Sooner or later (I fear sooner) there will be an entire category of recipes here loosely grouped under “What To Eat When The World Spins Out of Control.” Cauliflower will play a starring role, as will curry. Soup is always comforting, as much as anything can offer comfort in dark times. And given the recent horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, not to mention Beirut and Kenya, a brutal attack that occurred months ago and is just now making waves in Western media, these are dark times indeed.
I have little to add to what I’ve already said in the face of incomprehensible tragedy: shock, fear, despair, solidarity. Perhaps cooking food & flavors from across the globe, in an attempt to remind myself and others that we are truly all one people under it all, is grasping at straws. But it’s all I’ve got. I fear if we stop grasping entirely, we give up all hope. And I’m not ready for that.
Here’s one thing I know: hate will not solve our problems. Hate has never solved any problems. Hating Syrians, the people who are refugees precisely because they are fleeing exactly this kind of terrorism, will not help us. Hating Muslims, the vast majority of whom hate ISIS as much as we do, will not help us. Hating liberals or conservatives, depending on which side of the fence you sit, will not help us. Perhaps, at the end of the day, breaking bread, gathering around a table, sharing a meal: these things could just save us. Perhaps.
Dal recipe adapted from Red Lentil Dal by Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley at Food & Wine.
- 1 head cauliflower, stemmed, broken into florets
- olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp garam masala
Curried Coconut Red Lentil Dal (make half of the following recipe if you only want dal for the casserole)
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp cumin seed
- 1 tsp fennel seed
- 1 tsp brown mustard seed
- ½ tsp fenugreek seed
- ½ tsp nigella seed
- 1 ½ tsp tumeric powder
- 2 medium white or yellow onions, diced
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 red chiles, minced (I used red jalapeño peppers)
- 2 tbsp grated ginger
- 2 cups red lentils, rinsed well in cold water
- 1 quart water
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1, 15-oz can coconut milk
- fresh cilantro, chopped
- Roast cauliflower. Preheat oven to 475 F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss cauliflower florets with a few splashes of olive oil, generous sprinkling of salt & pepper, and the garam masala until masala is evenly distributed. Roast in the preheated oven just until the edges of the cauliflower start to brown & char, about 15 minutes – do not cook all the way through. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Make dal. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add cumin, fennel, mustard, fenugreek, nigella and turmeric: stirring constantly, fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until very fragrant. Add onion, garlic, chile and ginger. Reduce heat to medium-low and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 – 7 minutes. Remove half of the onion mixture to a clean bowl: set aside. Add lentils, water and salt. Stir, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until lentils are very soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, return to a simmer, then continue to simmer over low heat, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until dal thickens and flavors blend, about 10 – 20 minutes.
- Bake casserole. Preheat oven to 375 F. Transfer par-cooked cauliflower to a casserole or baking dish. Ladle dal generously over the top of the cauliflower (you should use only about half, or less, of the dal). Spread the remaining onion mixture evenly over the top. Roast in the pre-heated oven until the casserole is bubbling and browned at the edges, about 20 to 25 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro to serve.
Serves 6 to 8 as a side.
- This is a “three meals in one” recipe. Make the full dal recipe for leftover dal to eat with rice or naan. Roast extra cauliflower to enjoy as a snack or a quick lunch with a green salad and a handful of almonds. When you get tired of it all, buzz the casserole with an immersion blender, thin with a bit of stock, and you have a delicious soup. Leftovers rule.
Refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Fall through winter.