Recipe: Niloufer's Everydal Dal

In my opinion, Niloufer Ichaporia King is one of our terribly undervalued culinary greats.  And her book, My Bombay Kitchen, is my subcontinental reference manual.  Part memoir, part cookbook, part history lesson, it's just one of those books that never goes out of style.

This is my go-to dal, or Indian red lentil, recipe, and it couldn't be easier to make.  Plus, it's DELICIOUS.  Served with plain rice, yogurt, and mango chutney, it makes a totally respectable and comforting dinner.  Add vegetables, chicken, lamb or seafood and call it a feast.

The beauty of lentils is that they require no soaking, and they cook up so quickly.  Keep red lentils on hand for legume emergencies--I do.

photo by    Emily Nathan

photo by Emily Nathan

Everyday Dal from My Bombay Kitchen

1 cup red lentils (masur dal), husked split pigeon peas (tuvar dal), or mung beans (mung dal)

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon (or more) salt

1 onion, quartered (optional)

1 green chile (optional)

4 cups (or more) water

1 to 2 tablespoons ghee or butter

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot (optional)

Pick over the dal to remove stones and chaff. Rinse the dal and transfer to a pot; add the turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt, quartered onion, and chile, if using, along with at least 4 cups water. Bring to boil; reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, until the dal is tender. (

Masur and mung dals soften in about half the time it takes to cook tuvar dal, which needs a good 45 minutes to 1 hour.) Watch out for overboiling, even with the heat down.

When the dal is soft and mushy, pass through a sieve or a food mill or liquefy in a food processor or with an immersion blender, which saves you the trouble of pouring and transferring. The texture of the dal should be thick, smooth, and pourable. Taste for salt.

To finish, heat the ghee in a small skillet over medium heat. Sizzle the seeds, garlic, and onion, if using, until the garlic begins to brown around the edges and the seeds start to crackle. These sizzling seeds and garlic are known as vaghar in Gujarati,tarka in Hindi. Tip the vaghar into the dal and stir.

Dal Soup:

Dal without vaghar makes an excellent cold soup. I've served it with a blob of yogurt and chive blossoms, or snipped chives or green onion tops.

Note: In my mother's house, it was considered good practice to send dal to the table in a tureen with the vaghar floating on top, a last-minute affair, although the flavors have a better chance to combine if you stir in the toasted spices ahead of time. If you're having dal as a first-course soup, you can serve individual portions with a little vaghar poured over each one.

Serves 6

Bean Month, So Far

#Beanmonth is off to an incredible start!  Here are a bunch of posts from the far flung corners of the internet:

In classic style, The Joy of Cooking tells you everything you need to know about Cooking Dried Beans

Russ Parsons stirs up an age-old debate: To Soak or Not To Soak

Phyllis made some Good Old Bean Soup to get her through her last cold over at Dash and Bella

Heidi's recipe for Pan-Fried Giant White Beans with Kale is no-fail via Food52

Julia Nishimura made some insanely beautiful Tuscan Pork and White Beans (a major achievement considering it's a dish not typically known for its beauty)

Adam at Amateur Gourmet lists the Things You Can Do With A Big Pot Of Beans

Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome makes it easy, listing all of her bean recipes for you, here

Learn how to turn one pot of beans into five meals from the Canal House ladies via Food52

Learn about Leather Britches from Sean Brock on Food Republic

Food52 also tells you The Best Ways to Use Canned Beans

How to Cook Beans in the Oven at The Kitchn

Learn how to can your own beans from Punk Domestics

Make feijoada, like the good folks at Good Eggs NYC

Kim O'Donnel shares a recipe for Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili

Heidi's recipe for a beautiful Ayocote Bean and Mushroom Salad

Sarah posted her take on Melissa Clark's Beans Braised with Bacon and Red Wine

Judy Witts Francini shares the ribollita recipe from Trattoria Mario, one of my favorite lunch spots in Florence

Olivia at The Coast Kitchen shares her recipe for Lemon Lentil Soup

And, right here: 
Cal Peternell's Fagioli all'Amatriciana
Mary Oliver's Beans
Cooking (beans) with Italian Grandmothers
Bean Resources


Instagram Photos
@sansculottes made these beautiful beans all'Amatriciana

@andreagentl did right by these beautiful chestnut beans with this moody photo, then she turned them into soup

@dominicarice's corona beans with pork adobo

@fieldsofplenty's beautiful pozole with black-eyed peas and smoked brisket

@juliaostro's Tuscan pork and Beans

@danalouisevelden's La Chamba bean pot took the internet by storm

@tifamade cooked up some mung beans

@claraygray turned these black badger beans into curry

@heyk8 cooked dried beans for the first time!

