Monday, June 29, 2015

Sambar and Pseudo-Psambar, or the Provisional Post

I have been gone a loooong time, and I feel like I should apologize for that. Life, as it often is, has been particularly complex lately, with more balls than usual to juggle. But summer is here and with it comes bounteous farmer's markets and enthusiastic gardening, and something's got to happen with all that food....

I've joined a new CSA this year -- Caretaker Farm in Williamstown, one of the oldest CSAs in the country. It is structured as a true cooperative: all the members buy into the farm, and all of the produce produced by the farm is shared among us. Don and Bridget and their kids Micah and Gabriela encourage members to use the land and consider it our own, and there are lots of streams and fields and vistas to explore even if it's not a pick-up day. And even better, as far as I'm concerned, is that we are all obligated to work at the farm in order to be full members of the community; I even signed up for a "working share" in which I get a discount on the CSA rate in exchange for more hours of labor.


What strikes me already about Caretaker Farm is the sense of generosity that seems to structure every aspect of the place. When Don did an orientation for new farm members this spring, he handed us our cotton bags and told us we were welcome to fill it each week with however much we needed. "What do you mean by 'fill it'?" someone asked. "I mean FILL IT," he said, gesturing with his hand to suggest a bag bursting at the seams.

It's hard, in the face of that generosity -- especially because it's so different from going to a grocery store -- to accept only what you need. To take enough but not too much. It will take some getting used to, and I can see myself filling my bag a bit less each week, as I realize that my hauls are too much for my daughter and I to get through before the next pick up comes around.

This past weekend, the farm held a slightly belated solstice potluck and open mic (without an actual mic). We met some of the other members, talked with the interns -- young idealists who come from all over the country to learn from Don's and Briget's brand of sustainable agriculture -- and ate some really good food. I had taken too many baby haruki turnips at the previous pick ups, so I gave back the extras in the form of an Indian sambar -- a vegetable-studded dal from South India.

A few people asked for the recipe, so I'm providing two versions below: the first requires a trip to an Indian grocery (totally worth it), and the second is made with ingredients you can find in your local grocery store.

Sambar
Serves 4-6

At your local Indian grocer, pick up a bag of toovar dal (you want the non-oily kind), curry leaves, and sambar powder. If you can find MTR brand sambar powder -- one of the most common imported brands -- it's excellent, and used extensively in Indian kitchens. You can also find sambar powder -- and toovar dal, for that matter -- on Amazon or on ishopIndianonline.com.

1-1/2 c toovar dal
4 TB canola oil, divided
1 medium red onion, cut into quarters lengthwise (from root to tip) and then each quarter cut crosswise into thin slices
1 carrot, cut into thin batons (1/4 x 1/4 x 2")
6 small haruki turnips, peeled if necessary and cut into small wedges, or 1 small kohlrabi, quartered and sliced thin
kosher salt
2-4 TB sambar powder
2 tsp tamarind concentrate mixed with a few TB water
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 whole, dried red chilies
8 curry leaves
juice of 1-2 limes (about 3 TB)
2 TB chopped cilantro

1. Soak toovar dal in warm water for 45 mins to an hour. Drain, rinse in a colander, and put in a heavy-bottomed pot with 5 c water. Bring to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes or until soft. Stir occasionally so that the dal doesn't stick, and add more water if necessary to create a soupy, puréed mixture. (I do this in a pressure cooker -- high pressure for 15 minutes, and allow the pressure to come down naturally.)

2. In a frying pan, heat 2 TB oil over medium high heat. Add onions, carrot, and turnips or kohlrabi, along with a pinch of salt. Sauté until the vegetables pick up some golden-brown color, about 5-7 minutes.

3. Add the vegetables to the cooked dal along with 2 TB sambar powder, the tamarind, and 2 tsp kosher salt; stir well and allow to come to a simmer. Taste: you may need to add more sambar powder and more salt, depending on your preferences.

4. In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 TB of oil. Add the mustard seeds; when they begin to sizzle and pop, add the chilies and the curry leaves. Immediately empty the contents of the skillet into the pot of dal and stir.

5. Add the lime juice and cilantro to the pot. Serve hot over steamed basmati rice.


Pseudo-Sambar
Serves 4

1-1/2 c masoor dal (red lentils)
4 TB canola oil, divided
1 medium red onion, cut into quarters lengthwise (from root to tip) and then each quarter cut crosswise into thin slices
1 carrot, cut into thin batons (1/4 x 1/4 x 2")
6 small haruki turnips, peeled if necessary and cut into small wedges, or 1 small kohlrabi, quartered and sliced thin
kosher salt
Spice mix: 1 tsp red chili powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1/4 tsp ground fenugreek, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp tamarind concentrate mixed with a few TB water
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 whole, dried red chilies
juice of 1 lime (about 2 TB)
3 TB chopped cilantro

1. Rinse the masoor dal and put it in a heavy-bottomed pot with 5 c water. Bring to a boil, skim any froth, and simmer, partly covered, for about 18-20 minutes. (I never do masoor dal in the pressure cooker because it's so quick to cook conventionally.)

2. Heat 2 TB of oil in a frying pan. Add the onions, carrots, and turnips, and toss to coat with the oil. Sauté until the vegetables start to take on a bit of a golden-brown color. Add the spice mixture and sauté for an additional 30 seconds. Scrape out contents into the pot of dal, along with tamarind and salt. 

3. In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 TB of oil. Add the mustard seeds; when they begin to sizzle and pop, add the chilies. Immediately empty the contents of the skillet into the pot of dal and stir. Add the cilantro and lime juice; adjust salt to taste.

2 comments:

Ayshwarya Singh said...

I love soups and this one looks yummy! Perfect for the weather.chowringhee satya niketan menu

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