Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Beans and Rice, Always Nice April 23, 2010

Filed under: beans,capital area food bank,easy,hunger awareness project,rice,thrift — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:45 pm

beans and rice, dependable staples at our house

We’ve been eating our pinto beans and rice for a few days now.  Actually, we eat some kind of beans and rice almost every day.  Click “beans” on my categories for more posts on leguminous variations.  This current batch of beans, very basic, contains a couple of chopped onions (nutritious and generally inexpensive), some garlic, a homegrown bay leaf, toasted backyard Mexican oregano and a bit of paprika.  I used the slow cooker and added a dab of bacon grease to the pot—never throw away tasty fat!

For the kindergartner’s lunch I make quick tacos:  I heat up a flour tortilla in the toaster oven with a little cheese (the glue!) and fill it with the beans and rice.  It’s portable and requires no utensils, perfect for a young bean lover.

Beans—good and good for you!


Beany Rolls March 14, 2010

Filed under: beans,bread,bread machine,dessert,easy,thrift — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:23 pm

glazy days

Roll Out

Taking advantage of sales and utilizing leftover potato cooking water, I baked up a batch of sweet and puffy cinnamon rolls.  The surprise ingredient?  Eden Foods organic canned aduki beans.  Why not?  In Asia aduki beans (also called adzuki or azuki) frequently show up in sweets.  From Chinese moon cakes to Japanese ice cream and Thai shaved ice, aduki beans make life a little sweeter.  Or a lot sweeter, as in the case of these here buxom buns.

You’ll be happy to know that Eden Foods canned beans (on sale now at Whole Foods, four 15-ounce cans for $7) are at this time the only beans canned commercially in BPA-free cans.  With a great many varieties from which to choose, including harder to find legumes such as black-eyed peas, black soy beans and the adukis, you’ll be beanin’ with joy!

The aduki beans make this dough tender, moist and light.

BUXOM BEANY CINNAMON BUNS makes 12 large buns

  • 1½ cups potato cooking water.  Newflower Market’s selling organic russets at $2.50 for a 5-pound bag through March 17.  Get spudsy!
  • 2 Tablespoons organic or local butter.  Organic Valley is my favorite all purpose butter.  Click for a coupon.
  • 1 generous cup well-drained aduki beans.  I used Eden Foods brand.  You can use home-cooked.
  • 1½ teaspoons salt.  Use a scant measure if your potato water was salted.  Mine almost always is.
  • 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at Central Market.  I bring my own container and have the staff tare the weight for me.
  • 500 grams unbleached bread flour.  I like King Arthur brand.  Whole Foods usually has the best price on the 5-pound bag.
  • 2 Tablespoons organic quick oats.  Buy this in your favorite bulk department.  I stock up during sales and store it in the freezer if I’m not working through it quickly.
  • 1 Tablespoon organic or local whole wheat flour.  I love Richardson Farms locally grown, freshly-ground flour.
  • 1½ teaspoons instant yeast (bread machine or rapid rise).  NOT active dry.
  • 4 Tablespoons softened butter.  Organic Valley Pasture butter is especially tasty here.  You’ll find it on sale at Whole Foods for $3.39 right now.  Lucky Layla (available at Central Market) and Way Back When (available at our farmers markets and from Greenling) are Texas options for high-butterfat, lightly salted beurre.
  • 206 (1 cup) grams organic light brown sugar.  Central Market’s brand is on sale now at $2.50 for a 1½ pound bag.
  • 2½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • pinch of salt if you’re using unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1½ ounces (3 Tablespoons) organic cream cheese, softened.  CM’s brand is usually the best buy.
  • 3 Tablespoons yogurt.  I make my own from local goat milk.  Click to read how.  I like Swede Farm Dairy and Wateroak Farm, both at the farmers market in Sunset Valley.
  • 174 grams organic powered sugar.  CM again, with a sale price of $2.50 for a 1½ pound bag.  I don’t bother to sift for this glaze.  I’m too rushed (distracted?  lazy?).
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

I use my bread machine’s dough cycle to mix up the dough and give it a first rise.  For my appliance I add the ingredients in the order listed.  Your machine’s instructions may vary.  You can mix the dough by hand or with a stand mixer, too.  Combine the dry ingredients with the yeast before mixing in the rest.  Knead until you have a smooth and bouncy dough.  Let rise for about 2 hours at coolish room temperature.

