Saturday, May 1, 2010


It''s the WEEKEND! And I don't have four papers due next week! (, I think? Maybe two.) Which means I finally have time to update this thing. Can I just express for a moment how frustrating it is when all your professors decide to make finals week easier for you by giving you your big "final" paper/take-home test/whatever two weeks before finals? I mean, it would be cool if one or two professors did this. A little bit of a lighter workload during actual finals week. But instead, I just had two-ish weeks of three to four hours of sleep a night and zero free time and I think I cooked once. Finals week will involve students standing at the front of the class saying "I wrote my paper about this topic and this is some of the research." I have to drive about an hour to talk for five minutes about a paper I wrote two weeks ago. AHHHHHHHHH. End rant.

Anyway, I promised you guys this really long time ago. I had to go to my dad's house and look in the Indian food cookbooks there to remember what it was called, and that's why it took so long (between my school schedule and his work schedule, we don't really see each other all that much). It's from one of the Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks, but I can't remember which one. And, without further ado:

RECIPE: Lentils with Cumin and Asafetida OR Mili Dal OR (as I usually refer to it) LENTILS. (Just...just Lentils. I know what I mean. And if you make this, you will too.)

-1/2 cup split red lentils
-1/2 cup split yellow lentils
-2 1/2 cups water
-1/2 tsp turmeric
-3/4 tsp salt
-3 tbsp vegetable oil
-generous pinch of ground asafetida powder (I use more than it calls for, but I also love asafetida.)
-1/2 tsp cumin seeds (I probably use a little more here)
-2-5 dried hot red chili peppers

1. Wash the lentils in a wire mesh strainer. Place the lentils, turmeric and water in a small pot, turn on to medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and DON'T let the water boil over!
2. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and turn the heat to low. Simmer until tender, around 40 minutes.
3. Add salt, stir. Continue cooking on low heat.
4. Put the vegetable oil into a shallow frying pan on high heat. Let the oil get really really hot (if you're not sure, dip your hand in some water and flick it at the oil. If it sizzles and boils away immediately, your oil is hot enough.)
5. This is where it becomes INTENSE. Rapid-fire Indian cooking. Toss the asafetida into the pan with the oil. Swirl it around for about two seconds (literally). Then add the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for about ten seconds. Add the hot peppers (more is spicier, but it doesn't get all that hot, really) and they'll puff up pretty much immediately. Once they're puffed (if you're not sure, turn one over--it'll be really dark on the bottom) take the pan off the heat and pour everything into the pot with the lentils. This whole step takes about 30 seconds.
6. Cover the pot immediately. Let sit, without stirring, for 10-15 minutes. If you still have water to boil off (you don't want any left, the lentils absorb it all and get nice and mushy sort of like mashed potatoes) then let it cook until it's gone.
7. Serve. Enjoy.

After half an hour or so. The colors kind of blend, with the help of the turmeric. Oh, also, you can see that I sorta messed up here and let it boil over. Whoops. Still came out okay, but it makes a mess.

Right after pouring the pan's contents into the pot. See, with the five chili peppers, it wasn't that bad. Mike isn't big on spicy food and he still loved it. Also, you can't really get a picture of the stuff in the frying pan. I mean, you could, if you had someone else taking pictures for you, but it's so fast!

Why I love this dish: Well, for one, it's really easy. Sure it takes an hour or so to cook, but there's very little actual work involved--the hardest part is that 30-second span where you're tossing everything into the frying pan and, well, it's only 30 seconds of paying attention (well, I mean, you should always pay attention to the stove when you're cooking something, especially if you don't want it to boil over, but you get what I mean). Second, it's DELICIOUS. Asafetida smells...well...if the smell were a relationship on facebook it would say "It's Complicated." Some people (myself included) absolutely love the smell. I'll grab my bottle of it and just sniff it and be happy (I do this with cumin too--no wonder I love this dish so much). However, as much as I love the smell, a lot of people don't. At all. Mike thinks it smells like feet. I don't like the smell of feet, so obviously I disagree, but it's a fairly common opinion. (His roommate called it 'fetid' but I think that was just because the word 'asafetida' contains the word 'fetid.') BUT. When you cook it, it tastes AMAZING. Especially in this dish. With the cumin. Okay, honestly, I've never had another dish with it but I intend to find one and make it and think it's amazing. (Especially if it also involves cumin.) Okay, so the third reason I love this is that it's really versatile. It's Indian food, but you could make some as a side with a steak or something if you wanted. It would go well with pretty much any basic meal. It's filling--way more filling than you'd expect--and it's really healthy. (Why don't I just keep a bunch of this in my refrigerator? I DON'T KNOW.)

Can you tell my brain is kind of fried and I don't really feel like writing coherent sentences or paragraphs right now? I'm sorry. Two more weeks before freedom. (Crap, was that decaf coffee I had a lie? I'm all twitchy. Oh no.)

1 comment:

  1. Great post!
    I love the recipe and I am going to try it! Thanks for sharing