Friday, July 27, 2007

Y is for Yellow!

Yellow Squash Dalcha, Carrot Raita and brown rice

Sorry, this is hardly the most beautifully composed dinner plate, but what it lacks in good looks it more than makes up for in good taste! I really don't need an excuse these days to cook myself an Indian meal. It took me forever to finally muster the courage to tackle my first recipe, but now I find myself quite often turning to my Indian cookbooks (and particularly Madhur Jaffrey) when looking for an answer to the question, "what's for dinner?" Though I don't need an excuse to cook Indian, I'm afraid I've become such a slacker blogger of late that I do need an reason to post about it. Well, I've got one - Nupur's A to Z of Indian Vegetables. She's running out of letters, so it's now or never!

This week's letter is Y and all I could think of was Yellow Squash and Yogurt. With that in mind, I chose two recipes from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian - a fantastic cookbook that has quickly become one of my very favorites. The first is Vegetarian Dalcha - a sambar of masoor dal (red lentils) from Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. The zucchini in this recipe is a substitute for bottle gourd in the traditional recipe. I'm not sure what distinguishes Dalcha from other sambars, but I think it might be the bottle gourd... so is a Dalcha with yellow squash really a Dalcha? It may be a misnomer, but I've dubbed my adpatation "Yellow Squash Dalcha" just so I get that all-important Y in there. :) I love dal under any name and this easy-to-make dish did not disappoint. It is delicously seasoned and the squash, which is cooked for just a couple of minutes, provides a nice contrast in texture.

Next up is Carrot Raita - a mixture of yogurt and spiced grated carrot which has been lightly cooked. I never dreamed that the carrot mixture would color the yogurt so beautifully. In fact, much to my surprise, what I ended up with could rightly be called "Yellow Yogurt"! (OK - so it's closer to golden, or maybe even orange, but humor me... please?) My experience with raitas is limited to the most basic - tomato and cucumber - but after my experience with this one, I'm anxious to try others. I especially enjoyed this raita just after it was made and was still at room temperature, but it can also be eaten chilled. Next time I may cut back slightly on the oil and might even increase the red chilli powder a bit.

Yellow Squash Dalcha
adapted from "Red Lentils with Zucchini" in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian

1 cup masoor dal, picked over and rinsed
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 tbs canola oil (the original recipe calls for 1/4 cup, but I found this was plenty)
4 whole cardamom pods
1 1/2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tsp ginger paste
3 garlic cloves, mashed or very finely minced
2 small yellow squash cut into half-circles about 1/2-inch thick
black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
freshly-squeezed lime juice

Place the masoor dal and 4 cups water in a pot (holding at least 3 quarts) and bring to a boil. Stir in the turmeric, turn the heat down to low and cover (keep the lid slightly ajar). Cook the dal for about 40 minutes. When done stir in the salt.

Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the spices (cardamom, cinnamon, bay, and cumin) and cook for a minute. Add the onion and stir and cook until slightly browned. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute. Add the squash, black pepper, and red chilli powder and stir for another minute then stir in 1/2 cup water, cover the pan and lower the heat. Cook for 2 minutes. Pour the squash mixture into the dal and stir. Add freshly-squeezed lime juice to taste and stir.

"Yellow Yogurt" (aka Carrot Raita)
adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian

2 tbs (or less) oil (I used canola, but I see now that olive oil was one of the suggested oils and I'd be inclined to use that next time)
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch asafetida
8 oz carrots, coarsely grated
1/2 tsp salt, divided
2 cups plain yogurt (I used lowfat)
black pepper to taste
1/8 - 1/4 tsp red chilli powder

Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, stir in the asafetida. Add the grated carrots and stir and cook for 15 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Let the carrots cool to room temperature.

Whisk the yogurt until smooth and then whisk in 1/4 tsp salt, black pepper, and red chilli powder. Stir in the cooled carrot mixture. Serve room temperature or chilled.


Nupur said...

Now that is my idea of a superb dinner! Everything looks sooo good! I have made dalcha once, and really, it is such a flavorful dish (and you get a wonderful combination of veggies and protein). Thanks for a gorgeous entry, Cathy!

Cathy said...

Hi Nupur! Thanks, and thank you for putting on such a beautiful display of Indian vegetables week after week in your A to Z series!

FH said...

That is one colorful Dalcha and even better looking Carrot raita.Kudos to you!:))

Rowena said...

I actually love the colors on the plate... (such is the pronounced imagination that I have!) and you've inspired me to give that Yellow squash dalcha a try. My only problem would be the ginger paste. Never heard of such an ingredient and I'm wondering if finely grated fresh ginger would do.

Anonymous said...

Looks mega yummy and encouraging to make.

Cathy said...

Hi Asha! Thanks very much!

Hi Rowena! Grated fresh ginger is ideal - I was just feeling a little lazy :) In fact, the original recipe calls for fresh ginger.

Hi Karen - thanks!