Meanwhile line a 9″ X 13″ baking pan with aluminum foil.  I turn the pan upside down and drape the foil to the outside of the pan before putting the foil on the inside.  Butter the foil very well.

With floured hands pat the dough into a rectangle on a floured surface.  I love non-stick silicone rolling mats for bread work.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to approximately 12″ X 16″.  Spread the surface of the dough with the softened butter to within ½ inch of the edges.  Combine the brown sugar and spices (including salt, if using) and spread all over the buttered surface, patting it in a bit.  Starting with a long edge, roll the dough up jelly-roll style into a tight log.  Using a sharp chef’s knife or bench knife, cut the dough log into 12 equal pieces, one at a time, placing them into the prepared pan as you cut.

Loosely cover the pan of buns with a piece of plastic wrap—I reuse plastic bags that I’ve washed in the (clothes) washing machine (yes, you can!), cutting them open for greater surface area.  Let the buns rise for about 1¼ hours, until puffy and well-risen.  Gently brush with the melted butter before baking in a preheated 350º oven for about 35 minutes.  The rolls should be browned and test done when a middle bun is poked in the dough with a bamboo skewer.

Using the foil as a sling,  lift the rolls out of the pan and place them on a cooling rack.  Let them rest for 5 minutes while you whisk together the glaze ingredients (cream cheese through the vanilla).  After 5 minutes, drizzle the glaze over the rolls, separating them first if desired.

Eat warm.


Canned Recovery March 9, 2010

Filed under: beans,easy,fast,rice,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 3:07 pm

Ya mon!

Post-kindergartner’s birthday party, the cook needed a break.  Cans to the rescue!  This easy and nutritious Jamaican inspired one-pot dish, adapted from a recipe served by friend and coworker Suzanna (of SouthAustinFoodie Adventures) several years ago, hits the spot without breaking the bank or my back.

Right now—and tomorrow, too—Whole Foods is selling Lowell Farms Texas-grown organic jasmine rice for only 99¢ a pound.  That’s even cheaper than ordering from the farm!  Stock up on this truly gourmet Texas staple and be prepared to sophisticate your starch.  Or just lowbrow your lunch.  Delicious across the spectrum, and even recommended by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid of Seductions of Rice, this righteous rice hits the spot quick!


  • 1½ cups Lowell Farms Texas-grown organic jasmine rice
  • 1 15-ounce can organic kidney beans, drained.  Reserve liquid for cooking your next batch of homemade beans or soup.  Whole Foods and Central Market brands generally sell for less than national brands.
  • 1 13-14-ounce can organic coconut milk, light or regular.  Whole Foods brand usually sells for the best price.
  • 1 cup water or broth.   Pepper broth pairs perfectly here.  Carrot cooking water (never throw it away!) lends complementary sweetness.
  • a Tablespoon or so of fat—I like using leftover pig grease, such as from Dai Due‘s yummy salt pork.
  • ½ Tablespoon or so minced fresh domestic organic ginger root.  You may already know that I almost never peel ginger.  It’s your call though.
  • stalk of Texas-grown spring onions (leftover from using the bulb portion for another purpose), quartered, core reserved for the stock pot, and thinly sliced.  If the farmers markets have eluded you recently, Central Market’s selling these for $1.69 for a triple-bunch.
  • 2 bay leaves—fresh if you’re growin’.  This bush is easy enough that you oughta cultivate it yourself.  You’ll love the deep aroma of fresh bay leaves.
  • hot chile, if you got one—habanero or Scotch bonnet work well for this, but serranos are fine, too.  Seed (if desired) and mince your pepper.
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme.  Easy to grow, just ensure adequate drainage.  If you’re fresh out of fresh thyme, ½ teaspoon dried thyme will suffice.
  • 1 teapoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice.  I crush mine in a small mortar and pestle.

