Celebrity Chef, Vikas Khanna’s Twist on Yellow Dal

Celebrity Chef, Vikas Khanna
Celebrity Chef, Vikas Khanna

Yellow Dal with Zucchini, Roasted Garlic and Basil*

Healthy eating has long been recognized as one of the essential elements for a long life in India. I come from a long line of people who all live into their 80s and beyond and food like this recipe is part of the reason. Contrary to belief, most food consumed daily in Indian homes is very simple with just a few ingredients. The rich, complex curries are reserved for Sunday meals, holidays and family feasts. My grandmother, Biji, who taught me to cook, was a lifelong vegetarian and we ate meat as a family only on Sundays. As an added benefit, eating simple dishes like this one keeps the body from getting over-heated in India’s long, hot summers. We have long understood that meat, dairy and carbohydrates cause the body to work hard in digesting and really raise your body temperature. Fresh zucchini, basil, garlic and yellow lentils are cooked together with paprika, cumin and coriander in this dish. I pan-roast the garlic which adds a sweet and “roasty” aroma and flavor.

Serves 6

1 cup yellow dal (moong dal) rinsed and drained

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 small white onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves

4 small zucchinis, about one pound, cut into ½-inch slices

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Put the lentils into a large saucepan with the turmeric, salt and water. Bring to boil.  Remove any froth that may rise to top with a spoon. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the lentils are cooked, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl with the cooking liquid. Cover the bowl and keep warm.

Heat the oil in a medium heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown, 5 minutes. Add the cumin seeds; they should sizzle upon contact with the hot oil. Quickly add the onions, basil and zucchini, coriander and cumin powder and cook until the zucchini becomes tender but not mushy, 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the paprika, and immediately pour the mixture over the hot lentils, stirring lightly to mix. Taste for salt and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle the cilantro on top and serve.

*From Vikas Khanna’s new cookbook, Flavors First, due out August 2011

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