I’d like to tell you a quick story about a cookbook I recently purchased. A few weeks ago, I got the bright idea that our local used book store would have tons of second-hand cookbooks for sale. I suggested that Laura and I head down into town for a visit. I was interested in picking up three or four new sources of inspiration.
We chose a day, drove to town and headed into the store. I was greeted by racks and racks of all types of instruction manuals that taught how to be a better cook. There were also hundreds of books that were stuffed to the gills with recipes. As I began to browse through the selection though, I quickly realized that out of all the available books, very few of them had any photos attached to the recipes. There were oodles of short paragraphs that included recipes, but virtually no decent pictures that showed what one would create by preparing the dish.
Most of the books were over a decade old (maybe even two or three decades). By today’s standards, they were prehistoric. In this day and age, when people buy cookbooks, they like to look at pretty pictures. This isn’t only my opinion – it’s what society has decided and is evidenced by virtually every single cookbook on the market today. As they say, you eat with your eyes first. I’m not sure I was prepared for the disappointment. I have a feeling the bookstore knew what was going on too, because there was a 40% off sale on all the books in this particular section.
Upon further browsing, I did manage to find a diamond in the rough. Apparently, Curtis Stone has released a few pieces of magic into the wild and one of his books caught my eye. It’s called What’s For Dinner? I picked it up, flipped through what ended up to be some seriously awesome recipes that were accompanied by even better looking photographs and found a price of only $6. Marked down with the discount and I had a deal on my hands. I bought it and the rest is history. So, the next two recipes I post on this site are from his book. They’re pretty great.
The recipe I’ll be sharing today is called Cauliflower & Spinach Dal. It’s a vegetarian Indian dish that’s fairly simple to prepare. If you’ve never tried your hand at Indian before, this may be a good opportunity to start what may be a rewarding endeavor. Indian, by far, is one of my favorite types of food. Every time I eat it, I’m blown away by the flavors and the complexity of the spices. I mean, it’s really, really good.
Dal is one of the principal foods of Indian cuisine. The term can be used to mean either an ingredient or the dish made from it. It’s typically a preparation of soupy lentils tempered with spices. In the case of the recipe below, the “lentils” are yellow split peas and the spices are coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper and turmeric.
As far as the health benefits of this recipe, I’d say they are fairly stellar. For instance, Turmeric is a powerful medicine that has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions. You can read more about that here.
You can also read about the health benefits of coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper. The remaining ingredients are pretty well known, so I’ll talk about them another time. They’re vegetables we eat every day. And actually, if you don’t add any salt to this dish, every single ingredient is good for you, so there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving it a try.
2 Tablespoons Regular Olive Oil
1 Large Yellow Onion
4 Garlic Cloves
1 Jalapeno Pepper
2 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
2 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Coriander
2 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric
1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Pound Yellow Split Peas
Regular Table Salt
Ground Black Pepper
1 Large Cauliflower Head
6 Ounces of Fresh Baby Spinach
If you don’t already have the spices for this recipe, but plan to go ahead with it, purchase the largest containers you can. You’ll undoubtedly want to make more and having them on hand is always a plus. Also, just so you don’t drive yourself crazy, the yellow split peas are dry and can be found in the Goya section of the supermarket. They come in a bag, just like lentils and other grains.
Soften Onion & Add Spices
In a large pot, add the 2 tablespoons of regular olive oil and warm over medium heat. Chop the onion and add it to the pot when hot.
Cook the onions, while stirring, until they are good and soft. This will take just a few minutes. In the meantime, chop the 1 Jalapeno pepper and the 4 cloves of garlic and add those ingredients to the pot as well.
Stir well for a few more minutes. After that, add the 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground ginger, the 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground coriander, the 2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin, the 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and the 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Stir well for 2 minutes to cook the spices somewhat.
At this point, things should be smelling mighty fine. If you’re not used to Indian spices, you’re in for a treat.
Add in the 1 pound of dry yellow-split peas and stir.
Then, add 8 cups of water to the pot and bring it to a boil. When boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer for approximately 35 minutes. This step is meant to soften the peas. You may also season with salt and pepper at this point, if you desire.
While the peas are cooking, chop the cauliflower into 1 inch pieces. Then, after the peas have softened, add the cauliflower to the pot.
Partially cover the pot again and continue cooking for another 35 minutes. Both the peas and the cauliflower should be extremely tender after this step. Again, you may season with salt and pepper if you want.
Add Spinach & Serve
When the cauliflower is finished cooking, the ingredients should have come together nicely and they will have thickened into something like a soup. When this occurs, you can either add the 6 ounces of baby spinach directly to the pot and stir or you can chop them first and then add them. I actually added 12 ounces and didn’t chop anything. I merely trimmed the stems.
Stir the baby spinach into the other ingredients until it’s wilted.
The Final Dish
There are a few different ways to enjoy this dish. You can either add it directly to a bowl and eat it like a soup or you can prepare rice and eat it over that. In my case, Laura whipped up some Basmati rice and added the dal to that. We both loved it and now have lots of leftovers.
If you’ve enjoyed today’s post and found it helpful, please share it with a friend. Also, if you’d like to continue reading and would like our posts sent directly to your email inbox, simply sign up for our newsletter. We’ll send each and every post directly to you. Thanks!