When the bitter winds blow and the skeletal trees rattle their bony branches, I find refuge in making dal, a comforting bean dish that fills my stomach and soul with warmth. Dal has its roots in the Indian subcontinent where it blossoms in many variations according to regional tastes and ingredients.
While I have no roots of my own in India, I am grateful for the many teachers whose work has allowed me to recreate classic Indian dishes in my own kitchen. Through their cookbooks, websites, and videos (see below), Julie Sahni, Bharti Kirchner, Vah Chef, and Meera Sodha have generously allowed me a peer over their shoulders as fragrant dishes sizzled away on their stovetops.
As my own cumin, curry leaves and mustard seeds sputtered away in my skillet this winter, I was drawn to throw some spicebush berries into the hot oil that flavors the dal. I pared back the other spices to get a clear read on the spicebush and was delighted with the bright, sunny flavor that bounced across the lentils...
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