My roommate invited the ladies from my Tuesday night Stitch & Bitch group over for a potluck last week. I’ve been quite busy as of late, so when I found out about the soiree, my first thoughts were, “Does this mean I have to move the window air conditioner off of the living room floor?” and “What about the gas-powered rototiller? Do I need to move that, too?” (Living with me, my lovely roommates may confess, involves ongoing home renovation projects that often get put on hold until finances or a break in food-related distractions allow for further production.)
My third thought was (while I’m being blatantly honest), “Here’s a way to unload some CSA zucchini and squash.” The Stitch & Bitch ladies are not only extremely talented craftswomen and conversationalists, but they’re also passionate food people, and most of them seem to be vegetarian.
A potluck is not only a good way to clear the kitchen of random zucchini, carrots and the stray ear or two of sweet corn, but a perfect prompt to create some movement in the pantry, as well. I had some dried beans that had been long-ignored and were ready to find a home in a garrulous crafter’s belly.
I found a recipe for dal (slow-cooked legumes) in Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World that miraculously involved ingredients I already had. And so, while simultaneously baking off mismatched squash in the oven, and simmering a this-and-that carrot soup on the stove top, I stumbled upon a dish and a combination of flavors that left a permanent mark in my mental cookbook. While I did not like the texture of beans (perhaps the more traditional lentils would have been better), I loved and savored the flavor of curry powder, cumin, cayenne and ginger that enveloped them. In short, I cannot wait to find a way to purposefully explore this combination again, perhaps within a context that didn’t double as a pantry clean-out.
My fourth thought, by the way, did not happen until the last dish was paired with a serving spoon and displayed for the women who put up with my off-color jokes and poor knitting skills. It was simply, “I love these girls.” And it’s true, I do.
from The Best Recipes in the World, Mark Bittman
1 pound dried lentils or small beans, rinsed and picked over
1 onion, roughly chopped
one 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
cayenne pepper to taste
3 or 4 tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped, optional
salt and black pepper, to taste
Combine all the ingredients except salt and pepper in a large pot, along with water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat so the mixture simmers steadily but not violently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft, about an hour.
Season to taste and serve or cover and refrigerate for up to several days before reheating.