Serendipity works in strange and circuitous ways. A few days ago I was out doing errands and was getting prepared to make an eggplant-chickpea curry from an Isa Chandra Moskowitz cookbook that I like. En route to the Trader Joe’s for organic OJ, I was passing my network chiropractor’s office, so I stopped in to get a couple of supplements. Since they are next door to an Indian grocery market, I went there to get a bunch of fresh cilantro. Browsing the shelves as I always do, I bought some red lentils (a current favorite of mine) and a can of Indian chickpeas (to compare to the Trader Joe’s organic ones I also intended to get). Further down the legume shelf — and fascinated with the variety there — I came across a package of dried organic Chana Dal. I asked they owner about it, and he told me they were split chickpeas and very good, so for $2.99 I decided to try the 2 lb. package. Here is what I discovered.
Yesterday, I started my online research to learn more about this. The first reference I found was a goldmine: http://www.mendosa.com/chanadal.html
It turns out that this legume is a high-fiber source of protein with an extremely low glycemic index, which is very welcome news for vegans and anyone with blood sugar level concerns. While it is indeed a form of chickpea, apparently it is much better for you than ordinary chickpeas. The next issue to explore was, so what? Do they taste good? How does one prepare them? The findings were equally exciting there too.
Increasingly, these days, I find Mark Bittman and the New York Times to be a source of valuable information about healthy eating. This article online provided good background information about dals, and it has an excellent video clip featuring Indian cook Julie Sahni, who showed Mark how to properly prepare a dal dish. Furthermore, it offered several dal recipes, including Chana Dal, New Delhi-Style.
So, last night I washed a cup of the Chana Dal and then placed in a bowl with cold water to soak overnight. It takes a lot longer for these to become tender than typical lentils. In fact, in retrospect, you can treat them just as you would well-dried ceci beans from Italy. Today, I followed the recipe above, simmering them slowly for an hour instead of 40 minutes, then added the Tadka as shown in the video, including some chopped tomato (which is not in the recipe above).
Not being in possession of a mathani (yet) to semi-puree the legume, I used a potato masher for similar results, and it seemed to work fine. After two satisfying bowls for lunch, accompanied by a pan-toasted whole wheat flatbread and a glass of St. Joseph blanc (100% Rousanne — smelling of peaches and apricots), I was very content. And well-informed on the glories of Chana Dal.
Oh, yes — and the Eggplant-Chickpea Curry two nights before (remember that was my original target), was very good too, served atop organic brown basmati rice alongside a Paso Robles Grenache.