In a large (’bout 3-quart) saucepan, heat up your grease over medium-high.  Saute the ginger root, bay leaves, onions and peppers if using.  Add the thyme and rice and stir around.  Pour in the coconut milk and broth and stir in the salt and allspice.  Bring to a boil and stir in the beans.  Cover and simmer on LOW for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes before fluffing.

Serve with hot sauce or hot pepper jelly for a tangy or sweet hot kick.


Fast, Cheap and Out of the Pantry February 17, 2010

Filed under: beans,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:58 pm

western spaghetti

brittley at attention

There’s a reason why kale chips are trendy:  addictive taste!  Lumpy-leafed lacinato kale, purchased from Johnson’s Backyard Garden at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, positively supplicated for the treatment.  Carefully rinsed and dried, soothingly smoothed with olive oil, lightly sprinkled with kosher salt and heedfully arranged in a single layer on baking sheets, the softly crinkled slips yielded to gentle roasting at low heat (275º), vacuoles dessicated to a crisp after about 20 minutes.

Frilly flatterings for what is actually a fun food!  Wispily crackling and boasting deep green flavor, the nori-esque (Hmm.  That gives me an idea!) kale chips provided a contrapuntal alternative to salad for a recent code red pantry dinner.

Which was


  • ¾ pound organic dried spaghetti.  I find Central Market’s brand to be a consistently good value.
  • 2 cloves organic domestic garlic
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons  plus 1 Tablespoon organic olive oil.  I mostly use CM’s organic olive oil for cooking.
  • pinch or so crushed red pepper, optional
  • 1 to 3 anchovies, mashed
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 28-ounce can organic diced tomatoes.  If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen during recent sales, Whole Foods 365 brand and CM’s brand sell for reasonable prices.
  • ½ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • ½ bay leaf. You can find bay leaf plants at our local nurseries and farmers markets.  This bush is easy.  Get growin’!
  • ¼ teaspoon turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at CM.  Remember to bring your own container and have the staff tare the weight.
  • 25-ounce can of organic beans, well drained.  I used kidney beans this time around.  Cannellini and great northerns also work well.  By the way, I don’t bother to rinse canned beans before cooking further and neither does Jacques Pépin.
  • generous teaspoon dried basil

Get a pot of salted water going for the pasta.  Some folks agonize and debate over when to add the salt.  I put the salt in right away and then I don’t have to remember it later.

Combine the garlic and 2 teaspoons water.  Heat up the 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a 3 -quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and stir until fragrant.  Add the anchovies and smash around for a few seconds.  Stir in the oregano and then dump in the tomatoes.  Add the salt and bay leaf and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, until thickened some.

Remove the bay leaf.  Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce into a coarse puree.  Add the sugar and beans and simmer a little while the pasta finishes up.  (Oh yeah.  When the pasta water comes to a boil, go ahead and add the spaghetti.  Let the pasta cook while you work on the sauce.  You probably know how to cook your noodles already.)

Finish the sauce with the basil and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  I like to embellish with my better oil—the still reasonably priced organic Villa Blanca from Spain.  I buy it at Central Market for $9.49 for a 17-ounce bottle.  Correct the salt if necessary.  Mix together your (cooked and drained) spaghetti and sauce, adding a little pasta cooking water if you wish to thin the sauce some.

Serve hot with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and freshly cracked black pepper.


Dai Due Salt Pork Hams Up Your Baked Beans February 12, 2010

Filed under: beans,easy,slow cooker — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:27 am


Our half-pound hunk of Dai Due‘s savory salt pork, hacked into slim slabs and rendered crisp, didn’t even reach the bean pot.  We munched every last baconey strip.  Herbal and meaty, sumptuously marbled, Richardson Farms pork belly is spun into gastronomical gold by alchemist Chef Jesse Griffiths.  As the crunchy distillation yielded about ½ cup of luscious pig fat, the crème de la gras, plenty of bean-enhancing magic remained.  Sign up for the Dai Due weekly e-newsletter so you can pre-order locally sourced creations from their imaginatively compiled offerings.  Then pick up your goods at the Saturday Austin Farmers Market, or try your luck and just show up at their booth to see what’s still available.  Impeccably seasoned, with no MSG or nitrates added, and sustainably produced, these meats will righteously fortify your cooking.

