Monday, April 27, 2009

A Lesson In Lentils

DH and I just returned from our nightly walk around the neighborhood, and as it usually happens, we have the most interesting conversations of the day during this time together. We started this routine of walking and talking quite a few months ago (in the dead of winter, because DH luuuuurves walking in the bitter cold, that awful man). What started off as a daily leisurely stroll to help with our deteriorating metabolism (another wonder of aging) has since then turned into a routine brisk 20-30 min walk, no matter what the weather. I suppose you could call it "exercise", but please don't, because if DH were to read this he'd stop doing it right away. He's severely allergic, you see. To exercise, that is. I believe it's called lazybumititus.

Back to our walk. Tonight we were thinking of ways to tackle our expanding mid-sections. DH was wondering if there was a way to do it without diet and exercise (see? told you so). I, being the voice of reason, said "no, of course not". Then we began plotting several ways of eating healthier and motivating ourselves to do regular stomach crunches. Our negotiations went something like this:

Me: From tomorrow, I'm only going to make salads!
DH: Have you gone mad, woman? Why don't you just cut out my stomach?!
Me: Ok ok, how about we eat salad for lunch everyday?
DH: Only if I can have fries with it!
Me: Erm, that kind of defeats the purpose. How about we incorporate more vegetarian options into our meals, with a sprinkling of fresh salads now and then?
DH: Fine.
Me: Really?! Neat! Ok, now pick a time of day that we will stick to, every single day, in which to do a proper workout.

... Which led to a much more interesting discussion (I think) about what workout outfits we're going to buy in order to jumpstart our new and improved lifestyle! That's half the battle right there, folks, because to look good is to feel good, I say.
Part of Plan A is to eat healthier at home, so one vegetarian option that both DH and I really enjoy is my mom's Punjh Daal (which literally translates to "five daals"). There are so many reasons to love lentils / daals. Here, let me count the ways for you. Lentils are packed with nutrients, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and folic acid. Lentils are also an important source of iron and protein, especially for women. They are a low calorie, low fat and cholesterol free food, as well as being inexpensive. You hear that?! Healthy and inexpensive. Now that's what I want to hear in this time of recession! So today, ladies and gents, I'm not going to cook with one type of daal, or two, or even three types of daal. No, today, I'm going to cook with FIVE daals!

Punjh Daal
Serves 4-6

2 tbsp masoor daal
2 tbsp chana daal
2 tbsp urad (white) daal
2 tbsp moong daal
2 tbsp tuvar (oily) daal
2 tbsp vegetable / canola oil
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 fat garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp ginger paste
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp red chilli powder (or less if you want it less spicy)
1/4 tsp turmeric (haldi)
1 hot green chile, finely chopped
Handful of cilantro, chopped

1. Mix all the lentils together and rinse them a couple of times with tap water. Then cover them with water and let them soak for half an hour.

2. Drain the lentils of the water they've been sitting in. Then put them in a saucepan, and add fresh water. The level of water should be such that it reaches 1 inch above the level of lentils in the pan. Turn the heat on to medium, and let the lentils cook till tender - about half an hour. (Keep an eye on it, because it has a tendency to boil over)

3. In the meantime, heat up the oil (medium-high heat) in a separate small pan. Toss in the cumin seeds. When they begin to darken, and you smell their nutty aroma, turn the heat down to low, and add the ginger and garlic (be careful! It will sputter a lot - better to wait till the oil cools down a bit). Stir it all around for a few seconds.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, followed by the salt, chilli powder, turmeric and green chile. Stir around, then cover with a lid and let the tomatoes soften. Oil will also separate. It will take about 7-10 mins on medium-low heat. Set aside.

5. When the lentils have softened, add the tomato mixture to it, followed by the chopped cilantro. Stir around, and let it cook for a further 3-5 mins. Taste for salt. Then you're done! Savor with parathas, chapatis, or any type of roti or flour tortilla.
Verdict: This makes a healthy main dish with roti or rice, or a great side dish with meat or chicken. It's packed with flavor, so it tricks your stomach into feeling completely satisfied. It's kinda craveworthy, folks. For me, this is the tastiest and easiest daal recipe. I always keep a regular stash of these five types of lentils in my pantry, which I get from my local Indian/Pakistani grocery. But don't sweat it if you can't find all of them - because you can just as easily make this recipe with two or three types of lentils. There's no daal police out there, for crying out loud! Erm, is there?!

Keep talking Mommy ... I am watching you.

When I'm in a rush, I sometimes spread some of this daal on a flour tortilla, roll it up, toast it lightly on a skillet, and gobble it up. Makes me feel busy and important, and yet very zen.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, if Plan A of eating healthier doesn't work out too well, I do have a Plan B. One word, ladies .... Spanx!


Suparna said...

