ~3 inch each
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin leaves
1 bay leaf
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp ground coriander

Place cloves, cardamom, fennel and bay leaf in a saucepan; put it over burner over high heat. Dry roast spices for a few minutes until aromatic, being careful not to burn it. Transfer to a coffee grinder and pulverize. Mix in ground nutmeg and coriander. (My coriander was already ground, if you have seeds use them instead).

to assemble the fish biryani:

Using an oven-proof baking dish with a cover, assemble the biryani with one layer of rice, followed by a layer of fish masala, and finish with the remaining Masala sauce. Repeat so you end up with three or four layers of all ingredients. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes. The rice will finish cooking in the masala sauce without becoming overly cooked. Remove from oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

If you haven’t had enough fish biryani yet, look here, here and here for other related versions.

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Everybody throughout the northern hemisphere is probably eating summer food right now; you know: barbecue, ice cream, sno-cones, watermelon, and most anything grilled. Not us! The heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring past the 100’s elsewhere has yet to reach San Francisco. So we’re ‘stuck’ in the almost eternal refrigerator chill that makes the City by the Bay that much more unique. Yesterday was typical. The sun peeked out early in the afternoon, but then as night began to fall, the fog blew in and temperatures plunged. So San Francisco. We all know that nothing’s better than a warm, spicy bowl of soup on a cold day, whatever the season. So that’s my inspiration. If this sounds appealing to you, then bookmark the recipe for winter 😉 or come for a visit sometime soon.

Indian red lentil soup with Savoy cabbage

Indian red lentil soup with Savoy cabbage

This is based upon another soup that I’m partial to: vegan spicy Indian red dal. The advantage of making dal soups is that you can improvise, adding many different ingredients that will completely alter the flavor and texture, giving them new dimensions. This time I added Savoy cabbage, which I do not believe is a typical Indian vegetable.

To me, Savoy cabbage looks like a mixture between “regular” and Napa cabbage. It has the spherical shape of the former but the leaves are tender and wrinkled, like you see in the later. Savoy is sweet, and healthy, of course. Like broccoli, cauliflower and the other cabbages, it is a member of the brassica family. I love that name, “brassica,” which is why I’m constantly writing it on the blog. Plus they’re good eating and very versatile. They’re especially successful in soups, like here, or simply sautéed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

key ingredients for Indian red lentil soup with Savoy cabbage

key ingredients for Indian red lentil soup with Savoy cabbage

Indian red lentil soup with Savoy cabbage

½ cup of red lentil, picked over and rinsed
1 stalk celery, chopped
¼ tsp turmeric
2 medium carrots, diced small
3 medium onions chopped
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp grated fresh garlic
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
5 Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
½ head Savoy cabbage, chopped
1 Poblano pepper, seeds and ribs partially removed, cut into small squares
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp ground chili pepper (e.g cayenne)
4 tbsp canola oil
½ bunch chopped cilantro
Wedges of lemon
Salt

Place lentils, turmeric, carrots and celery in a large pot. Add about 5-6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, until soft. These foam up a bit so to avoid a mess, keep lid partially off. Stir every now and then to prevent sticking. Add a bit more of water if needed but don’t overdo. Lentils are ready when soft and mushy with a thick consistency. Turn temperature down, add cabbage, cover pot and let simmer.

Toast cumin seeds in a large pan for a couple of minutes just to bring the aroma out. Transfer to a dish and set aside.

Using the same pan, add oil then mustard seeds and fry them. As they begin to pop, about a minute or so, add onions, Poblano pepper and sauté until onion becomes translucent (about five minutes). Push onion mix to one side of the pan. Add garlic and ginger. Cook until raw smells are gone but avoid burning. Stir everything together. Add toasted cumin seeds, chili pepper, coriander and cumin powders to onion mixture. Stir again. Add tomatoes and a cup of water. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes.

Pour onion/tomato mix over lentils and fold together. Add salt to taste. Simmer for another 10-12 minutes. Stir in cilantro.

Serve with basmati rice and a wedge of lemon.

see what I mean about the fog

see what I mean about the fog?

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I am trying to eat more healthily, but who isn’t really? I have this recipe for an omelet that I got from my acupuncturist. I’ve been going in hope of relieving a muscle spasm that has resulted from a bulging disc in my lower back.

spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

He always lectures me about eating more veggies; taking proper supplements like MSM and vitamin D, iron etc.; and relaxation and exercise. It’s the same prescription for health and well-being you get across the board: eat right, exercise and relax. Life is usually good and in balance if you fulfill these basic requirements.

Anyhow, nutrition plays a big part in making the body work properly. So, I am constantly on a quest to achieve better nutrition. However, cooking omelets is still a challenge, as I can’t ever seem to turn them correctly, so inevitably I switch it up for a scramble. (I think that Julia Child had the same problem when she was starting out.)

key ingredients for spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

key ingredients for spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

I’ve been eating this quite a bit lately with pleasure and happy in the knowledge that I am following “Doctor’s orders.” My muscle spasm is improving. Who knows, maybe it’s the placebo effect. Whatever the reason, this dish is easy to make and I love to spice it up afterwards with Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper and coriander. My acupuncturist also says to eat as much raw garlic and cayenne pepper as possible too, so I am on board with that, no problem. It probably helps with inflammation or something.

spicy scrambled eggs with onion, garlic, celery, tomato and avocado

2 eggs
¼ onion
1 clove garlic
½ avocado
½ tomato
1 teaspoon oil
some sticks of celery
cayenne, coriander and Tabasco sauce for spice (optional)
salt to taste (optional)

Crack eggs and mix up in a bowl. Chop up tomato, celery, onion and garlic into small pieces and mix in with the eggs. Heat skillet and add oil. Poor egg mixture onto hot skillet. Cook. If you’re brave, try flipping to make an omelet. Otherwise, scramble. Serve with avocado. Salt to taste. Add optional spices. Get out a plate and have a nice meal!

