This is harder than I thought it would be

Wow, so dramatic. The title of this post refers to making more Hare Krishna food: lobia, or black-eyed peas in tamarind-ginger sauce. (Sorry, I don’t know how to link to a particular part of the page. Help?) I’m in a food rut and nothing sounded good except more interesting bean-based dishes, so that’s what I did (and a vegetable recipe that I hope will be better than last week’s—last week’s turned into such a debacle that I couldn’t even post about it).

I had this weird idea that I had seen tamarind paste in my grocery store before, but of course I was wrong and it was guava paste. I ended up buying a box of whole tamarinds, and then discovered I probably shouldn’t have bought sweet ones, but I didn’t know there were different types of tamarinds. So this dish probably didn’t come out the way it was supposed to.

I own a lot of black-eyed peas now. I’m not sure if I like them.

That was step one in the unexpected difficulties. I soaked my black-eyed peas overnight and, the next day, boiled the water they were in and then added some ginger, turmeric, and chili powder. I then left it to cook for a while.

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If it’s meant to be, you will find him.

I met a very wise Hare Krishna on Saturday while my family and I were looking for our Hare Krishna cousin at the Hare Krishna festival in New York. He gave us that nugget of wisdom (see title) instead of telling us where our cousin was. I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. Nevertheless we did find him in the end; I suppose it was meant to be.

We were coming from brunch so we didn’t partake of the free feast, but everything looked amazing and chickpea-ful and saucy and spicy and warmening. (Hare Krishnas are vegetarian; my cousin preached at us a bit. Then I had a cheeseburger for dinner.) So when I was deciding what to cook for the week, the only thing that appealed was something Hare Krishna-esque. I found this AMAZING website with tons and tons and tons of fascinating and beautiful vegetarian Indian recipes, and I might make nothing but recipes from this website for the rest of my life. (I hate summer, and never really want to eat anything; I am not big on salads. So I’m probably just going to cook recipes from hot countries all summer.)

After an extensive deciding interlude, I settled on Bengali red dal curry (you’ll have to scroll down). (It was between that and pear dal, which I had never heard of before and thus was really intrigued by.) I also decided to do a vegetable thing vaguely following the Aviyal #4 recipe.

I ended up using regular brown lentils instead of red—I’m a little out-red-lentiled lately—but, spoiler alert, it came out fantastic and it’s definitely my biggest success with brown lentils to date.

I chopped my jalapeños, first slicing the tops off and carving out the inside using my paring knife to remove the ribs and seeds. I put them in my bigger saucepan with the lentils, water, salt, and turmeric. (It is QUITE salty, which makes it taste really good. I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe soon that actually specified the amount of salt, and this was a perfect amount for me. But if you’re not me perhaps you’ll want less.) I cooked it for a while while doing other cooking activities—I didn’t time it because the recipe was for red lentils and brown take longer, but it was probably somewhere around thirty to forty minutes.

After cooking

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Red-lentil dal and naan

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.

Naan dough, pre-rising. I didn’t knead it NEARLY enough because it was super sticky and I couldn’t tolerate it. I also didn’t form it into a ball. See: stickiness.

Red lentils are beautiful?

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Saag paneer + how to: make cheese!

After ten, nay, maybe fifteen, years since my first attempt (in which Jacqui and I struggled with rennet and she ended up pouring whey all over my hands, as far as I remember), I have succeeded in creating cheese. Possibly. It is still sitting in the sink wrapped in cheesecloth being weighted down by a Dutch oven and a 28-ounce can of tomatoes. But it’s in there.

A couple days ago when I decided I wanted to make saag paneer, I intended it as a cheeseless (so just saag) side dish to red-lentil dal. Then I decided I absolutely had to make cheese, and then I decided not to bother with the dal, and then I decided not to even have it for dinner because it’s 9:19 p.m. and I am nowhere near finishing it. (I’m eating pizza and salad.)

Anyway. I came back from the laundromat, where I had been yelled at for not properly understanding the sign with their hours and for putting my clothes in to dry at an inopportune time vis-a-vis closing, and frantically began making cheese. A half gallon of milk went into the Dutch oven to boil; when I thought I spotted bubbles under the surface of the skin that had formed, I added three tbsp distilled white vinegar. Exactly what you ordinarily never want to happen to milk happened: it curdled.

I post a surprising number of gross-milk photos.

This was around the time that my whole apartment started smelling terrible. I poured the curds and whey into a cheese-cloth-lined colander in the sink and raced out to get the laundry from the dryer. Continue reading