AUSTIN BAKED BEANS makes a potful

  • 1 package (½-pound) Dai Due salt pork,  cut up as you please.
  • 1 pound organic navy beans or great northern beans, soaked 8 hours (or overnight) and drained. You can do this a couple days ahead and store the beans, well sealed, in the refrigerator.  I buy these bean varieties in bulk at Whole Foods.  Remember to bring your own container and get the weight tared at the front desk.
  • 2 medium local or organic onions, chopped.  Hillside Farms at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market is still selling red and yellow onions.
  • 2 bay leaves.  Try growing this easy bush.
  • small pinch dried thyme
  • ¾ cup organic tomato puree or sauce.  If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen during recent sales, check Whole Foods and Central Market’s store brands for a good value.  In this last batch of beans I used the leftover puree from draining canned chopped tomatoes for pizza.  Some folks use ketchup.  People that put tomato products into their baked beans are not from Boston.  It’s up to you!
  • ½ cup organic maple syrup, cane syrup (such as Steen’s or Fain’s) or sorghum (Fain’s)
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar or organic brown sugar. Central Market’s own brand is usually the best buy.
  • 1 Tablespoon organic coarse grain mustard.  Ditto on the CM brand.
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, smoked is quite complementary,
  • ½ teaspoon quatre épices, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 3 cups very hot water
  • 2 teaspoons organic apple cider vinegar.  Whole Foods 365 brand sells for less.

Render the salt pork.  Start the pieces out in a cold pan and fry over medium heat to cook them evenly .  Drain, saving the fat, and return several tablespoons of grease back to the pan to saute your onions.  Cook your onions until translucent, adding the bay leaves and thyme about halfway through.

Dump the onions, drained beans and the remaining ingredients into a Dutch oven (’bout 6- or 7-quart size) or your slow cooker crock.  You can add the cooked salt pork, too.  We devoured ours, though!  Either place your Dutch oven into a preheated 300º oven and bake, covered, for about 4 hours (stirring halfway through) or set your slow cooker on LOW and cook for 4 to 6 hours.  Either way, check for adequate liquid and add more (very hot) water if necessary to avoid scorching your frijoles.

When the beans have cooked and tenderized sufficiently, stir in the vinegar.  If the sauce needs further thickening, remove the cover (for either cooking method) and continue to cook until as thick as you like.

Taste for salt, sweetness and tang and adjust as required to please your palate.  We like to serve our baked beans with plenty of fresh cracked black pepper.

Enjoy Sunday’s marathon!


Dai Due Salt Pork February 3, 2010

Filed under: beans,Dai Due,easy,vegetables — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:53 pm

steamy beans

Dai Due‘s gettin’ into my pot again.  My bean pot, that is.  This time around their aromatic and prosciutto-esquely funky salt pork—superiorly-seasoned Richardson Farms pork belly—lopped into lardons and rendered crisp, meats its match in a crock of organic black-eyed peas and garbanzos, spattered with half an emergency can of organic black beans.  Local carrots and radishes chunked up the mix while backyard savory, sage, thyme and bay lent herbal essence.  Allium alums Texas onions and organic garlic soffritto’d the misto.  A stash of local cauliflower leaves—you wouldn’t throw those away, would ya?—melted into the meld.  And there you have it.  Ladled over Lowell Farms organic jasmine rice (surprise!) OR boiled and browned  (reserve that fat) organic russet potatoes (on sale now at Newflower Market at $2.50 for a 5-pound bag), oink if you dig pig!


Dai Due–Toss-o in the Tasso January 19, 2010

Filed under: Austin Farmers Market,beans,Dai Due,easy,slow cooker,tasso — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 1:04 pm

tasso on top

Once again my favorite local charcuterie source seasons my beans.  Dried legumes, even organic, are a bargain as well as nutritional gold.  So you can afford delicious, sustainable and good for you meat when you stretch its flavor with versatile beans.  A half pound of Dai Due‘s seriously smoky tasso (hewn from local pork and crafted without nitrates) can fortify a good two pounds of dried black-eyed peas (or the pulse of your choice) or fancy up your feijoada for posher prandials.  My last batch of hoppin’ john included a pound of organic black-eyed peas (from Whole Foods bulk department.  I bring my own bag.), Texas leeks, local carrot tops (always cut off the tops before storing your carrots, but don’t throw them away!), domestic organic garlic, a home grown bay leaf and that fragrantly meaty, smoky tasso, seared for Maillard’s sake, all crocked up in the slow cooker on HIGH for a few hours.  I added a splash of organic apple cider vinegar (WF 365 brand is usually the best buy) towards the end.  Remember to salt at the beginning of the process, to fully salinate the beans and facilitate even cooking.

