A Seasonal Dal

Tindora is a favorite veggie at Cafe Drake HRV. Problem is we only score it in Queens or Albany Indian supermarkets so it's becoming a rare treat. Luckily tiny fresh gherkin cucumbers make an acceptable substitute, although one should always use tindora if available; this East Indian vegetable has a tangy earthiness all its own and the tindora/cukes add a calm, cooling quality to the seasoned legumes.

Soul satisfying summer dinner of tindora dal, basmati rice, mint and green chile raita and baby salad greens with pistachios.

Tindora Dal, the Cafe Drake HRV Way: To begin, you'll need about 1/2 lb. of either tindora (also known as ivy gourd) or tiny fresh gherkin cucumbers. In a real pinch, peeled and seeded Kirby cukes will suffice. Chop into small pieces and set aside. Rinse well 1 cup of either moong dal or masoor dal (these are just split red lentils, available at every supermarket) and place in a sauce pan with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Reduce heat to medium-low and partially cover; simmer for 15 minutes. Now add the chopped tindora/gherkins to the dal along with 1/4 t. turmeric powder, 1 chopped tomato, 3-4 halved small green chilies and 1 finely chopped onion. Remove lid and continue to simmer for another 25-35 minutes. If the mixture is getting dry or sticking/burning, add water as needed. The final consistency should be that of a thin pea soup. Season with 1 t. salt and freshly ground black pepper, cover again and set aside, off the heat. In a small skillet heat 1 T. vegetable (or coconut) oil until very hot. Sprinkle oil generously with ground asafoetida (skip if you don't have) and then 1 t. cumin seeds. After a few seconds add 1-4 dried red chilies (torn into pieces) and cook another 30 seconds, stirring constantly. The chilies should turn dark. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic along with 5-10 frozen curry leaves. Cover the pan as the leaves tend to splatter oil. Immediately pour the contents of skillet into the dal and stir well. Check for seasoning and serve hot with rice or bread. If a slightly tart flavor is desired, sprinkle the dal with fresh lemon or lime juice. Chopped cilantro makes a nice garnish.


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