Right about this time of year, our farm share bundle starts to have some heft to it, brimming with summer squash, lettuces, greens and onion bulbs. Ben and I are now members of the Crown Heights CSA, which sources its vegetable produce from Sang Lee Farms, a Long Island farm specializing in growing organic Asian vegetable varieties. We’ve been enjoying a bounty of bok choy and Napa cabbage along with some new vegetables like yu choy and guy lon.
This past week we received a gorgeous bunch of rainbow chard. When I see a healthy amount of greens, my first instinct is to grab for mustard oil, a pungent oil used often in North Indian and Bengali cooking. I admit to having a slight obsession with this oil because of its rich and spicy flavor. The oil is golden in color and made from mustard seeds. My relatives in Delhi often use it in sauteing greens or potatoes. It’s also used to pickle vegetables for making achaar (‘Indian pickle’) because of its anti-bacterial qualities. You can find mustard oil in the Indian shop or online.
While driving in the country in North India, it’s impossible to miss the abundant bright yellow mustard fields lining the roadways. Both mustard greens and the seeds are used in cooking. This is a photo I took on a road trip through the state of Rajasthan this past winter with Ben.
To make a complete meal out of the rainbow chard, I added red lentils and these scallion beauties we also got in our share. They were so big, they almost looked like leeks. You can really use any lentils you have on hand for this dish.
Often in Indian cooking, cooked lentils or dal are seasoned at the end with spices and sometimes onions tempered in oil. I flavored my oil with cumin seeds, nigella seeds, paprika and coriander powder. To my spiced mustard oil, I also added in the cut rainbow chard and scallions.
I served this lentil dish over yellow turmeric rice, topped with a dollop of plain yogurt, some of my tomato achaar from Brooklyn Delhi and garnish of more scallions.
Red Lentils w/ Rainbow Chard, Scallions & Mustard Oil
1 cup red lentils (masoor dal)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
4-5 cups water
2 tablespoons mustard oil
1-2 green scallions, chopped
1 bunch rainbow or swiss chard, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji)
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika (deggi mirch), or to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
Rinse dal thoroughly using a fine-meshed sieve. Place in a saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Skim foam off the top until it no longer appears. Add turmeric powder and mix well. Simmer dal on medium-low, partly covered for 35-40 minutes or until dal is falling apart. Add additional water for desired consistency. Add salt to taste. If you like a smoother consistency, blend dal with an immersion blender.
In a frying pan over medium heat, add in mustard oil. When oil starts to shimmer, add in cumin seeds and nigella seeds. When the cumin seeds start to brown, add in the coriander powder and paprika. Stir the spices around well in the oil until they are aromatic, a few seconds. Quickly add in the cut scallions (reserving a few green pieces for garnish) and sautee until softened, 1 minute. Next add in the cut rainbow chard and salt to taste. Sautee until chard leaves start to wilt. Turn off stove and pour the sauteed leaves and onions onto the dal. Mix in lemon juice. Taste for sourness and add more lemon juice accordingly. Garnish with remaining cut scallions.
Serve over rice with yogurt and Brooklyn Delhi achaar.