@goodeggsnyc turned these black beans into an occasion for tacos

@dashandbella went above and beyond with this navy bean gratin baked with bacon and bread crumbs

@melinahammer's lentils with watermelon radish and avocado sure brighten things up!


Post your own photos with the #beanmonth hashtag so I can see and repost them!

Spotify Playlist
#BEANMONTH

Pinterest
BEANS

Books
The Best Bean Cookbooks, According to Omnivore

Heirloom Bean Sources:
Rancho Gordo
Zursun
Rancho Llano Seco
Good Eggs: SF, NYC, NOLA, LA
Jalama Valley
CUESA: Tierra Vegetables, Lonely Mountain Farm, Dirty Girl Produce, and Iacopi Farms

(Know of any other great sources for heirloom beans?  Let me know and I'll add them to the list!  And keep posting with the tag!  I'll do another round-up next week!)

The Best Bean Cookbooks, According to Omnivore

I asked my friends at my favorite bookstore, Omnivore Books, for some bean book recommendations, and here's what they suggested:

  

  


Clockwise, from top left:
Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington
Bean by Bean by Crescent Dragonwagon
Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson


Other Books Omnivore Carries That I Highly Recommend for #beanmonth, and Life in General:

 



Clockwise, from top left: 
Heritage by Sean Brock
The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry
An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page
The Cooking of Southwest France by Paula Wolfert


Omnivore has loads of these books, signed copies, and rare and antiquarian cookbooks and will ship anywhere in the world.  To purchase, call the store between the hours of 11am and 6pm, Tuesday-Saturday, 12pm-5pm Sunday at 415.282.4712.

p.s. I am purposely refraining from linking to Amazon in this post, so if you don't want to support Omnivore, then go support your own local brick & mortar independent bookstore this time!

"Beans" by Mary Oliver

                     

Beans

They’re not like peaches or squash.
Plumpness isn’t for them.They like
being lean, as if for the narrow
path. The beans themselves sit qui-
etly inside their green pods. In-
stinctively one picks with care,
never tearing down the fine vine,
never not noticing their crisp bod-
ies, or feeling their willingness for
the pot, for the fire.

I have thought sometimes that
something―I can’t name it―
watches as I walk the rows, accept-
ing the gift of their lives to assist
mine.

I know what you think: this is fool-
ishness. They’re only vegetables.
Even the blossoms with which they
begin are small and pale, hardly sig-
nificant. Our hands, or minds, our
feet hold more intelligence. With
this I have no quarrel.

But, what about virtue?

--Mary Oliver

BEAN MONTH

photo source
Growing up, I didn't really feel one way or another about beans.  Here and there, I'd eat a few chickpeas, fava beans, or kidney beans, and lots of pinto beans alongside burritos.  They were fine.

But during the first summer I worked in the kitchen at Chez Panisse, I fell in love with beans.  Every Monday we received a shipment of vegetables from Chino Ranch, and it was my job to unpack it and put everything away.  That summer, I saw true cranberry beans for the first time--as red and round as their namesake fruit--and peeled fresh giant lima beans we simmered and serve alongside braised pork.  I was still in college, still planning to head to graduate school for poetry upon graduation, and I reveled in the names of the varietals--Dragon's Tongue, Painted Pony, Lina Sisco's Bird Egg, Coco Bianco and Coco Nero, Tiger's Eye, Snow Cap, and Jacob's Cattle.

And then, I tasted them.  I'd never known a bean could be so satisfyingly creamy or so sweet.  I was a goner.

I've loved beans ever since.  The first article I pitched to a magazine was about shelling beans.  They were the first seeds I planted when I started to garden.  I buy beans at the market in every country I visit.

