Yes, the recipes are back. This is a version of dal palak, which is dal with spinach. It’s found across India, with variations in the recipe: different types of dal, different spice combinations, and different proportions.
I had red chard in the fridge and I hadn’t made toor dal in a while, so I decided to put them together. You can use spinach, obviously, and all kinds of lentils work: split mung, masoor, and even chana.
Note: You can put all the spices in at the beginning if you want to save a step and avoid washing an extra pan, or you can do it the way I did and put some of the spices in with the chard and the rest after the chard and dal have cooked for a while. It’s an Indian thing to add the sautéd spices toward the end of cooking (the mixture is called vaghar where I’m from), and it makes a difference in the taste.
This is one of our staple meals when clams are in season. Right now the tiny ones are available at the market, and they are particularly tender and sweet. I’m not sure exactly what variety of clam they are because TheHusband buys them at the Asian grocery and I don’t think they specify beyond “clams.” But Manila and Littlenecks definitely work well, and the larger ones can be fine too.
We either serve them over pasta (another variation on spaghetti alla vongole), or you can eat them by themselves, with fresh bread on the side. For a complete meal, just add a green salad to finish. The preparation and cooking time together don’t take much more than half an hour (especially if someone else, like TheH, washes the clams while you prep the other ingredients).
20-30 fresh clams, depending on size
4-6 cloves garlic
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup white wine
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 dried red pepper (or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes)
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
3 Tbsp Italian parsley, minced
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 medium tomato, peeled and chopped
I usually post recipes made from scratch, but it occurred to me that readers might have the impression that we never ever EVER used packaged products. We don’t use many, but come on, we’re human. So I thought I’d post one of my favorite starts-with-a-package meals. It works for lunch or dinner, and it uses as a base something we’ve all eaten, mostly likely in college or when money is tight. Or last week, in my case.
I call this Cheater’s Pho because it bears a resemblance to the pho we make from scratch (homemade broth, our own spices, etc.), but it starts with a noodle base. You can use un-fried noodles, or you can use ramen. The former is healthier, while the latter is fatty but unfairly delicious (as fried foods so often are). We usually use Trader Joe’s noodle soups as a base and share one package for lunch, or we mix a TJ bowl with a ramen bowl for dinner and divide the combination into two servings. I’ll start with the TJ version.
OK, let’s get the disclaimers out of the way first. This is not good for you. This is not difficult. The ingredients are kind of mundane. But it is soooo good.
Cheese toast is one of the great snacks of my childhood and youth. Despite the fact that Indians don’t traditionally make Western-style cheese, during the British era one of the big dairies introduced a type of processed cheese that was shelf-stable and could survive the Indian heat. Hotels and clubs that catered to Europeans and Americans served this, and since we all loved it, it became a staple in some homes as well.
What sets it apart is the marriage of chiles and onions with mild cheese. The cheese is broiled and gooey and soft and then suddenly you get the tang of an onion or the bite of a tiny piece of chile.
You really need to use a boring cheese, like Cojack or mild cheddar or regular monterey jack (in the United States). But not Velveeta or American, because those don’t have the proper flavor.
We had some lovely halibut fillets in the freezer and had planned to grill them outside, but then the thunderstorms rolled in and put an end to that idea. So what to do? After debating for a while and not liking the sound of anything, we remembered this excellent chicken and orzo recipe by the marvelous Regina Schrambling. I’ve been reading Schrambling’s blog for years, but I originally found this recipe via The Wednesday Chef. The only question was, would the halibut dry out if we cooked it as long as the recipe recommended for chicken, and if we didn’t, would the orzo turn out properly? There was only one way to find out.
We followed the recipe pretty closely, but we cut back on the oregano since the fish has a more delicate flavor, and I reduced the original amount of several of the ingredients to match the proportion of fish. Oh, and we added capers and tomatoes. So maybe we didn’t follow it that closely. But it’s in the spirit of the original dish, and it tasted wonderful.