Vaatali daal or Split chickpea hummus

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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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

  1. Wash and soak split chickpeas/ chana daal in water overnight (or at least 3-4 hours).
  2. 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.
  3. Peel outer thick, dark green skin of raw mangoes. Remove the pit. Chop the light green-white flesh into small bits.
  4. In grinder, make a chutney of mango bits along with green chili peppers, garlic, salt, and sugar.
  5. Add the chutney to daal and mix properly.
  6. Adjust the spice and salt/ sugar per your taste.
  7. In a separate saucepan, heat oil and temper mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, and dried red chili in it, till fragrant.
  8. 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!

Mushroom Coconut Rice with Mint

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Mushroom cooked in coconut milk is one of my favorite food combinations. Coconut milk imparts perfect creaminess without overpowering their natural flavor. Mix in some cooked rice to that and you have a comforting lunch bowl. Over the years, I have cooked number of variations of this combination. Most often, I prepare it just with a tempering of whole garam masala (with spices such as clove, bay leaves, star anise) and red chili pepper. Today, however, I made some more tweaks to the recipe, using fresh and frozen supplies from our fridge.

MUSHROOM COCONUT RICE WITH MINT

Ingredients:

1 cup rice
10-12 Baby Bella mushrooms
1 cup grated fresh coconut (I used frozen)
Handful of mint leaves
1 cup of fajita veggie mix/ half a onion and some chopped bell peppers
1 inch ginger
3-4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoon oil (I used coconut oil)
Salt to taste.

For garnish: chopped scallions and nooch i.e. nutritional yeast (optional)

Method:

  1. Cook rice as per directions.
  2. Grind shredded coconut, mint leaves, ginger, and garlic with some water to form a paste.
  3. In a pan, heat oil. Sauté chopped onion and bell peppers, till onion changes color.
  4. Add chopped mushrooms to it. Season with salt. Stir fry for two more minutes. Mushrooms will start cooking in its own water that is released due to salt.
  5. Add the coconut-mint paste to the pan and sauté till it loses its raw smell.
  6. Take off the heat and mix with cooked rice.
  7. Add garnish of your choice. I used chopped scallions and nooch flakes.

The result is as creamy as its master recipe. Plus, mint adds a pleasant aroma and color.

Pita bread

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With winter came a long period of inactivity on my blog. While, I have not been able to write about it much, it has been fun. Almost every other weekend, either we were hosting friends or getting invited to their places. Food was an integral part of this socializing. So I got several opportunities to experiment. Sometimes, it was a matter of recreating and perfecting an old special item. Sometimes, I dabbled in new cooking style. Sometimes, it was an effort to make something at home that I have often enjoyed eating outside.

Today’s post falls in that third category. I have immensely enjoyed Mediterranean food, since I first tasted it in various ‘Türkische Imbiss’ in Berlin. Thankfully, Michigan has not disappointed me either. Now and then, my husband and I go to the nearest middle-eastern eatery to enjoy shawarma, kebabs, falafel, and of course… a basket full of piping hot pita breads.

I really wanted to be able to make these breads from the mixed grain wheat flour I have at home, which I use for making Indian flatbreads of roti and parantha. After a few mistrials, I finally decided to try making those with the ‘boule’ master recipe, which I had used last year to bake bread loaves. I got this recipe in the book ‘Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day‘ by Jeff Hertzberg  and Zoë François. While it calls for unbleached, unsifted, all-purpose white flour, it has worked with my usual whole wheat/ multi-grain flours. So here is my way to pillowy and pliant pita flatbreads.

PITA FLATBREAD (WITH MULTIGRAIN WHEAT FLOUR)

Yields about 8-12 breads, depending on the size you roll.

Ingredients:

3 1/4 cups of multi-grain wheat flour, plus some more for dusting
1.5 cups of lukewarm water (only a tad more that body temperature)
1 sachet of yeast (roughly about 1 heap full of a tablespoon)
A pinch or two of salt
Method:

  1. Mix the yeast and salt in water. Let it proof for five minutes.
  2. Add the flour to this water and mix the dough with a spatula.
  3. If needed, with wet fingers, lightly mix the dough so that there are no dry patches. No kneading is necessary any further. It makes a rather shaggy loose kind of a dough, but that is what we want.
  4. Cover the dough with a loosely-fitted lid and let it rise for two hours.
  5. After the first rise, the dough can be used to make bread. Though, I like to refrigerate it overnight to make it more manageable.
  6.  To make pita, dust your platform and fingers with some dry  flour. Form a ball by pulling the top of dough to bottom repeatedly for about a minute or two.
  7. Divide it in smaller balls/ patties to make pitas.
  8. Dust a patty with dry flour and roll lightly to make a circle (width of which should never go less than 1/8th inch). Sprinkle with flour while rolling, whenever necessary.
  9. Heat a cooking pan/ griddle to medium-high heat and place a freshly rolled pita onto it.
  10. Wait till you see bubbles on the surface, and then flip it to another side.
  11. Now it will start puffing up. Lightly press bulging pita on all sides to make sure it gets baked uniformly.
  12. Flip more than once to get those nice brown spots on both the sides of flatbread.
  13. Remove from the pan and let it cool on rack
  14. Now, conquering the temptation to devour this soft bread right away, turn your attention to rest of the pitas to roll and bake 🙂

After cracking this perfect recipe for homemade pitas, the possibilities to use it are endless. We have so far enjoyed these with hummus, herbed yogurt dips, grilled tempeh, sautéed vegetables, and curries… oh and even, guacamole once. So go ahead and make your combos, with no further doubts!