Monday, June 7, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Indian Feast (feat. Moong Dal)


I'd like to take a moment to discuss thoughtfulness.


There are so few people who actually care about other people's lives. And this isn't my cynical-advertising-copywriter speaking. I think it's true. Sure, there are people in your life who care about you: your parents, your significant other, your close friends. And then there are those special few people who care about, well, everyone.


People who always remember birthdays - and send cards weeks in advance. People who donate to every charity run/walk/jump/bake sale possible. People who keep a mental catalogue of you, your siblings, your siblings' families, and your pets' health - and remember to ask about all those every time they talk to you.


It's safe to say I'm not one of those people. But I happen to know one - and she happened to send me a large container of mung beans. Not because I've been pestering anyone to buy me mung beans, but because I once - in passing (apparently) - mentioned I'm curious to try them. (Giver of the Mung Beans, you know who you are, and this post is for you!)


What better way to celebrate someone's thoughtfulness than to cook something seasoned with thoughts of them? (Loyal readers: don't fret, this is the most sentimental I'll ever get on this blog.) I did quite a bit of research on cooking mung beans. You can buy them with the skins already off (mine still had theirs on, which I'm convinced is more nutritious), and you can soak them (or not) before cooking. I didn't soak them. I left the skins on. And they were delicious.


Not to too my own horn, but - TOOT TOOT! This was by far the best Indian-inspired meal I've made to date. And it might even be the best Meatless Monday meal I've made. Ross said (and I'm paraphrasing): "UGGGHHHHHH, it's [expletive deleted] Meatless Monday, isn't it?" [ONE HOUR LATER:] "Oh my God, these are some delicious vegetables!...The whole point of cooking is to mask the gross taste of vegetables, and you really did that. This is really good. The rice is the best part. And the chapatis are amazing. I'll have another."

I know this meal has a lot of parts, and quite a few ingredients, but nothing about it is difficult. Even the chapatis are super low maintenance - unless you count the fact that Ross had to stand under the smoke alarm, fanning it with a towel, so I could get the pan hot enough to cook them (the perils of apartment living). If you try this meal at home, invite over someone really thoughtful - or at least be mindful of those who truly care about you. It'll make the food taste even better.

INGREDIENTS

Moong Dal:
1/4 c. olive oil
1 cup mung beans
3 cups water (actually I don't know how much it really was - I think it was more. I just kept adding water until the lentils were done)
1 onion, diced
3 finger peppers, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 medium tomatoes, in chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
fresh chopped cilantro
Cumin seeds (about a teaspoon, whole, toasted)
Turmeric
salt

Homemade Chapatis:
I used this recipe, subbing in 2% milk for the water.
I also used a little more than 3/4 c. milk, and I cooked each chapati in a smidgen of butter.


Creamy Spinach:
1 10-oz. bag spinach leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
a few tablespoons water
big spoonfuls sour cream
salt and pepper

Rice Pilaf:
1 cup rinsed white rice
2 cups water
turmeric (a few dashes)
cumin seeds, whole (about 1/2 tsp.)
1 cinnamon stick
a few tablespoons dried currants
a few tablespoons sliced peeled almonds, toasted
salt
olive oil

STEP 1:

In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat the 1/4 c. olive oil. Add the onions and some salt. Cook over medium high heat until translucent. Add the finger peppers, bell pepper, turmeric, bay leaf, and toasted cumin seeds. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Add the mung beans and a few cups water. Add the tomatoes and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, adding more water as needed and stirring every few minutes, until mung beans are tender and consistency is a bit thicker than a stew. Stir in chopped cilantro about 10 minutes before it's done. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

STEP 2:

While moong dal is cooking, prepare the chapatis. Cover with a kitchen towel and keep warm until ready to serve. Also prepare the rice: add rice, water, turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon stick to rice cooker (or pot with lid) and simmer until all water is absorbed. Stir in currants and toasted almonds. Fluff with a fork. Keep warm until ready to serve.

STEP 3:

Prepare spinach: in a pot with a lid, place the spinach and all other ingredients. Cook over medium low heat until spinach is wilted. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve moong dal and spinach over rice pilaf, with chapatis on the side. Enjoy!
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