Wednesday night’s dinner was the epitome of perfection in my book: easy, healthy, cheap, flavorful, spicy, and warming. Marie and I decided last-minute to have a long overdue roommate dinner, and we were constrained by what we had on hand since neither of us had time during the day for a grocery run. Like I said, some of the best meals I have created come from a bit of pantry inspiration!
Marie has had a jar of chana dal lying around for months. They are essentially fatter yellow lentils, and so I am sure you could use a standard lentil variety instead. Sitting next to the jar was a bottle of curry paste and a can of coconut milk. With some cauliflower in the fridge and peas in the freezer, I figured we could whip some tasty dal up! We started with sautéed onions, which have to cook for a long time to break down and develop the deep flavor that characterizes good dal. We added the spices, and then the dal. We kept a close eye, since the package didn’t come with cooking instructions. After a few taste tests, we were satisfied with the texture so we threw in our veggies and curry paste. We added the coconut milk last, both for extra liquid and to balance out the bold spices. The result – curry heaven. The curry paste is incredibly helpful since I am certainly no expert in Indian spices. The flavor is deep and rich, with enough spiciness to make your mouth water without overpowering the other flavors.
Try this dish with lentils, different vegetables, or whatever you have lying around. Pantry dishes are always a fun experiment!
Question: What is one ingredient you always have in your pantry?
2 small onions, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp tumeric
1 cup chana dal (or lentils, just adjust cooking time)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup peas
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp curry paste
In a medium sized pot, saute the diced onions in olive oil for 7-10 minutes, until almost translucent. Add the spices and stir until absorbed. Add the chana dal, vegetable broth and water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until dal begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Stir often so that the bottom does not stick or burn. When the dal is al dente, add the peas, cauliflower, coconut milk and curry paste. Stir until well combined. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until cauliflower is desired tenderness. Serve over brown rice or with naan.