October 5, 2012

Friday Foodie: Vegetarian Night

Around our house, we try to eat vegetarian one or two nights a week.  It really helps with the budget, and usually helps with the calorie count, too -- except today, because I am really in the mood for aloo dum (which involves fried potatoes).  Don't worry -- the other dish (Masoor Dal) is based on lentils and is super healthy.  I usually serve two or three of these kind of dishes with basmati rice as a composed plate.  If the hubby gets home early, sometimes he makes naan.

The allo dum is definately the more labor intensive of the two dishes.  But it showcases the complex flavors that can make meat-free night anything but blah.  The dal, on the other hand, comes together easier, but still has a long cooking time.  It makes a ton, and epitomizes how vegetarian night can be budget friendly, and even lead to bonus weekday lunches for anyone with access to a microwave.

Aloo Dum (aloo meaning potato) comes from the Kashmir region of Northern India.  Masoor Dal is actually the name for red split lentils -- as well as any prepration used to cook them to a stew-like texture. Remember that there are many variations on these dishes, sometimes starring different spices or techniques (some recipes do not call for frying the aloo dum potatoes, though this is considered less authentic).  The recipes below are just my favorate adaptations.

One of the culinary traditions that is most friendly to vegetarians is that found in India, so it's no surprise that many of my go-to recipes for vegetarian night are Indian in origin or inspiration.  If you plan to make Indian food often, invest in a spice grinder.  Nothing beats the layers of flavor imparted to the food by toasting the spices and releasing the plant oils by fresh grinding.  If you don't have one, you can go it the hard way -- grinding by hand with a mortor and pestle.  Or you can go the easy way and just substitute pre-ground.

Masoor Dal

¼ c. ghee
1 large onion, minced
6 cloves garlic, pressed
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
2 tbsp. finely minced ginger
2 c. masoor dal
1 tbsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tbsp. Garam Masala
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. jaggery
1 c. diced tomatoes

Heat the ghee in a large heavy pot over medium high heat.  Add the onions, garlic, jalapeno and ginger.  Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables soften and the onions start to turn translucent.  Add the dal, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, salt, pepper and jaggery.  Stir-fry for 2 minutes, or until the spices become fragrant.  Add 8 cups of water and the diced tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft and the liquid has thickened to a stew consistancy.  (This usually takes me about an hour and a half, but cooking time may vary).  

Aloo Dum

1 1/2 lb. small potatoes, peeled
Vegetable oil (for frying) plus two tablespoons
4 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. corriander seeds
1 inch piece cinnamon stick
6 black peppercorns
1 c. diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger powder
2 tbsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. tomato puree
6 tbsp. thick (Greek style) yogurt

Steam the potatos until they are soft.  Prick them all over with a toothpick or a fork.  Heat several inches woth of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Carefully add the potatoes and turn the heat down to low.  Fry them, stirring occasionally, until they turn a golden brown (this may take close to an hour).

In a separate dry skillet, toast the cloves, cardamom, bay, cumin, corriander, cinnamon and peppercorns.  Allow to cool, then process in a spice grinder.

In a heavy pot, heat the two tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Add the onion, garlic and ginger.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion turns translucent.  Add the chili powder, cloves, ginger and salt and stir fry for an additional minute.  Add the tomato puree and the yogurt, stir to incorporate.  Add a cup of water, and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Add the potatoes and cook, stiring occasionally, for half an hour, or until the sauce has thickened.

This post was written by Amber at Dandylyon’s Garden.  Visit her Etsy shop for fragrant herb sachets, garden and kitchen aprons, crocheted and quilted accessories and home décor, and vintage brooches, or her blog for food culture and history, recipes, sewing tutorials and more.  If you want hands on instruction, she will be teaching Cooking 101 for UTA's continuing education department next month.