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I'm not supposed to tell you that this lentil soup (dal) is healthy. Kathy says that doing so will somehow rob it of its yumminess. And it IS yummy. Addictively so. Within 24-hours of whipping up that first pot, I had to make another. A cross between Cream of Chicken and Potato Soup in its comfort-food factor, this Indian staple was an immediate family favorite and will be in your house too. Served on its own or with a full meal, it will steal the show.

Yellow Lentils (Masoor Dal) are high in both protein and fiber and this super-simple soup is a perfect way to do something nice for your body without sacrificing taste. The flavor is mild enough that you can mix it up and add or substitute your favorite flavors. Spinach instead of cilantro or a drizzle of Sriracha on top. The possibilities only end at the bottom of your bowl. And as Kathy would tell you, having gotten over the "Healthy" hurdle, don't knock it until you've tried it and licked your bowl clean. (Recipe Below)

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A tasty new book propped up in the kitchen

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My mother-in-law  laughs when she finds me pouring over recipe books and I tell her that I feel guilty getting caught yet again with Food P0rn. I was actually looking for something completely different in the library when I fell upon this one, but immediately the spicy chickpea curry with fresh dill leaves on the book’s cover made my mouth water. Dill is one of those herbs that I ignored for years.  The very first dinner I ever cooked (at the age of fifteen) was Lemon Dill Chicken out of my mother’s Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I made it once or twice after that, during my short run as an Air Force wife and then, never again. In fact, dill disappeared almost completely from my kitchen until about a year ago, when my friend Susanne whipped up a lemon and dill cream cheese to compliment the smoked salmon she was serving. Suddenly, I fell in love with the damn dillweed all over again. Citrus and dill with fish or  in French Potato Salad or even in a nice cheesy cornbread. Oh the lovely fragrant things that dill can do!

I was surprised, however, to see dill pop up in an Indian cookbook. Having long been a fan of the Garbanzo(aka chickpea) I immediately set out to whip up the recipe featured on the book’s cover, Ruta Kahate’s Chickpea Curry With Fresh Dill. Kahate’s original recipe calls for a full teaspoon of cayanne, and I made my test batch that way, which was great and spicy. I’ve halved that here, just so you can get the flavor without the extra heat, but adjust to your own taste.

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Roasted Chicken in Tamarind Butter Sauce

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When I moved from Santa Cruz to Modesto, I had to give up my favorite Indian eateries. No more Aloo Tikki from the Royal Taj. No more Basil Eggplant courtesy of Asian Rose. In short, I had to start all over, sampling the local fare where I could find itand still, I felt somehow unsatisfied. For a while, I made do with Trader Joe’s Simmer Sauces (both the Curry and Masala sauces are tasty, thrifty and stupid-simple ways to get Indian flavors to your table) but still, I wanted more. It was at this point, that I fell upon “The Spice Merchant’s Daughter” and embarked upon the journey which my family now refers to as Jules’ Indian Obsession. The book  is full of delectable dishes, but the Whole Roasted Chicken with Tamarind Butter Sauce stands out and tops my list of  Unexpectedly Extravagant home-cooked cravings. There is nothing shy or subtle about these flavors.  The sweetness of the marinade plays off the tang of the tamarind and each bite screams with flavor. Read the rest of this entry »

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I am eating leftover potato & pea samosas for lunch today and feeling rather smug about them.  After six weeks of fretting over the perfect samosa wrapper, (not philo dough, not pastry puffs, not egg roll wraps … so many NOTS, i've even forgot a few) I finally broke down two days ago and asked the woman behind the counter at Spice of India, what might work.

Now asking the woman behind the counter about  ANYTHING at all is something I would have normally been too intimidated to do. In fact, even going into the little Indian market is something I spent most of my life being too intimidated to do until my friend Susanne The Scot scoffed at me.

"What do you think they're going to do? Yell at you for daring to spend your money in their store?"

Well maybe.

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sweating an onion

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Tonight is all about the chutneys. Actually that's not exactly true, but it IS the first line that came to me when I decided to sit down and write while simultaneously sweating an onion on the stove. Ok, so it started out about chutneys, which I had to Wikipedia for the most basic understanding, before I went off in search of a decent chutney to accompany the potato and pea samosas that I conquered  the last time i went on one of these nervous energy late night cooking sprees.

Mostly, it is a way to stop thinking of all the things I spend most of the day thinking about … the overwhelming, the sad and scary, the things I can't do anything about late at night … if I am worrying about measurements and sauté pans and spice mixes (i have used more garam masala in the last month than i did in all the years which proceeded it.) somehow everything else manages to fall away for a little while.

I was looking for a spicy chutney recipe tonight, something that would compliment the mildness of the samosas that I wanted to make for my nephew's wife tomorrow. But with what was stocked in our cupboards, I could only make a tomato/onion one (turned out way too italian-ish for these purposes) and the same basic minty raita i always make. At that point, i decided to up the heat in the potato/pea mash, hopefully making the samosas worthy of a nice cooling minty/cucumber dip.

Two hours of this kitchen putter and the sink is full of dirty utensils, the counter cluttered with spice jars, and the last of the nights creations ready to be snapped up with Tupperware lids and relegated to the refrigerator for the night. My hands are sore and protesting the evening's labor. My feet remind me that they would someday like some fancy slippers with arch support. My whole self feels old and tired and achy.  But once again, I have outwitted, sidetracked and subverted worry, sadness, fear and grief until such time that I can fall exhausted into bed and a half-decent sleep.

Some days, that (and a tasty Indian appetizer with a halfway-decent dipping sauce) is the most one can hope for.

Update: As it turns out, the perfect accompaniment for the samosa cups (which is how i served up the taster version of the spiced potato/pea filling on the night in question) was a dollop (yeah, i said dollop, what'cha gonna do about it?) of plain Greek Yogurt. Who knew?