Chana Dal

My vegan Indian inspired cooking has come a long way. In college I relied on the pre-made spice mixes, but now I find them salty and flat.  I've been making my own spice blends for a few years now, and it's much kicks up the dish and each mouthful is an explosion of flavor. The key is to use a lot of fresh garlic and ginger, and way more dried spice than you would think (plus bloom the cooking them before you add the liquids)

If you aren't familiar with dals, this is a great guide. Chana dal is larger and thicker than some of the others because it is actually a split chickpea. This dish is amazing, but it takes a bit long to soften the dal...have patience, it's worth the wait! Also, the dry spices didn't add the spiciness here..the spice comes from the red jalapeno. If you want it less spicy use 1 instead of 2. Seriously, it makes a difference!

Chana Dal
1 C dry chana dal
2 roma tomatoes (diced small, and drained of juice that comes off)
1 small onion (diced small)
7-8 garlic cloves (minced)
1 1/2 inch (or more) piece of ginger (peeled and minced well)
1 or 2 red jalapenos (de-seeded and chopped)
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika or cayenne
3/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp white pepper
lime (juice of)
cilantro (chopped)

1. In a bowl add dal and cover with water. Let soak 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain.
2. Add 3 C of water to saucepot. Add dal. Bring to boil, cover, and then turn down to low setting and simmer until dal is very soft.
3. In a skillet add 1-2 Tbsp oil (I know, I know!) and heat to medium.
4. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes (or beginning to brown). Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes. The onions and garlic should be well browned.
5. Add ginger and jalapenos. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring well.
6. Add garam masala, coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, white pepper and a pinch of salt. Cook 1-2 minutes. Stir well. Be very careful not to burn! This should be a nice paste now.
7. Add tomatoes and cook 4-5 minutes or until juice starts coming off.
7. Add spice paste to the pot of dal. Mine still hadn't boiled off all the water it was cooking in, but you may need to add water to reach your desired consistency. Simmer about 25-30 minutes, longer if you like it really soft.
8. Add lime juice and more salt to taste. Be generous with the salt, while I'm not sure it's authentic, I find the dishes well seasoned at the Indian restaurants I eat at. Add chopped cilantro and stir.
9. Serve with rice.