Hi Muneeba,
LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLOL had a great laugh on the negotiation talk, my hubby also has so called mild lazybumititis (it makes me laugh) ;) can't really get him to excercise. I've totally given up on that :(
neways yipee lol...dals are healthy n inexpensive thanks god!for the panchmel dal(tha's another name for the same dal)its healthy and yup filling and leaves you satisfied.
Love the dal wrapped in rotis..we too do it the same way at times. Ozzy looks great now!
My hugs and kisses to him.
Have a great week ahead Muneeba.

Doppelganger said...

Oooh yum! I love daal! And using so many of them at the same time is such a good idea! My Mom used to make a similar kind of concoction which I loved eating with rice. I love the pictures of the lentils and the sunny color makes me smile.

And I think I might have to resort to the dreaded Spanx for my post-baby belly. And I agree with your DH; you can't have salad alone for lunch! ever! It's just wrong!

NKP said...

Oh, thank you soo much for the visual on the different kinds of daal! I have been searching for a breakdown on them. If you could give me the Indian to English translation too - I would love you forever! :)

Daily Spud said...

Ah, I'm a lentil fiend and I do count 5 kinds of lentil in my kitchen - not exactly the same 5 types as you have but still a good collection to make this with!

Sweetie Pie said...

This is getting bookmarked for certain! I love lentils, and this recipe sounds perfect for my tastebuds and my waistline. Thanks for sharing it!

The dialogue portion of this post cracked me up! I'm glad the two of you were able to come up with a compromise... and that your plan involves new workout clothes! Fun!

Anonymous said...

Five daals! Neat! Looks excellent!

Foodiewife said...

I so feel you. After making blintzes (ahem) and other baked goods, I'm realizing it's time to whip into shape. I loved this posting! The colors are amazing. We do love lentils, but I didn't know about the different varieties. Oh, yes, this will grace our table. Count on it. As for exercise, it's swimming season. Thank goodness that nobody uses the neighborhood lap pool early in the morning. That's when I sneak in. Thanks for the healthy inspiration.

Sophie said...

Oooooh,...Muneeba!!! I also love lentils in every way!!
Your dish looks wonderfully delicious! I love it!! Lentils are good for us & so yummie aswell!
Great food!

Varsha Vipins said...

Awesome my dear..!! This makes a yummy,filling quick fix meal n add a wee bit of ghee n heavenly it would taste..Can indulge without much guilt as it has all the goodness of lentils..wowie..:)

Kerstin said...

What a pretty lentil dish - it looks so flavorful AND healthy! We always have lentils around, but I'm not sure which kind they are - you've inspired me to continute my search for an Indian market here in Boston!

Oh, and I never thought I'd be one of those girls with the cute matching outfit at the gym when I was in college, but I totally am now :)

Yasmeen said...

Totally agree with you,the lentils nutrition profile is commendable.About lazy exercise syndrome,I'm in the same boat,occasional yoga sounds a lot to me,but my better half is quite the opposite,refuses to eat until his routine workout is complete.

Muneeba said...

Suparna, so glad to know that my blog made you laugh! hubbies are funny creatures, aren't they?! And thks for asking after Ozzy :)
Shai, don't worry, I won't be having just salad anytime soon ... I've already bought a pair of Spanx to keep things sucked in ;)
Natashya, you ask so nicely - how can I refuse?! Check out this link:
Spud, go crazy .. you lentil fiend you .. let me know which 5 daals you're gonna try this with!
Sweetie Pie, glad you got a kick out of my ridiculous conversations with DH ;)
Thks 5 Star Foodie!
Debby, you're already way ahead of me ... swimming n all .. I love swimming too!
Thks Sophie, for the compliments!
Varsha .. I have no idea why I didn't think of adding ghee ... that stuff is like magic!
Kerstin, there HAS to be an indian store in Boston. Go forth & ye shall find!
Yasmeen, we must out-do our spouses in the workout arena ... we can't let them be the outshine us, I tell ya!

Astra Libris said...

I just discovered your wonderful blog, and first, may I say, your cat is SO handsome!! Wow! He is truly an exceptional kitty! :-)

I am also quite excited about this recipe - I adore lentils!

unconfidentialcook said...

I need a lesson in lentils--thank you! Love that annotated photo!

Teanna said...

Lazybumitis is a killer! So glad that you guys are being health conscious! I've had to get on that boat too... Looks like even though i work out 5 days a week, it still can't counter eating baked goods! Who knew??? :) That recipe looks great!

Bread and Jam said...

Thank you for sharing about lentils because I love them but have very few recipes for preparing them. This one sounds delicious. I equally love the post of your kitty! :)

Ann said...

Oh, so creative idea of lentil wrap.. and Kitty looks cool!

Justine said...

i love the line up of the lentils! Beautiful and informative.

test it comm said...

I have just started to get into lentils and there are so many types to try.