Summer finally seems to be over here in LA which means we have transitioned from occasional three digit temperatures to more reasonably consistent double digit temps that begin with the number “7”.  Each day is getting noticeably shorter which is another clear signal that fall us upon us here in the south land (that’s what they call Southern California and it still sounds funny to me because I’m from the actual Southland).  This is about as dramatic as the seasons get here and I’ll take it!  It means a return to hearty fall foods and maybe if we’re lucky, boot weather.

Occasionally I get an ingredient in my FarmBox that stumps me.  I have no idea what it is or what to do with it.  I love these challenges because I get to learn about a new ingredient and sometimes a new cuisine that uses it.  This red spinach that showed up in my box a couple weeks back was just such a challenge which provided the opportunity to learn a bunch of fun new stuff.

Red spinach

Very pretty but I had no idea what to do with it.

I searched the internet and what I found was that it’s used a lot in Indian cuisine.  I had had a really delicious saag paneer recently but didn’t have any of the things to make paneer with so I decided to just make dal.  Dal is basically just cooked lentils with spices which is great because I am a huge fan of the lentil.  I grew up eating a lot of lentils because lentil soup is a pretty popular Spanish dish.  My grandmother’s lentil soup, for example, is the thing of legend.  I do a pretty good job myself and figured I could handle this lentil dish too.

According to my research, there is a special kind of lentil used for dal but I didn’t have it in my packed pantry.  I had black beluga lentils, green lentils, french lentils and yellow split peas but not any of these special dal lentils.  So I went with the yellow split peas instead because according to what I read they were pretty close or close enough.

lentils and spinach

Here are my two shining star main ingredients, yellow split peas and red spinach.

I don’t have a ton of experience cooking Indian food, but when my dear friend Aruna and I lived together in college, she showed me a few tricks and tips.  The first one I remember her teaching me is to fry the mustard seeds until they popped.  Then she would always throw in some cumin seeds and other spices and let them get all aromatic and then she would begin layering the flavors and ingredients over that spicy aromatic base.

indian spices cooking

I can’t think of anything more yummy than the smell of cooking onions and spices.

I looked up a bunch of recipes and then sorta winged it with what I had in my pantry and farm box.  It came out pretty amazing if I do say so myself and I think I will be trying more Indian cuisine in the future.

Delightful Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 to 6 cups chopped spinach (I used red spinach)
  • 2 cups yellow split peas
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon asofatida
  • 1 large pinch of curry leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes or chopped tomatoes
  • salt
  • oil
  • Put the split peas in a pot with enough water to cover them by 2 inches.  Boil the split peas in water with 1 teaspoon of turmeric until they are tender and starting to dissolve.
  • While the peas are boiling, heat oil in another large pot and add mustard seeds.  Cook them until they pop, then add cumin seeds,  asofatida, curry leaves and chile flakes.  Stir for about 1 minute or until fragrant.
  • Add onions and garlic to the spice mixture and cook until onions are beginning to brown.
  • Add chopped spinach and tomatoes, cook until spinach is wilted and tomatoes are starting to dissolve.
  • Add split peas and any leftover cooking liquid to the spinach mixture.
  • Stir to combine and heat through.  Add salt to taste.
  • Serve hot.
spinach dal

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