Serve over cooked Lowell Farms Texas grown organic jasmine rice with lots of freshly cracked black pepper and pickled hot peppers or hot sauce, if you please.  Cornbread plays friendly here, too.


Re-in(Chili con)Carne-tion January 13, 2010

Filed under: beans,easy,leftovers,meat,rice,spice blends — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 12:13 pm

Had I enough cooked rice on hand, I'd have stratified that in as well.

To use up the last couple quarts of game night chili, I recently casseroled my cache and topped the whole thing with a bag of crushed Central Market organic corn chips (otherwise known as “fritos” around here).  Melded with middle layers of mashed baked Texas sweet potatoes seasoned with salsa and a generous mop of Organic Valley pepper jack, I served up steamy scoops atop Lowell Farms Texas-grown organic jasmine rice, to rave reviews.  Let’s hear it for luscious leftovers!

I won’t attempt to taunt Texans with my chili recipe, but I will admit to a 3:1 ratio of Richardson Farms’ beef and pork.  Plus my homemade chili powder, a can of Lone Star (the national beer of Texas) and in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll fess up to adding organic canned tomatoes and slow-cooked organic black beans (I swear I’m not trying to be irreverent). Chili how you choose, and resurrect the remainder.


Dal Duo December 29, 2009

Filed under: beans,easy,fast,Indian,pressure cooker,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 5:17 pm

dueling dals---mung dal left, urad dal right

All dalled up and nowhere to go.  Nowhere I need to go right now anyway, and that’s great ’cause it’s cold and wet out and holidays—and rhinovirus round-robin– have done done me in.  Here are two different Indian-style dals to warm your hearth and belly.  The first, a mung dal based creamy chowder chunked with plenty of radishes (softened to mellowness), comes together straightforwardly.  Urad dal provides the base for the second soup, the small skinned and split beans swimming swimmingly with diced kohlrabi, caressed by silky slips of spinach.  Though requiring multiple steps, the assembly is not tricky, and the process yields a flavor and texture quite distinct from the mung dal potage, despite the a similar brassical and leafy constituency.

All that and dal is a cheap source of good nutrition, too.  I usually buy mine at Fiesta because I don’t make it up to MGM as often as I’d like.  The pressure cooker makes quick work of a pot of legumes, but you can simmer these soups the old-fashioned way if you’re not pressure-equipped.  Boil the dals 20 to 30 minutes before adding your vegetables, then continue to simmer until the base is cooked before finishing the recipe.

If you’ve got basmati rice on hand, enjoy it with these dals.  I always have a cooked pot of Texas-grown Lowell Farms organic jasmine rice in the fridge, so that’s my usual dal dais.

mung dal and rice


  • ¾ cup mung dal, picked through for pebbles and the like, well-rinsed and drained
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 to several cloves organic garlic
  • 1 bay leaf.  Grow your own if you can.  Bay needs little care.
  • heaping ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 1 Tablespoon ghee or butter, plus 2 Tablespoons ghee (not butter).  See my simple instructions for making ghee.
  • 1 or 2 bunches of local radishes, sliced about 1/6 ” thick.  If the greens look sprightly, chop ’em up, too.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 dried red chile.  Crush it up for some heat or leave it whole to accommodate the kids.
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida powder.    This stinky spice, with its natural antiviral compounds, shows promise as an H1N1 fighter.
  • ½ to a whole local onion, quartered and slice thin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • chopped fresh local cilantro to taste.  A cool weather treasure around here.