But what cemented my interest in beans as a cooking teacher, and why I want to dedicate this month to celebrating beans is this: a couple of years ago, I heard Mark Bittman say was that he'd consider his career a success if he could get every family in America to make rice and beans once a week. I couldn't agree more.  Besides being beautiful and labeled with playful names, beans are accessible, cheap, nutritious and delicious.  They are easy to cook, and lend themselves to a thousand different uses in the kitchen.

And since beans are for everyone, I'm declaring January #beanmonth.  I'll be posting all sorts of links, recipes, resources, photos, poems, and more here, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  I've started a board on Pinterest dedicated to BEANS, and I've invited friends all around the internet to join me.  Wendy MacNaughton and I are even planning a very special giveaway at the end of the month.    

Come, follow along!  Share your own recipes, links and photos with the #beanmonth hashtag.  I'd love to see everyone's favorite ways to cook and eat beans!

p.s. Lentils and chickpeas count!

home ec: bean resources

"Maxibelle" Heirloom Beans Dried

, a photo by 

Chiot's Run

 on Flickr.

in preparation for my pantry class at

18 reasons

in a couple of weeks, i've been spending a lot more time than usual (which is already more than some might consider normal) thinking about beans.

beans, my favorite vegetable.  ok, legume.  but still, you know what i mean.

i am most adamantly not a vegetarian, but inadvertently, i pretty much am one at home, other than the occasional roast chicken and resulting stock.  oh, and

fra'mani breakfast sausages

(why are they so good?).

since beans, eggs, yogurt and cheese are my go-to daily sources of protein, i'm okay with spending a bit more for the really good stuff.  out of context, $6 or $7 for a dozen pastured eggs or half-pound of heirloom beans might seem exorbitant, but looking at an dinner built around vegetables, an artisan bread or whole grain, and some good beans and eggs tells a different version of the same story, one where a delicious, local, organic and balanced meal for four people can cost under ten dollars.

the deal with heirloom beans

here's the thing: non-heirloom dried beans are really, really good, too.  for me, spending the extra money makes sense because it brings me joy to get to know (a.k.a. totally geek out on) all of the different types of  beans out there, to see how pretty they are in jars on my shelves, and to watch them transform as they cook.  i also try to know where my food comes from, and to support people doing good work, so a couple bucks on fancy heirloom beans is money i'm glad to spend.

you can find great non-fancy beans at the market, too.  but try to look for beans that aren't super old and withery, so if the bulk section at your local shop looks like it hasn't been perused in a couple of years, maybe skip the bean bin.  the thing is, the fresher your dried beans, the more quickly and evenly they will cook, the creamier they'll be, and the better they will taste.  i try to buy and use all of my dried beans within two years of harvest, and knowing the people who grew the beans in the first place helps me meet that goal.

cooking beans is super-simple:

  1. buy good beans.
  2. cover with water and soak overnight, or at least 4 hours.
  3. add an onion, some salt and any herbs you like.  a splash of olive oil won't hurt.
  4. bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until tender.  this can take anywhere from 45 minutes to a couple of hours.  skim any foam that appears.  add water, if needed, to make sure they are always immersed. 
  5. season and eat.  or refry.  or turn into soup, cassoulet, or any one of a million delicious things!
  6. though i don't have a crock pot, i think one might be ideal for bean cookery.  i just use my old, rusty le creuset pot.  aaron is obsessed with using clay pots for his beans, in an effort to bring a little bit of the old country to cedar street, i guess.  really, anything will work.  

bean resources

how to cook dried beans

a basic recipe

bean myths, dispelled

(i LOVE this page for so many reasons!)

heidi swanson's cover

of

nopa's

delicious wood-oven baked

rancho gordo beans

(three favorites in one!)

laurence jossel's black bean burger

(perhaps i should be embarrassed, but i am a little obsessed with homemade bean and veggie burgers)

lori de mori's great article on mangia-fagioli

, or bean-eaters, the derogatory nickname for tuscans.

where to buy great heirloom beans

online

rancho gordo

phipps country store

zürsun heirloom beans

in the bay area

bi-rite market

berkeley bowl

avedano's

the pasta shop

annabelle

dirty girl produce

phipps country store

rancho gordo

toby's feed barn

rainbow grocery

has bulk rancho gordo beans!  wahoo!

grow your own heirloom beans

seeds savers

baker creek heirloom seeds

native seeds