This post was going to involve a lot of complaining about Mark Bittman, because I was thinking about something I thought he had once said—that some recipe of his was quicker to make than it would be to order in, and tasted better, too. I was going to say that Mark Bittman only dislikes greasy, salty Chinese takeout because he hasn’t eaten a drop of high-fructose corn syrup since he was fifteen and in his rebellious stage. But I can’t find this supposed quote, and also I like Mark Bittman, so I should probably stop complaining.
After last week’s Indian mini-debacle (I’m declaring it a debacle because I have to eat it for lunch all week and this thought fills me with dread), I wanted something simple for dinner. So obviously I decided to make dal and naan. But I chose two recipes from Budget Bytes, and her recipes are simple, well-illustrated, and suited to my American palate. (That sounds like a terrible insult; I just mean she doesn’t use crazy spices, and that’s what I wanted this week. Something that would at least approximate the familiar.) And I wasn’t really in the mood for cooking; I had Chinese takeout yesterday, so now all I want in the world is MORE CHINESE TAKEOUT. But no.
I’m also making cauliflower braised in crushed tomatoes with fried onions. This isn’t a recipe; I just wanted a vegetable, and the tomatoes tie the cauliflower into the dal, which also has tomatoes. I was also hoping the cauliflower would feel Indian to me because I don’t usually eat cauliflower out of a Thai or Indian context. (This article made me think of this—the different spices she uses make the meat taste like different types of meat. My dinner plan is an type of that, I guess.)
I don’t know much about cauliflower, but I did discover an awesome way to break it down. You first cut it in half lengthwise (through the stem), then sort of pry off any extra leaves and stem bits you can reach. Then you just grab the remaining stem, hold the rest of the cauliflower, and break it off. It was satisfying and effective. Then I sliced off the florets. I sauteed the onions first, which I sliced in half-moons, and then took them out of the pan and added the cauliflower. I tried to brown them, along with some garlic and olive oil, but gave up because I had ridiculously overcrowded the pan; then I added some crushed tomatoes and water (why?????) and put my Dutch oven lid on top. I’m hoping it will cook down. I don’t know what I’m doing. It looks OK, though.
Meanwhile, the naan is still rising. It’s probably risen enough, but I don’t have any burner space to deal with it. Also I’m tired and don’t feel like cooking. (The dal is nearly done at this point. Budget Bytes has a good step-by-step and I haven’t adapted it at all, so just look at her site instead of mine. Goodbye.)
Update: I am now eating spicy, creamy red-lentil dal and oily naan. I HAVE ARRIVED.
Update: It is now the next day. I would just like to give a word of warning about leftover naan dough. For some reason I thought it would be a great idea to roll the little balls up and put them in tin foil; this happened:
So don’t do that. Also, I just burned the shit out of some naan. Don’t use butter instead of oil. Post–removing the burnt spots, though, it’s still really good. My overall review is that it’s not Indian restaurant naan, but it is warm and bready and wonderful and I want to eat it forever.
I also really like the cauliflower—spicy, not quite enough salt, big tender vegetable chunks, and crunchy onions.
The dal is really good, too—I love the cream + spice combo. And I now know that I love red lentils. People always criticize red lentils for not holding their texture, but that’s why I wanted to use them; I have never really liked the texture of lentils, and wanted something creamy and soupy. Here they are.