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This is another delicious recipe I have adapted from the wonderful cookbook, Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India. I served it recently with a mouth-watering Kashimiri eggplant dish, badal jaam featured here back in June.

aloo gobhi matar with dried fenugreek leaves

aloo gobhi matar with dried fenugreek leaves

I picked this recipe because we bought a head of cauliflower and inadvertently left it at the back of the fridge for almost a week. It was still perfect though it needed to be used ASAP. In my opinion, fresh is always best!

We enjoyed the dinner in the company of our friend, Gordon, who was visiting from the Big Apple and our sometime-guest blogger, Jasmine T. I always make sure I include Jasmine for dinner whenever I make Indian as, like me, she loves it.

The dish turned out great. And the leftovers tasted even better the following day. Next time I make this dish I will prepare it a day ahead and just warm it through before serving. Somehow the flavors marry better with some time getting to know one-another.

aloo gobhi matar with dried fenugreek leaves

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
4 small white or Yukon gold potatoes, cut in approx. ½ inch cubes
1 cup garden peas, fresh or frozen
6 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp ground fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
5 ripe Roma tomatoes, run though food processor
1 tbsp ground cumin
1½ tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper or other ground hot chili
1 tsp ground sweet paprika
1 tsp turmeric powder
kosher salt to taste
3 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves, crushed into powder
1 tsp tamarind paste or juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp amchur powder
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnishing

Steam potatoes for about 10-12 minutes. Remove from steamer and set aside. Add one tbsp olive oil to a non-stick pan and cook cauliflower at low heat for about 10-12 minutes. Don’t burn it. Add a few tablespoons of water during the process to prevent sticking. It should have an ‘al dente’ texture. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add remaining olive oil to the same pan. Bring temperature to high and sauté garlic and ginger for about ½ minute or so. Add onion and continue cooking, stirring frequently until soft and translucent. Don’t brown the onion. Pour tomato purée into pan and continue cooking for a few more minutes just to allow some of the juice to evaporate. Add cumin, coriander, cayenne, paprika, turmeric, amchur, salt and stir for a few seconds to form a paste. The consistency will be similar to a ‘roux’.

Gently fold cooked potatoes and cauliflower into tomato spice mixture. Add a cup of water, stir, cover and cook on low temperature, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes. Towards the last 4 minutes of cooking, add peas and tamarind. Complete cooking then remove from heat and let it stand, uncovered for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with cilantro and you are done! This dish is really tasty.

Obs: I prefer toasting and grinding my own coriander and cumin. It tastes infinitely better.

Here’s a funny video with another take on aloo gobhi:


just for fun:  Clarence at rest

just for fun: Clarence at rest

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oven roasted eggplant with Indian spices

This is another recipe from Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India. I made it the same evening that I served mustard sauce masala over black cod.

The dish reminds me of Macedonian pindzur with different spices. I wonder how Alecs would like it? How’re you doing back in New York, boys? We miss you!

Like pindzur, this is a kind of eggplant dip. You can serve it with any kind of bread as an appetizer or as a side dish with Indian food (like I did) or simply with rice.

oven roasted eggplant with Indian spices

10 baby Italian eggplants (about 2½ lbs)
4 tbsp canola oil
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated fine
1 Serrano chile, minced, seeds and ribs partially removed
2 sweet white onions, chopped
10 ripe dry farmed early girl tomatoes, skin removed and chopped with their juices
2 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayenne pepper powder
2 tbsp coriander seeds, pan roasted then ground
2 tbsp cumin seeds, pan roasted then ground
Kosher salt
½ bunch cilantro, chopped

Broil eggplants in the oven for about half hour turning every 5 minutes. A sign that they are ready is when skins are partially burned, blistered and eggplants have shrunk and collapsed a bit. Remove from oven. Let them cool down until you can comfortable handle them. Remove skin and roughly mash eggplants with a fork.

Using a deep pan heat up canola oil. Add ginger, chile pepper and sauté for a few seconds. Add onion and cook for about 12 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Fold in turmeric, cayenne, coriander and salt. Add eggplant, olive oil then cook for another 10 minutes at low temperature. Taste and adjust flavors. Add cilantro and serve!

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mustard sauce masala over black cod

September 3, 2010

Last weekend was Callie’s last spent with us. She’s now back to work in Charlottesville. She and Elizabeth were marvelous guests, and we hope that they’ll return soon. I enjoy have guests from out of town every now and then. This way, we can see San Francisco through tourist-eyes and often we’ll do things that […]

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mung bean dal soup

September 1, 2010

I think I mentioned this before: in the Indian culinary world, dal is used to describe any legume that has been split and had its outer skin removed. That’s why when you go to Indian shops the legume section is full of a dizzying array of dals. Red dal comes from red lentils; toor dal, […]

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