Thursday, March 24, 2011

garam masala improves everything

Here's an odd tidbit: last night I dreamed I was rummaging through a drawer of kitchen utensils, then realized whose it was once I saw a tiny fish-shaped cookie cutter mixed in with some spatulas. My unconscious squealed, "I'm in the Smitten Kitchen!"

I told Miguel this in the morning, and he said he'd dreamed about Kevin Nealon guesting on Weekend Update, just like the old days. Then Jerry Seinfeld piped up and said, "I had a dream last night that a hamburger was eating me!"

Well, anyway. I wonder if my dream means A) I spend way too much time reading food blogs, or B) I should make those Pepperidge Farm replicas myself. It could also mean I should diversify my recipe sources, as crazy as I am for well-tested and well-photographed SK cooking. So tonight I cooked dinner from the Whole Foods website: collards with lentils, tomatoes and Indian spices. For once, I already had all the ingredients on hand, thanks to my delivered bushel, of course.

I admit to feeling a little weird while I took this picture of vegetables.
With a cake or finished dish, it's something I made, sort of an accomplishment.
This, I just found on my doorstep. Still, aren't they pretty?!

I used a green onion that came with my delivery and something that could be either collard greens or kale — I'm honestly not sure. First, the onion is chopped and — get this — sauteed in water. Or maybe there's a more precise cooking term for that. (Do you know it?) Whatever it was, I'd never cooked onions and garlic that way before. Later, I looked at the nutrition info given with the recipe and saw that a serving has zero fat and zero cholesterol. When have I ever prepared something to fit that bill? That's what happens when you skip the olive oil, I suppose. I should really make cookies now.

On to the next step. As soon as the garam masala hit the pan, the smell seemed to slow that 20-minute cooking time to a crawl. When the timer finally beeped, it was full of deep color and an even better smell. Not to mention the taste. Made from a few basic ingredients and somehow with no additional salt, it reminded me of this Moroccan dinner. I'd say simple and from the pantry is the way to go.

Collards with lentils, tomatoes and Indian spices
Serves 4

1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 bunch collard greens, thick stems removed and leaves sliced into 1-inch-thick ribbons
1 cup red lentils

Bring 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for five minutes or until onion is translucent. Stir in garam masala and cook for one minute. Add tomatoes and their juices with 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in collards. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine lentils and 2 cups of water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 8 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir lentils into skillet with collards and serve.

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