Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer stew with chana dal, squash and pomegranate syrup

Once again, I had a ton of stuff to use up come Thursday night, and I still hadn't used up all the yellow and starburst squash from my previous Pinckney's stash. Since summer's such a great time for trotting out Turkish recipes, I decided to try a variation on one that I like to prepare at least once each summer, based on Musa Vagdaviren's (sic) Summer Stew with Lentils and Eggplant.*

Instead of lentils and eggplant, I had chana dal and about 10 zucchini, yellow squash and starburst squash. This called for using a larger pot than the 8-quart pot I usually use for the stove-top version of this recipe.

3 cups chana dal**, rinsed and sorted
2 tbsp plus 1/4 cup olive oil
10 zucchini, yellow and starburst squash sliced lengthwise
4 banana peppers, diced
2 onions, diced
3 tomatoes, peeled and diced
(8 oz. can of tomato sauce if tomatoes are not fully ripened)
2 tsp. crushed red pepper or to taste
1/2 cup mint leaves (about 25-30 large leaves), chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate syrup***

Bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil, add the chana dal and cook, covered, 30 minutes or until very soft to the bite (i.e. you could easily mash into a paste). Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, slice all zucchini and yellow squash in half lengthwise (for the starburst squash, remove top and bottom and cut in half at the "equator"). Place slices on plates, cut into them in a crosshatch pattern and sprinkle with salt. Store in refrigerator for 30 minutes, then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

While the chana dal's cooking and the zucchini and squash are in the fridge, combine the peppers, onion, tomato, salt, garlic, crushed red pepper and mint in a mixing bowl. Stir until blended.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 10 by 15 inch (4 inches deep) baking pan. Add just enough chana dal to cover the bottom. Add a layer consisting of half the zucchini and squash (any arrangement is fine as long as spaces are filled as completely as possible). Cover the zucchini and squash with half of the vegetable mixture. Repeat layers and cover the top with any remaining chana dal. Drizzle olive oil over the top and down the sides and repeat with the pomegranate syrup.

Cover with lid or aluminum foil (so any beans on top don't dry out) and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Serve hot or at room temperature. Good alone or over rice or couscous.

The Food and Wine recipe called for slightly smaller amounts of everything, resulting in a yield about 2/3 of what I ended up with on Friday. Theirs also called for lentils, which cook a little faster than chana dal, and eggplant, which increases the cook time to 90 minutes.

What you get: a very bright, citrussy-flavored vegetable stew with very tender zucchini and squash. The result, which I finally sampled today (Monday) for lunch, was just as good as any I've made the usual way, and I've got tons of leftovers that will probably go in the freezer tonight. Hopefully, Steve will help me make a dent in it.

*Wolfert, Paula. "Master Chef of Turkey." Food and Wine July 2004, p. 179.

**dried split chick peas, available in Indian grocery stores. In Columbia, look for Oriental Groceries, across from the Wal-Mart on U.S. 1 in West Columbia, or J.M. Emporium on Two Notch Road, about a mile south of Sesqui (behind Dunkin' Donuts).

***also labeled "Pomegranate Concentrated Juice," available in Middle Eastern grocery stores. In Columbia, look for Aladdin near the corner of St. Andrews Road and Jamil Road (same strip mall as Inakaya).

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