Sunday, January 11, 2009
When I have even a little time on my hands, I enjoy experimenting with ingredients to come up with new recipes. But most days are a blind rush to get home from work, get any errands out of the way, dash into the kitchen, and get dinner on the table.
On days like these, faced with the prospect of cooking something I've cooked often before, I - ironically - feel at a loss for ideas. That's when I turn to Desi and ask him what he'd like for dinner, even though I well know by now that his answer will be a cool, "Anything will do."
Now as you can imagine, that's one frustrating response when you're banking on someone for inspiration. Still, there are rare occasions when Desi will request an old favorite, making my life a little easier. And Green Tomato Masial is at the top of his list.
Here, I don't find green tomatoes in the market, so the only times I am able to make this delicious dish is when I can grow my own tomatoes in the summer. But in the days before I grew tomatoes, I learned to substitute for the tomatoes with a lookalike that has a similar-sounding name: tomatillo.
Tomatillos come all dressed up in a papery robe that you peel off to expose a deliciously tangy, gem-like green fruit. They are shoulder-shrugging sour, and used quite a lot in Mexican cuisine. They are also quite easily available at the supermarkets here.
The masial is easy to put together, and I used sambar powder that my sister-in-law brought for me when she visited, which is beyond delicious. Store-bought sambar powder would do very well too.
So here's an easy and quick, and traditional (almost) Tamil recipe that's a lifesaver and a timesaver on busy weeknights. I served it with hot, boiled rice, some roasted potatoes and papad or poppadum for a delicious and near-effortless meal.
5-6 tomatillos, outer covers peeled, washed, and chopped into a 1/2-inch dice and zapped in the microwave with 2-3 tbsp of water for about 2-3 minutes until quite tender.
1/2 cup tuvar dal (small yellow split lentils), covered with water and boiled until tender. Reserve with all liquid.
2-3 green chillies. Run a knife along the length to split them into halves
1 heaping tablespoon sambar powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
1 sprig curry leaves
1/3 cup coconut shreds
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
Heat the oil in a saucepan
Add the mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the asafetida
Add the green chilies and curry leaves and stir.
Add the sambar powder and turmeric and stir, then add the cooked dal and tomatillos.
Allow the masial to come to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on a low flame for about 5 minutes.
If the masial is too thick, add water. If it's too thin, mix 1 tbsp of rice flour in a quarter cup of water and add to the masial.
Add salt to taste. Add coconut shreds and turn off the heat.
Serve hot with boiled rice.