It was a dal kinda day
After eating the truly spicy and delicious curry at White Horse, a downtown St. Cloud restaurant, I felt the overwhelming urge to make Indian food on my own. Plus, as Minnesota descends into the winter months, there's a biting chill in the air that can really only be remedied by hot, savory, spicy food.
Indian seemed like a swell idea.
When I think of Indian food, I think of chutney, sambar, curry and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, and cumin. I think of rice, lentils, coconut, mustard seed, biryani, lamb, samosas, roti and other flatbreads.
Oh, yes, & perhaps my very favorite, dal.
Many foods come to mind when I think of Indian cuisine; it's an enormous country with a broad range of diverse soils, climates, and cultures. It makes sense that sooo many flavors, dishes, and cooking methods have come to represent this ever-changing, always-dynamic subcontinent.
Dal (also spelled daal, dail, dhal)
It's one of those foods with two meanings:
1. dried, split pulses (i.e. lentils, peas, and beans)
2. soups prepared from these pulses
But no matter what, pulses are the star. You can assume that when you read/hear the work dal that pulses are the key ingredient, though may not necessarily be in soup form.
Traditionally, dals are eaten with rice or flatbread like chapati, roti, or naan. They're high in fiber (from the lentils, beans, peas), and are a fantastic and affordable source of healthy plant-based protein, as well as being high in B vitamins, thiamine and folic acid, and minerals, iron and zinc.
In this particular recipe, I chose to substitute acorn squash for rice (starch for starch) and use cauliflower as the star vegetable. The cauliflower florets make a lovely addition to this dish with a slightly crisp texture from the oven that balances the sweetness from the squash. Since I didn't use rice, but rather squash, I was able to avoid adding coconut milk to ensure a natural sweet flavor without the added fat.
1 cup split yellow lentils
2 tablespoons mustard oil (or vegetable oil)
3 chilis, kept whole
¼ tsp cardamom
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp mustard seed
1 yellow onion, small dice
3 cups squash, raw, cut into 1” cubes (I chose acorn)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
3 cups water or broth
½ cup raw, unsweetened coconut
4 cups cauliflower
1 tsp turmeric
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup yogurt
8 sprigs cilantro