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!

Avocado Crouton Vegetable Salad

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Last evening, I came home knowing that there were two perfectly ripe avocados in my kitchen basket, which needed to be used at once. Not really an obligation, considering my new-found obsession for them. I love avocados in all forms. So even yesterday, I could have happily settled for avocado toast or guacamole.  Then, I had a sudden craving that I should diversify a bit, and somehow increase the vegetable portion in my meal. Yet, I was too tired for making any elaborate plan and preparation. The quick fix, then I thought, would come from an avocado salad bowl. I always have packets of cut frozen vegetable soup or stir fry mixes in my freezer. Using one of those, and some other common residents of my kitchen pantry, I prepared the following:

AVOCADO CROUTON VEGETABLE SALAD

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados
A mix of soup/ stir fry vegetables (carrot, corn, green beans, peas, potato, leek)
1 cup vegetable stock
2 bread toasts, cut into crouton-sized chunks
1-2 tbspoons of lemon juice
1-2 tbspoons of herb mix or za’atar spice mix
Dash or two of olive oil
Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Stone, peel, and chop/ pulp avocados.
  2. Warm a dash of olive oil in a wok, and stir the vegetable mix on high heat. Sprinkle some salt and herb/ spice mix over it, add a cup of stock (or water) and let the vegetable cook in the combined juices, for about 5 minutes.
  3. Once vegetables are cooked, take the wok off the heat/ flame.
  4. Add avocado pulp and toasted croutons over the vegetables. Squeeze lime juice over everything and mix well.

It was unassuming, yet comforting and tasty. Perfect for the week night dinner, when you want a healthy home-cooked meal at the least expense of time  and energy.