Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dal Palak

Pretty much every Monday night it is both Meatless Monday and big batch cooking night at my house. Monday might not be the night most people use to be ambitious after work, but I like to use the first night of the week fill up the freezer and get some laundry done while dinner is bubbling away on the stove. Crossing off a long to-do list is my solution to the Monday doldrums, making what would be a drag of a day anyway move a lot more quickly and starting the week on a productive note.

For all the cuisines that make an appearance on my Monday night, I think Indian is the most common. All manner of vegetables and legumes, even many you wouldn't normally expect, take expertly to sweet, savory, and spicy Indian-inspired flavors. They're also ideal candidates for big batch Meatless Monday because they are often healthy, inexpensive, and freeze really well. This trifecta of qualities is what makes a recipe worth investing significant prep and cooking time, provided the outcome is still a delicious dish. And while neither I, or the author of the original, will claim this is the most authentic recipe, there's no denying that this fridge-clearing pile of veggies and melange of spices meet all those criteria perfectly.

For the dinner and lunch the day after, I ate this over brown rice with a dollop of yogurt and dash of hot sauce, but if I get some time to make naan, you can bet this will be one of the first companions it sees. Baked tofu, chicken, or even eggs would also perch perfectly atop this healthy plate if you're feeling especially ravenous.

Dal Palak
adapted from The Kitchn
makes about 8 cups

1 large onion, diced
2 packages (about 16 ounces) white button or baby bella mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 medium-sized red or white potatoes, cubed
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons coriander
1 Tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
10 ounce bunch of spinach or other hearty green (kale, chard, etc.) cleaned and cut into ribbons
1 cup lentils
3 cups of water or broth
1-2 Tablespoons salt
Chopped scallions, for topping (optional)
Plain yogurt or sour cream, for topping (optional)
Hot sauce, for topping (optional)

1. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, the mushrooms, and one teaspoon of salt, and cook until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms show spots of golden brown. Add the potatoes and another teaspoon of salt, and cook until the edges are just starting to turn translucent.

2. Clear a space in the middle of the pan and add the ginger, garlic, spices, and one more teaspoon of salt. Cook until the garlic is fragrant (30 seconds), and then stir the spices into the mix. Add the diced tomatoes in their juices, the spinach, and the lentils. Stir to combine everything and then top with three cups of water or broth.

3. Turn the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and let the soup simmer for about 45 minutes until the lentils and potatoes are cooked through. Taste the soup to adjust the seasonings and salt. Stir in half of the chopped scallions, reserving the rest to use as garnish.

4. Serve dal along with rice, naan, or chapatis.

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