INDIAN LENTIL-and-SPINACH DAL (Palak Dal)
Dal refers to Indian lentils or the dishes that are made with them. This version of dal has spinach added. Assorted spices are essential for obtaining the complex, aromatic ﬂavors. Other spices of your choice can be used, adding to or replacing the listed ingredients and personalizing the dish to make it your own. As dried beans take a while to cook and fresh spinach cooks very quickly, make sure that the lentils have just the right texture before adding the spinach for the ﬁnal touch.
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 green jalapeno or serrano chiles, cut lengthwise into quarters
1⁄4 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 1⁄2 cups split yellow lentils, split yellow peas, or split chana dal
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tablespoon vegetable base (ﬂavor enhancer or bouillon cube)
1 tablespoon sugar, or more to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon asafetida
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 pound fresh spinach, leaves only
1 cup thinly sliced green onions, both green and white parts
Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Stir in the mustard seeds, chiles, and ginger. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mustard seeds start to jump and crackle and the chiles sizzle. Transfer to a bowl and set aside for garnish.
Rinse the lentils thoroughly with cold water. Put the lentils and vegetable stock in the same pot used for the mustard seeds and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, skimming off any foam or impurities that float to the surface.
Stir in the vegetable base, sugar, cumin, coriander, turmeric, asafetida, and salt. Partially cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, until the lentils are very tender and only a little liquid is left on top.
Stir in the spinach and green onions. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until the spinach is wilted. Add a little water if the mixture is too dry. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with the reserved mustard seeds, chiles, and ginger for garnish.