Orange Lentil Dal with Coconut Milk and Kale

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This is my favorite dal recipe, and I don’t say that lightly. From Iranian adassi to Sri Lankan parippu, I’ve never met a version of dal I didn’t like, but I always come back to this one. Creamy, coconuty, and redolent with warm spices, this dal is what dreams are made of.

Make sure to use actual orange (or red) lentils here — not yellow split peas (chana dal/gheymeh). Toor dal will also work in a pinch. Split peas won’t give that velvety texture that lentils will. The chicken stock isn’t traditional, but it adds a savory layer of depth. This is alchemy in a bowl.

Yellow lentil dal with coconut milk and kale

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
1 green chili pepper (such as Serrano), thinly sliced
1 quart chicken stock or broth
One 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 cups orange lentils, cleaned
1 bunch kale, stemmed and leaves coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt
Pepper

1. In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil. Add the cumin, fennel and turmeric and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chili pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Spoon half of the spiced onion mixture into a small bowl and reserve.

2. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, and lentils to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the kale and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

3. Spoon the dal into bowls. Top with the reserved onion mixture and serve warm.

Roasted Broccoli with Nutritional Yeast

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I get it. Nutritional yeast doesn’t make your tastebuds salivate and broccoli never got anyone too excited. But this easy side dish is virtuously healthy and actually tastes really, really good. Never had nutritional yeast? Think of it as umami powder: slightly cheesy and super savory. Sprinkle it on your greens and you’ll be asking for seconds in no time.

Roasted broccoli with nutritional yeast

Ingredients:

2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets and similarly-sized pieces of peeled stalk
2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil, warmed to liquefy
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss vegetables with oil on a rimmed baking sheet to coat and season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and tender, 20–25 minutes. Let cool slightly, then toss with nutritional yeast.

Musaengchae (Korean Radish Salad)

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Want something quick, healthy, and delicious to go with dinner? Musaengchae is your answer. This Korean radish dish is typically served as part of a banchan spread, but it goes just as well with rice and soup as part of a full meal, particularly in the winter. Crunchy, garlicy, and vinegary, it’s one of my favorite banchans. Best of all, you can make this well ahead of serving time. Don’t be put off by the amount of red pepper — it’s only mildly spicy.

Musaengchae (Korean radish salad)

Ingredients:

1 pound Korean radish (or daikon)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1. Peel the radish and cut it into thin matchsticks. You should have about 3 cups of radish. Place radish matchsticks into a large bowl, add salt and mix by hand. Set aside for 5 minutes.

2. Squeeze out excess water from the radish and drain. Add garlic, green onion, vinegar, gochugaru, and sugar and mix by hand. Add sesame seeds and mix once more.

3. Let rest for at least half an hour and up to 5 hours. Transfer to a serving plate and serve room temperature or cold.

Pan-fried Tofu with Spicy Seasoning

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I’m obsessed with banchan. You know, the beautiful and delicious array of side dishes that magically appear at Korean restaurants? One of my favorite banchans are these little bites of pan-fried tofu with a deceptively simple spicy sauce.

Golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside, these make for a super easy vegetarian appetizer. Best of all, they can be served room temperature.

Panfried tofu with spicy seasoning sauce

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 pound medium or firm tofu
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1. Combine the soy sauce, green onions, sugar, gochugaru, sesame oil, and sesame seeds in a small bowl to make the sauce. Set aside.

2. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Add the tofu and pan-fry until the bottoms turn golden brown, about 8 minutes. Carefully flip the tofu with a spatula and drizzle the remaining tablespoon vegetable oil around the edges of the pan to spread evenly. Cook until the other side of the tofu is golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.

3. Transfer the tofu to a serving plate. Spoon the seasoning sauce on top and serve.

Hot and Sour Soup with Lemongrass

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I’ve amassed a lot of cookbooks over the years, but there’s one I return to time and time again. It’s my tattered, dog-eared copy of Martin Yan’s China. I grew up watching PBS’ roster of old school chefs, including Martin Yan. Naturally, the first cookbook I bought followed suit.

Hot and sour soup is one of the first things I learned to make from Yan’s cookbook. My version today bears little resemblance to the original recipe, but the nostalgia remains strong. It may not be authentic, but it has a piece of my heart forever.

Oh, also, this soup is delicious.

Hot and sour soup with lemongrass

Ingredients:

4 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 pieces dried wood ear mushrooms
1 package soft tofu
5 cups chicken broth
1 stalk lemongrass, bottom six inches only, crushed
2 slices ginger, crushed
1 small carrot, julienned
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, julienned
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Soak shiitake wood ear mushrooms in warm water until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Thinly slice mushrooms. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes.

2. Place broth in a large pot; bring to a boil. Add shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, lemongrass, and ginger. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Discard lemongrass and ginger.

3. Add tofu, carrots, and bamboo shoots; cook for 2 minutes. Add vinegar, soy sauce, and chili garlic sauce; bring to a boil.

4. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until soup boils and very slightly thickens. Turn off heat. Add egg, stirring, until it forms long threads. Serve hot.