Masoor Dal

It’s been years since I’ve posted any recipes on this website, but I improvised some dal last night that turned out really well, and I was very pleased with myself and wanted to document the occasion. Behold:

Masoor Dal (Red Lentils)

1 T peanut oil
1/4 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 T garam masala
pinch cayenne
1 c diced onion
2 c dry masoor dal (red or pink lentils)
6 cups vegetable stock
14oz. canned diced tomatoes
salt to taste (depending on how salty your stock is)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, diced

Heat the peanut oil in a medium pot. Throw in the mustard and cumin seeds and cover; the mustard seeds will “pop” almost immediately. After about 10 seconds add the onions and stir to coat with the oil and spices. Cook on medium-low heat for 7-10 minutes, until translucent. Add tomatoes, ginger, garam masala, and cayenne and stir; cook for a minute, then add lentils and stock. Cover and simmer on low for 30-40 minutes, until lentils are well cooked and the flavor of the masala has been absorbed. Add salt at this point if necessary; a lot of pre-made stocks or bouillon will make the dal salty enough on its own. If desired, use an immersion blender to make it even creamier. Stir in the chopped cilantro and serve.

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March: Best Worst Movies

In March we celebrate a few of the most fabulously terrible movies ever released. All three of these movies have cult followings around their sheer awfulness, and for good reason.

3/6: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) — Edward D. Wood, Jr., made some truly awful films in his day, but this is the one he’s become best known for. Maybe it’s the incredible wire work he used to make the spaceships (paper plates and salt shakers) fly around the set; maybe it’s the thought-provoking dialogue. (“We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.”) Maybe it’s just Criswell’s amazing spit curl. At any rate, this has long been the bad movie by which all subsequent bad movies have been defined, and I for one am embarrassed for you if you haven’t seen it already.

3/13: POTLUCK FIELD TRIP! Meet at the Dark Room in San Francisco for “Bad Movie Night,” in which the 2003 kaiju film Godzilla: Tokyo SOS is skewered by some very funny hosts, MST3K-style. 8pm, 5 bucks, free popcorn.

3/20: Troll 2 (1990) — When Lucio Fulci’s first zombie movie was first released in Italy, it was called Zombi 2 in order to capitalize on the popularity of Zombi — the Italian title for Dawn of the Dead — even though Fulci’s movie had nothing to do with Romero’s. The same sort of thing is going on with Troll 2, although I feel bad about even associating Fulci’s classic with this heap of garbage. Originally titled Goblins, the producers decided to piggyback on the 1986 film Troll and play their film off as a sequel. (Fun fact: Troll 2 contains no trolls whatsoever.) The child star of the film, Michael Stephenson, later directed a documentary about the film and its cult following — the documentary, called Best Worst Movie, was released in 2009 and received far better reviews than Troll 2 ever did.

3/27: Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008) — If there’s any man alive who could be said to be walking in Ed Wood’s footsteps, it’s James Nguyen. How to describe this movie? Let’s see…if you remade Hitchcock’s classic The Birds with unbearably wooden actors, CGI birds that look like rejects from a 1990s video game, and the worst sound and film equipment you could find, you might approximate the horror that is Birdemic: Shock and Terror. The director, James Nguyen, is determined to be the “master of the romantic thriller,” and he truly believes that his film is a valuable entry into the genre. Do not miss this. THIS IS BIRDEMIC!