Sunday, September 23, 2007

Chana Dal and Amaranth Leaves

Doing some research for the weed science class I'm TA-ing, I stumbled across a wonderful food blog (Mahanandi) of the cuisine of southern India, specifically a recipe that uses amaranth leaves (right here). Amaranth is considered a weed in the US, but the grains and greens are used worldwide in cooking. The recipe is for 'chana dal', which are similar to chick-peas, but much smaller and faster-cooking. I found them at the co-op, but I've also seen them at the large grocery store here. Soak them overnight for best results. Also, you could use spinach instead of amaranth, but the amaranth is so good that you should try to find it (I got mine at the Chinese grocery) or collect it from the garden yourself. I think I like it more than spinach, and from now on I will harvest the weedy volunteers in my garden. You should do your best to follow the recipe on the original site--I had to make a bunch of substitutions, but it still turned out really well and even looked just like the picture. Here's the recipe as I would make it if I had all the ingredients, with the substitutions I used in parentheses).

5 small, hot green chilis (2 green Hungarian peppers)
2 Tbsp. grated, unsweetened coconut (2 Tbsp. coconut milk)

1. Grind these together in a food processor or mortar & pestle. I think it should make a fairly dry paste, but mine was more liquidy. This didn't seem to be a problem, though.

1/2 c. chana dal, soaked overnight and drained
1 large bunch amaranth leaves, washed and chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped (yellow onion)
1 Tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. black mustard seed (yellow mustard seed)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
chapatis (flour tortillas)

2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium. Add the cumin, garlic, and mustard seeds. Stir these until the garlic is soft and just starts to brown (my mustard seeds started popping, so I just held the lid a little bit over the pan.).
3. Add the chana dal and onion and increase the heat. Stir these until the dal is a bit roasty and the onion is soft.
4. Add the amaranth and green chili/coconut paste, and stir a couple of times. Put the lid on and cook several minutes until the leaves are well wilted.
5. Remove the lid and cook the liquid off. Salt to taste.

Serve this hot with chapatis or warmed flour tortillas. The dal will be rather dry, but I think that's how it's supposed to be. If you don't like it that way you can add some liquid and cook longer, which is fine because the amaranth holds up better to cooking than spinach. I know this may seem like a crazy recipe full of ingredients you don't have, but it is really good and worth a try, especially if you have amaranth in your yard or find it at the store. Amaranth is also known as: thotakura (India), red spinach, Chinese spinach, hinn choy (Chinese), tampala (Sinhalese?), callaloo (W. Indies). Basically if you find a smooth, broad-leafed, tender green with reddish/purplish veins in the center of the leaf, it's probably amaranth. Check out the original recipe for good pictures.

1 comment:

Marjorie Magidow Schalles said...

What's for dinner, mom?

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