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Dal is a Hindi term used to describe well over 60 different Indian dishes that incorporate chickpeas, lentils or other beans (called pulses). The dishes feature a variety of spices – typically curry powder and they can be spicy or mild but are always served with long-grain rice – usually basmati. For a little splurge, try adding a few dried cardamom pods to the rice as it cooks. Tomatoes, tomato paste, lime or lemon juices are also often added.

Some dals are served ‘chunky’ whereas others are slightly pureed to be used more as a side dish.

Channa dal (or dhal) is one of the most popular made from chickpeas – in Southern India the dish is more like a soup and in Northern India it is more like a thick stew. The sauce doesn’t have to be made from coconut milk – canned, crushed tomatoes would also work.

The spinach can be replaced with any of the following, or a combo of the following:

leftover shredded chicken or lamb                        fresh shrimp
green peas                                                        mushrooms                             
potatoes or sweet potatoes                        
winter squash
carrots                                                              okra
cauliflower                                                        green beans
green peppers                                                   snap peas
zucchini or eggplant                                                mustard greens, radish greens or beet greens
tomatoes chopped and seeded                         cashews

Channa Dal

Channa dal is one of the classics made with chickpeas (also called garbanzos or ceci beans).  For a little different take, you could add a little tomato paste into the sautéed onion and garlic.  Lentils, lima beans, butter beans or kidney beans are also good as full or partial substitutes.

2 tsp. butter

1 onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper

½ tsp. ground ginger or add 1 tbs. fresh ginger and sauté with onion and garlic

1 tbs. curry powder

4 cups of cooked chickpeas*

1 ½ to 2 cups of coconut milk (try a light variety)

½ lb. spinach, chopped

2 tbs. yogurt

Cooked, long-grain rice to serve

Melt butter over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic (and fresh ginger if you’re using it). Season with salt and pepper. Add the chickpeas and coconut milk. Add the curry powder and dried ginger.  Bring to a simmer and add the spinach (may have to be done gradually).  Cook until softened. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt. Serve over rice. Serves 4.

*If you’d like to use canned chickpeas, 2 – 14 oz. cans rinsed and drained would be the equivalent.


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