Michigan is going through its classic undecided weather spell. After a chilly overcast week, we were rewarded with warm sunny weekend. It reminded me of spring back home in India, albeit temperatures there would be soaring 10 to 20 degrees higher than this part of the world. I guess its the blooming trees that mark the advent of spring in my mind, irrespective of where I am. So to celebrate it, I decided to prepare a Marathi favorite- ‘vaatali daal’ i.e. a salad of split chickpeas. A typical snack of the spring, it makes an opportune use of seasonal raw green mangoes. While, its texture is like hummus, its tangy spicy flavors are likely to remind you of salsa.
Vaatali daal is often made during the ‘Haladi-Kunku’ occasions in Chaitra, the first month of traditional Marathi calendar. Haladi-Kunku is a social gathering, where you invite your women friends and neighbors, and treat them with snacks and some little pretty gifts. I guess, it was an old way to give women much-needed respite from their limited domestic routines. While not so common nowadays, the custom still continues because… well, it is hard to say no to an evening of food and gossip. Maybe that’s why I felt like sharing this recipe. After all, culinary blogosphere is much like an ongoing virtual haladi-kunku, that surpasses the boundaries of culture and gender to unite food lovers across the globe.
So here it is…
VAATALI DAAL OR SPLIT CHICKPEA HUMMUS
Yields about a full big bowl
1 cup of dried split chickpea/ chana daal
2 small green mangoes (if you cannot find these, substitute it with lemon juice)
1-2 garlic cloves
2-3 green chili peppers (based on the pungency of peppers you are using)
Salt to taste
A pinch of two of unrefined sugar (optional, but it complements the dominant tang of mangoes and hotness of green peppers)
Water to grind
3 tablespoons of oil
1 dried red chili
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
5-6 curry leaves (optional)
2-3 pinches of turmeric powder
- Wash and soak split chickpeas/ chana daal in water overnight (or at least 3-4 hours).
- Thoroughly rinse the soaked daal, drain, and grind it (with some water) to form a rough and coarse paste. Keep it aside in a bowl.
- Peel outer thick, dark green skin of raw mangoes. Remove the pit. Chop the light green-white flesh into small bits.
- In grinder, make a chutney of mango bits along with green chili peppers, garlic, salt, and sugar.
- Add the chutney to daal and mix properly.
- Adjust the spice and salt/ sugar per your taste.
- In a separate saucepan, heat oil and temper mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, and dried red chili in it, till fragrant.
- Take it off the heat, and pour over daal. Mix.
It is ready to be eaten. If you want to use it later, cover and refrigerate. It will keep refrigerated till 2-3 days. As you can see in the photographs, I used it as a side for my lunch of tomato curry-rice and dinner of stir-fried mustard greens and flatbread. It can be easily served as a dip for your pita or tortilla chips. The traditional way serves it as a salad, along with a refreshing drink of green mango. Try it and you might love to have it as it is, without any accompaniment!
Yesterday evening called for a light supper, as both of us were not particularly hungry. So I thought to inaugurate the rice paper wraps that we had got from the Asian store recently. Since, this was my first time of making the rice paper rolls, I tried not to go overboard and chose only two ingredients for the filling- mushrooms and snap peas. Although, both of those pack a lot of flavors if treated well. Here is how I went:
MUSHROOM-SNAP PEAS RICE PAPER ROLLS
Makes four rolls
8 Rice paper wraps (two for each roll)
Mushrooms of your choice
(For both of the above, two cups would be more than enough for the four rolls. Though I took much more than that, because I had to compensate for the amount that would go into my mouth before it reaches the paper wrap 😉 Who can resist sautéed mushrooms?)
Olive oil for sautéing
Salt to taste
- If needed, remove ends of snap peas.
- Chop mushrooms in thick long wedges.
- Heat a dash of olive oil in thick-bottomed skillet.
- Add snap peas to it. Cover the pan for first five minutes. Then uncover and sauté peas on medium to high heat till they develop a slight char. Of course, only blanched snap peas would also do, but I prefer such pan-roasting for I believe it brings more flavors out.
- Once done, take the snap peas off heat and keep aside.
- In the same skillet, add another dash of olive oil if needed and add cut mushrooms over it. Season with salt.
- This time do not cover the skillet. Addition of salt would bring the liquids out of mushrooms. Let the mushrooms cook in that liquid, till it evaporates. This ensures that mushroom develop that nice rich flavor.
- Rehydrate the rice paper as per directions upon the packet.
- Take one rice paper onto a board. Place the fillings within and wrap those around in a cylindrical roll. Take another rice paper and wrap the roll in it again. It is easier to handle it then.
- Make a cut in the middle and serve with sauce/ chutney of your liking.
My husband blended some sesame oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, salt, brown sugar, and red chili flakes into a sauce-like consistency for the tangy dipping sauce. The oil would emulsify and make it look like peanut sauce, but in fact the sauce in the picture is nut/ legume free.
I had this craving in my mind for quite some time. Finally, during the last trip to local grocery store, I found green bananas/ plantains. Back home, known as “kelyache kaap”, many would shallow fry the long thick chips of plantain by coating it with semolina and variety of spices. Though delicious, it still requires a considerable oil for frying those crisp. As a matter of fact, I am rather wary of frying as a cooking method. Since I started cooking, I have not made a single dish that involved frying. I am bit scared of working near that hot (sometimes, boiling) mass of oil. That’s why I always like the pan-roasted version of plantain ‘chips’ that my mother made, which I modified a bit by replacing ghee with olive oil and adding few more spices for color.
PAN-ROASTED PLANTAIN SLICES
3 Plantain/ Raw bananas
Teaspoon of turmeric powder
Teaspoon of sumac spice (optional)
Salt to taste
Red pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon of olive oil to coat the pan
- Plantain or raw banana cannot be peeled like ripe bananas. So cut a banana lengthwise into two halves. Remove the ends. Then slice off the peels from all sides. Such peeled piece of banana would be slightly sticky. Taking care of not to slip your fingers into the knife’s way while holding it, make elongated thick slices (about 0.5 cm in width). Using the slicer/ mandolin with its holder would be rather convenient, but you can use knife as well.
- Keep these slices in cold bowl of water for about five minutes, then drain.
- Sprinkle with salt, pepper, turmeric, sumac spices and mix to coat all the slices evenly.
- Coat the wide non-stick plan with olive oil and heat it on a medium to high flame.
- Arrange the spice-coated plantain slices in a single layer on this pan. Cover it.
- In about five minutes on medium to high heat, the bottoms of plantain slices would have roasted. Turn those around.
- The second side would take lesser time to cook. Turn off the heat before the slices turn too brown, in about 2-3 minutes.
Enjoy while it is still warm, with ketchup, or pesto, or as it is. You can tone the spices up or down based on your preference. If you like starchy fries, you are going to love it. Overall, it takes only 15-20 minutes to get it on plate and makes a quick satisfying snack for weekend munching, which is surprisingly light.