Inspired by a Bittman piece on dal in the Times, we couldn’t resist—and we found ourselves with more than we’d bargained for! I thought we needed something besides dal for dinner (I didn’t know what I was thinking, I hadn’t tried this dal before!) so we looked up recipes that use sweet potatoes, since that was really the only other thing we had on hand, and ended up with some tasty curried sweet potato.
I was especially intrigued by Bittman’s description of Tarka so we picked a recipe in order to try it out. We started cooking French green lentils (making more like 1.5 C) with vegetable broth. We adapted the dal to use some veggies we had on hand—leeks, carrots, celery, and broccoli stem. The veggies were sauteed separately and added to the lentils close to the end. And, because I wanted to try the Tarka as Bittman presented it, we made that next, using some more leeks instead of scallions.
The Tarka was amazing—beautiful while cooking and a rich finish to the dal. Makes me wonder if adding Tarka to most any dal will provide such a rich improvement. And as it turned out, this dish could have stood on its own for dinner way more than I ever could have expected.
While the lentils were cooking and veggies sauteeing, we prepared the sweet potatoes. I think many of us often forget that sweet potatoes are very common, and quite fitting, for Indian cooking and this recipe was no exception. To save time, we microwaved the potatoes until cooked through and only finished them in the oven once stuffed. The onions were sauteed in orange juice, a novel method for me, but one that produced sweet and soft onions (the onion-hater in me almost didn’t mind their remaining texture) and the rest of the filling was prepared as suggested. This recipe turned out reminiscent of a twice-baked potato in the rich, creaminess of the filling, but with much more spice and pizazz.
In the end, we had way too much food and consequently ate way too much of the dal. I guess that’s the beauty of a pleasantly surprising dinner.