I love India.

Here are some things that characterize my day today:

  • I have eaten an entire box of mini strawberry cream cheese strudels.  They were in the manager’s markdown bin right by the checkout at Kroger.  I did not get them, they got me.
  • The highlight of my day so far was cleaning the fridge.
  • I wore sweatpants to school.  And a sweatshirt.  This does not count as fashion.
  • I spent 6 hours in a row doing math, pencil to paper.  I know that in the real world this is called a “work day” but I’m not there yet.
  • I turned in my stats quiz with no answers.
  • The rain has been falling at exactly the same rate for the entire day.  I know because I stood in it a lot and my umbrella, while trendy, is quite petite.

This is why I needed daal.  Hot, spicy, lentily daal, served on crispy toast (because one more pot to wash, i.e., for the rice, might have put me over the edge) with a cucumber-dill raita.  The Refectory, one of the on-campus eateries at Duke, makes a daal that I live for.  I asked for the recipe a year ago and they said that they were compiling a cookbook and I should wait until it came out, but I don’t think it ever came out.  Liars.  And they’re part of the Divinity School.  Jeez.  So anyway I shall resort to trying all the daal recipes I can find until I can recreate that one.  This is attempt #1.

An aside: I love all things that come out of India – best flavors in the world.  And also colors.  And also dance moves.  I went to my first ever Bhangra class on Wednesday night, and very much enjoyed it.  I have little to no coordination when it comes to dancing, but I love to move!  And I’m slowly mastering that little hand flick thing.  I left class with a new appreciation for how much calf strength it takes to jump up and down for an entire hour.  Oh yeah, and a blood blister the size of my big toe.  But that’s healing, so we won’t talk about it.

Back to the food – this daal was created as a sort-of mash-up of several daal recipes I found on the web.  Everyday yellow daal on smitten kitchen was a source of inspiration, as was Route79.  Really though I know so little about Indian cooking and there are so many types of daal out there that I was sort of winging it.  To be honest, my daal didn’t even come out yellow.  And it tastes exactly nothing like the daal at The Refectory – it’s much meatier, for lack of a better descriptor.  But it’s still delicious and warming and comforting and the highlight of my day is no longer cleaning the refrigerator because I am on my second plate of dinner, drinking my first glass of wine in a month, and watching a sappy old person love movie.* So here’s the deets:

Basic Yellow Split Pea Daal

  • 1 c. yellow split peas
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 T cumin
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 c. diced tomatoes (approx. 1/4 28 oz. can)
  • 2 carrots, grated or finely chopped
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 c chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  1. Soak the split peas in cold water for half an hour.  Drain, and rinse 2 or 3 times until water is fairly clear.
  2. Cover the split peas with water and bring to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, sautee onion with cumin in olive oil in medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add onion, tomatoes, carrots and spices to split peas.  Simmer on medium heat, half-covered, for a full hour and a half, stirring occasionally.  Add water as needed to keep covered.
  5. When split peas are soft and begin to break down, add butter, cilantro, and salt.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.
  6. Serve on basmati rice or hot toast with a cucumber-dill raita glopped on top.**

*Old people love movies are movies where people that I consider old have a surprising amount of sex.  The prime example of this genre is Something’s Gotta Give.

** Cucumber raita: Take a spoon, a tub of yogurt, half a cucumber (diced), lemon juice, black pepper, kosher salt, cilantro and dill.  Mix ingredients, tasting after each addition, until you like it.  Personally, I use vanilla yogurt because I like the extra flavor and greek yogurt kind of freaks me out, but most people recommend plain greek yogurt.  Also, I used dill in a tube – yeah, I was skeptical too, but there wasn’t any dill in the grocery store and this stuff tastes great!  And you don’t have to chop anything!  So I approve of that too.

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