Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Moong Dal with Spinach

I know this doesn't look like much, but trust me, it is delicious. There is rice on the bottom, creamy lentils, spinach and a unique spice combination that makes the flavor unique and very satisfying. This has been a perfect winter lunch this week.

Last year a friend and I took an Indian spices cooking class through Minneapolis Community Education. The instructor was fantastic- teaching us about different spices, having us complete at least part of a dish, having us eat a complete meal and then discussing how each dish is made and the spices in each one. It was very hands on and I left with a wealth of knowledge.

After this class, I felt confident enough to go to an Indian grocery store and fine the appropriate ingredients to made wonderful dal's and curries. This particular dish uses "panch puran" a  combination of spices that are not meant to be used raw or ground. Their are meant to be heated in oil and allowed to pop and bloom. It is a pretty neat technique and that adds incredible flavor.
I also learned about these "bay leaves" which are larger than my hand. These are really "cassia leaf" which is the leaf of a cinnamon tree. Definitely not to be substituted for the typical American bay leaf!
I only made a couple of changes to this recipe from class. It is easy to make and just requires a couple of Indian spices. It is nutritious and perfect for these cold January days.

Moong Dal with Spinach*
Makes 4-6 cups
Adapted from Chef Gayle

1/2 tsp oil (I used grapeseed oil)
1 medium piece of cassia leaf
1 cup moong dal
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp tumeric
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp oil (canola, vegetable, grapeseed-something light, not olive oil) or ghee
2 tsp panch puran
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
2 cups fresh spinach
fresh lime, cut into wedges
cooked brown rice or naan to serve with the dal

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the 1/2 tsp oil and when headed, add cassia leaf and moong dal. Sautee lightly for about 3 minutes
2. Add water, tumeric and salt to the dal. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until dal is soft (~35 minutes). Stir occasionally and add more water if needed.
3. Once the dal is cooked, stir in the coconut milk and allow to simmer for several minutes.
4. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. When heated, add 1 tbsp oil. Once the oil is heated and shimmering, add the panch purah and temper until the mustard seeds pop- be very careful not to allow this to go to far and burn or the flavor will be bitter. This step only should take 60 seconds or so. Remove from heat and add cayenne.
5. Add the panch purah mixture to the dal and stir to combine.
6. Remove the cassia leaf and add the spinach. Cook for several minutes until the spinach is wilted.
7. Serve over cooked brown rice or naan and a wedge of lime.

*This dish can be made in advance and probably tastes better since the flavors are able to develop

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