Combine the mung dal, water, garlic, bay leaf, turmeric, salt and 1 Tablespoon butter in a 6-quart pressure cooker.  Bring up to high pressure on high heat, lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure with the quick-release mechanism.  Carefully remove the lid (watch out for the steam!), and add the radishes and greens, if using.  Replace the lid and bring to high pressure again over high heat.  Cook at high pressure for another 5 minutes, remove from heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure and removing the lid—be careful!

While the dal rests, heat the ghee and cumin seeds in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  If your stove top is electric, you can use the same burner to save energy.  Add the chile.  When the cumin smells as toasty as you like, add the asafetida, followed quickly by the onion slices.  Add the salt and stir it all around.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is well-browned.  When fully browned, stir the onion mixture into the dal, put the lid on the pot and let the dal sit for a couple minutes to infuse.

Stir in the cilantro and serve, ladled over rice if you wish, with a squeeze of lemon if desired.

This soup is seasoned with a wet masala .  (Masala means spice mixture.)  The technique is easy and results in a more mellow rendering of the spices’ essence.


  • ¾ cup urad dal, picked through for pebbles and such, well-rinsed and drained
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 to several cloves organic garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • heaping ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • dab of ghee or butter, plus 3 or 4 Tablespoons ghee (not butter).  See my simple instructions for making ghee.
  • 3 medium-sized local kohlrabi, trimmed and very well peeled, diced
  • 1 bag Cora Lamar’s Texas-grown savoy spinach (10 ounces).  Triple washed and ready to cook, you needn’t prep it further.  Available at Central Market, today it’s on sale for $2.50 a bag.
  • 1 local onion, quartered and sliced thin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • medium pecan shell-sized lobe of ginger root, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida powder
  • 1 medium-sized mild whole green chile, if available, halved, seeded and sliced.  You probably won’t be finding any more local peppers at our markets right now.  If you’ve got one leftover, use it.  If not, just leave it out.

Combine dal, water, garlic, bay leaf, salt, turmeric and dab of ghee in a 6-quart pressure cooker.  Bring up to high pressure over high heat, lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure with the quick-release mechanism.  Carefully remove the lid (watch out for the steam!), and add the kohlrabi and spinach.  Replace the lid and bring to high pressure again over high heat.  Cook at high pressure for another 5 minutes, remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure and removing the lid, carefully!

While the dal is cooking, heat up a couple tablespoons of ghee with the onion slices and ¼ teaspoon salt in a small to medium skillet.  Stir and cook, regulating the heat as necessary to thoroughly brown the onion.  This will take a while, don’t try to rush it.  Meanwhile, grind the whole spices (cumin through peppercorns) in a spice grinder.  Combine with the ginger and a few tablespoons of water.

While the dal pot enjoys its second 10 minute rest, use the hot burner to heat up another couple of tablespoons or so of ghee in a medium skillet (you can use a small one if you’re out of peppers).  When the ghee is hot, dump in the asafetida, followed quickly by the chile slices.  Saute the peppers until they pick up some brown spots, then add the wet ground spice mixture.  Stir and fry until the masala dries but hasn’t scorched.  Stir the spices and onions into the cooked dal and let the soup rest for a couple minutes before correcting the salt, if needed, and serving with rice, if desired.


Dilly Dal December 4, 2009

Filed under: beans,easy,Indian,spice blends,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:16 pm

Dilly Dalling--not to be confused with dilly-dallying

Cooked dal is not so photogenic. Check out chana dal in the raw.

I’m cold and I have a cold so I want soup.  Fresh local dill is easy to find right now and I bought a large, lush frondly bunch from Finca Pura Vida at the fledgling HOPE market on Sunday.  If it snows today, and it might, I’ll transport myself to Shangri-la via Kashmir with a warming bowl of hot dal and rice.  Keeping things simple and utilizing the pressure cooker to speedy up my fantasy.

Potentially exotic ingredients are called for here: chana dal, garam masala (you can make this yourself—see bonus below), and asafetida. Down south (Austin), you’ll score the best buys on harder-to-find Indian staples at Fiesta (Stassney and I-35).  Up on the north side, I patronize MGM.  Those folks are nice and the selection is great.  Sometimes you can even find little potted curry bushes.  You can keep them in a (bigger) pot to bring inside for the winter, or you can transplant them outside.  They’ll freeze to the ground, even covered up (although we haven’t tried Christmas lighting them for warmth).  But when the weather heats up again, and you know how it will, your curry bush will greenly resurrect and once again you’ll be wondering when you’ll ever get a chance to make up a large batch of curry leaf-based curry powder to share with your friends.  Happens every year.

