Parsi Dal, Tomato Raita and Eggplant-Coconut Puree

above, frying up the spice paste for our Parsi-style dal. Parsi cuisine, brought to India centuries ago by Persian immigrants, is in/famous for its astonishing richness. This dal captures the bold, intense flavors of Parsi cooking without the common lethal amounts of fat! In texture and taste a dal unlike most others and perfect for a vegetarian dinner, along with rice, a green vegetable and a yogurt dish such as raita. Start by boiling 1 cup of red lentils (masoor dal) in 3-4 cups of water. Skim any foam that accumulates on top and then add about 1 t. turmeric. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes or until the lentils become tender. You'll only need to stir a couple of times probably but check now and then for sticking or scorching - add additional water as needed. While the lentils cook grind together in a food processor, blender, coffee grinder, mortar and pestle etc: 8 cloves chopped garlic, 2-3 T. chopped and peeled ginger, 2 whole dried red chilies and up to 2 t. cumin seeds. Heat 1-2 T. oil in a non-stick skillet and now fry the paste for 1 minute over a medium flame. Add a few drops of water and cook another minute or two, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the skillet. When the lentils are cooked add the spice paste along with 1 T. tamarind concentrate and 1 -2 T. brown sugar. Season with at least 1 t. salt and adjust accordingly. You should be experiencing a multi-sensory blast of sweet, tart and salty! Just before serving stir in a few tablespoons of minced cilantro and garnish with sliced green chilies if you prefer a spicier dal. Note: for greater Parsi Street (food) Cred replace the vegetable oil with butter or ghee.

A cooling, slightly tangy yogurt side dish suitable with any Indian, North African or Middle Eastern meal - Bangladeshi Tomato Raita. Just mix everything in a bowl and let rest for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. This is what you'll need: 2 cups plain yogurt, 2 finely diced tomatoes, 2 cloves of minced garlic, crushed seeds from 2 cardamom pods, 3/4 t. cumin powder, a large pinch of cayenne pepper and salt to taste. We use about 1/2 t. salt but adjust accordingly. If you don't have the cardamom seeds, omit.

Cafe Drake HRV savored our Parsi dal, as above, with brown rice, roasted broccoli, tomato raita, pappadums and - look closely to the left - a chilled eggplant puree. This one is a nice surprise for those expecting the flavor profile of baba ganoush. Slice 1 regular Italian eggplant in half lengthwise and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork and roast in a 400 degree F. oven for 25 or 30 minutes, until the eggplant is wrinkled and very very soft. Now scrape the flesh into a blender and don't worry if you drag along a few scraps of eggplant skin. Add 1 cup coconut milk (canned) along with 1 minced clove of garlic, 3/4 t. ground ginger, 1/2 t. cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Blend and chill slightly before serving, as a side dish or appetizer or cocktail snack with toasted pita bread.


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