April 3, 2014

Mung Bean Dal

I am a compulsive cabinet opener and refrigerator rummager.  When I'm at home and think that I might be getting hungry, or even if I'm not hungry but instead just bored, I will open and close all the food storage places in my kitchen and promptly declare that there is "no food in this house". This is an activity I'll partake in countless times each day.  D does the same, though not quite as frequently. And, embarrassed as I may be to admit this, I'll poke around in pretty much anyone's kitchen if we know each other well enough, except I won't announce there is no food to be had.  I'll instead be delighted at all the new options before me.  It's a bad habit and a waste of energy, but that hasn't stopped me yet.

Now picture this: it's Monday and the weather outside is doing it's very best at being discouraging with rain and hail and thunderstorms. I had played the rummaging game at least five times, and five times convinced myself there was no food in the house, yet there was still dinner to be made.  I could run to the store and get dinner provisions, but that would mean braving the weather and possibly losing my parking spot right out front.  Not into it.  Take out?  Just couldn't get excited about that either. I can be so cheap sometimes. And then - I don't know the exact sequence of events that took place - I must have stumbled across an idea online while moping that made me remember the (huge) stash of Indian pantry items in the often overlooked corner of cabinets which then turned into a brainstorming session and voila!  A mung bean dal with homemade roti was slapped onto the evening's menu.

I won't try and vouch for authenticity here (I mean really, I put kale in the damn thing), and it's not much of a looker, but it makes up for all of that in tasty. Yes, I cut corners; used green onions instead of diced yellow onion, ground ginger and cayenne instead of their fresh counterparts.  Like I said, I really didn't want to leave the house.  I also wasn't following any kind of recipe here.  After a quick search confirmed that mung bean dal was indeed a thing, I just kind of improvised from there.  Except the roti, I used a recipe/tutorial for that.

The dal was earthy from the turmeric and sizzled cumin seeds, and I love the way the mung beans start breaking down after cooking just past the point of doneness and thicken it all up.  A few big handfuls of thinly sliced kale into the mix for virtue and you could hardly ask for more on a rainy evening.

Mung Bean Dal

I'm writing the recipe here not quite as I made it, but with fewer shortcuts than I took, though I don't imagine it'll make a huge difference in the final product.  I tried spooning a dollop of yogurt into the last half of my bowl, but I found it muted the flavors more than I'd like.  However, if you've got it around, a good sprinkle of cilantro right at the end would probably be nice.

4 (smallish) servings

1 cup dried mung beans
4 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely minced or pasted ginger root
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
2 cups finely sliced dino kale
juice of half a lemon

Sort through the beans to make sure there aren't any stones, then rinse under cold water and drain. In a medium sized pot, add the rinsed mung beans and cover with 4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and cover, cooking for about 30 minutes, or until they begin to soften and just fall apart.  You may have to check the water level a few times and give it all a stir to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pan, but just add in enough water to get things moving again and you should be fine.

Once the mung beans are done cooking, in another medium sauté pan (I just transferred the beans to bowl, washed the pot and reused it), melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add in the cumin seeds and as soon as they start to sizzle add the diced onion and give it a good stir.  Cook until the onion is translucent then add in the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute more.  Add turmeric and cayenne and give the whole thing a few good stirs until everything becomes real fragrant then add the mung beans, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the good bits off.  Add about a 1/2 teaspoon salt and taste to see if it needs more.  At this point, you may want to evaluate the thickness of your dal.  If you want it looser, add a bit more water 1/4 cup at a time, if you want it thicker, simmer it for a few minutes more.  Once you've reached a consistency you like, toss in your kale and squeeze half a lemon's worth of juice into the whole thing and stir to combine.

Serve with roti or naan and maybe a sprinkle of chopped cilantro too.