DILLY DAL makes a big potful

  • heaping 1 cup of chana dal, picked through, soaked for 5 hours and rinsed.
  • 6 ½ cups water
  • 1 bay leaf–We’ve been growing for years, so we use ’em fresh.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 1 or more cloves of garlic, smashed.  Local garlic not synchronizing with local dill this time of year, you can omit this ingredient.  Or use domestic organic.
  • 1  heaping teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ cup chopped fresh locally-grown dill.  Easy to find right now.  Maybe in your own yard!  I save the stems for stock.
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala.  See Bonus recipe below.
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 2 Tablespoons ghee (divided use), preferably homemade from organic butter.  See my simple instructions.
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 to 6 dried whole red chiles.  You can crush these up a bit if you want to feel the burn.
  • ¼ to ½ teapsoon powdered asafetida.  Click the link to read about this odiferous spice’s potential for combatting H1N1 as well as other respiratory afflictions.  I wouldn’t omit this unless you use plenty of garlic.  Then I still wouldn’t leave it out.  I love that stank!
  • ½ a small to medium local or organic onion, chopped
  • 3 whole organic canned tomatoes  (use fresh when in season), crushed with your fingers or chopped with a knife
  • fresh lemon, if desired—Local Meyers or regulars are great—otherwise go for organic.
  • cooked basmati or Lowell Farms Texas-grown organic jasmine rice, optional but complementary
  • toasted Margarita’s (outta Manchaca) organic whole wheat flour tortillas or chapatis, optional but appreciated

If using a pressure cooker, place dal and the next seven ingredients, plus the 1 Tablespoon of ghee in the pot.  Lock the lid on and bring to high pressure over high heat.  Turn the heat down to maintain consistent pressure and cook for about 20 minutes.  The cooking time for softening your dal will depend on the age of the beans.  If the chana dal has been sitting in your pantry for a while, or languished at the store for too long (less likely at an Indian foods market), expect a lengthier cooking time.  At any rate, check the dal after 20 minutes.  Take the pot off the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes.  Release the rest of the pressure by flipping the quick-pressure release switch (however that works on your appliance).  Be sure to open the lid AWAY from your face and arms to avoid steam burns.  The dal should be soft and broken down.  If it’s undercooked, give it another five minutes or so.  If you’re not in a hurry you can finish cooking the dal without pressure.  If you’re really trying to kill some time, you can do all the bean boiling in your regular soup pot.  It’ll probably take at least an hour.

Using an old-fashioned egg beater or a whisk, agitate the dal into a rough puree and correct the salt, if necessary.  Now for the chaunk (or tarka or bagar or a number of other similar terms).  Heat the 2 Tablespoons ghee in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  As soon as it melts add the cumin seeds and chiles.  Monitor the spices as they fry and toast and when they look and smell just right to you—as browned and roasty as you please—quickly dump in the asafetida and give the pan a swirl before adding the onions.  Get ’em browned a bit then add the tomatoes and fry the mixture until the tomatoes break down and glisten with ghee.  Pour the chaunk into the dal pot and let the flavors get acquainted for a couple minutes before serving.

Ladle over rice, or not, and brighten with a little lemon juice if you think it needs it.  No one minds a flatbread on the side, either.

BONUS RECIPE:  GARAM MASALA makes about ½ cup

  • 2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 9 cloves
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 ½ to 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Place all the spices in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Toast, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the coriander seeds have browned a shade or two darker and the spices smell righteously roasty to you.  This is YOUR garam masala, so trust your senses, especially your smeller.  When the spices have finished blooming, transfer them to a shallow baking pan, preferably aluminum or other thinner metal, to cool.  When fully cooled, decorticate (remove the pods from) the cardamom and grind all the spices together in a spice grinder.  I use a Krups coffee grinder from the thrift store (of course).  Stir the ground mixture to blend well and store in a jar in the refrigerator for greatest shelf life.