Mom’s left again. Her twice daily cooking has left with her too. Now every time I go into the kitchen and try to toss a bunch of wilted spinach or throw away leftover rice, I’m accosted by the question “what would mom have done?” That spinach would have found itself in a dal or a soup or in rotis and the rice would have become a tasty stir-fry. Mom certainly wouldn’t have ordered take-out several times a week. She would have put together a healthy meal in no time.
I can almost hear her. Chop vegetables when you can and keep aside. Pick up crying baby. Answer phone. Read one story to older toddler. Put down soothed baby. Engage toddler in a writing exercise and go off to saute the vegetables. Put everything in the pressure cooker. Wait for 3 whistles while you make a mad dash to straighten the house before your spouse returns home. and so on. Before you know it you are sitting down to a simple home-cooked dinner and not one rotten zucchini goes into the garbage. When I call my mom and tell her this she throws her head back and laughs “That’s the question I usually ask myself. What would nani have done?”
Mom’s spinach dal is a satisfying lentil and spinach soup with bits of onion, garlic and ginger. I can’t eat dal without a tarka of ghee and heeng, and I’ve also found that turmeric adds an incredible flavor and color to dal. This dal makes great use of leftover spinach which you can add in practically any quantity. It can be served with rice or rotis, with a side of yogurt and red onions.
In pressure cooker:
1 cup of dry toor dal
4-5 cups of roughly chopped spinach
1/2 tsp of turmeric
A little salt
Tarka in a separate pan:
1 tbsp ghee
A pinch of asafoetida (heeng)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup chopped onions
2-3 cloves of chopped garlic
1 tbsp chopped ginger
After mixing contents of pressure cooker and tarka add:
1/2 tsp of garam masala
1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
1. Pressure cooker: Wash the toor dal and place into pressure cooker. Add enough water such that there is water about a 1/2 inch above the toor dal. Throw in several handfuls of washed and roughly chopped spinach. Add some turmeric and a little salt. Bring to three whistles on medium heat. Turn off heat and put cooker aside. Wait for steam to escape before opening.
2. Tarka: Meanwhile, heat ghee in a separate pan and add asafoetida. Sputter cumin seeds when hot. Add the onions and saute. When the onions are a little cooked, add the chopped garlic and ginger. Cook for a minute or so, but not too long else the garlic and ginger will burn.
3. Put the tarka in the spinach and dal mixture and add the garam masala, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until mixture comes to a boil. Cook for a minute or two. Serve hot.