Broccoli Stem Dal – Home Food Waste Rescue

At the Global Food/ Local Perspectives symposium a few weeks ago, Chef Ake lamented the waste of broccoli stems at his restaurants. His comments reminded me of a recipe from my sister, Moli, who would cook the stems with dal (lentil soup). Here is my version:

1. I started with a bunch of sad broccoli stems saved from another meal.

2. Like any unappreciated thing the stems are tough and thick on the outside but crispy and juicy on the inside. Using a paring knife, carefully carve away the ugly sadness.

3. Dice the juicy happy centers.

4. In a pot, place the diced stem ( I had a cup) with a cup of any small lentils you have. I had yellow and red lentils. Cover with at least double amount of water or broth. Add more or less liquid depending on how thick you like your lentil soup.

5. There is debate about when to salt lentils. Some say salt prevents the lentils from breaking down. I don’t know. I always add the tumeric and salt after the lentils soften.

6. Once softened, add salt to taste and about a teaspoon of tumeric. Saute cumin seeds, onions or shallots, dried chilies and garlic in 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.

7. Pour the roasted shallot mixture over the cooked lentils and broccoli stems.

8. Enjoy with rice or bread, a squeeze of lemon and sprinkling of cilantro. Perfect for fall weather. The roasted onions and cumin give the dish depth and smokiness while the vegetable lightens the thick lentils.

Sunday Slow Eats (Inauthentic Recipes)


Last weekend my newly braced child, not in pain, and asked for “deshi” or “home food.” I was only too happy to oblige and enjoy a day of savored chewing with her. It took two hours to slow roast the lamb shank in the oven. While that was cooking in a glaze of ginger, caramelized onions, spices, raisins and nuts, Jim and I cooked Dal (the thick kind my father likes), a spicy shrimp curry and a light vegetable curry.

In my chopped and blended family, Jim can now identify spices, stir until the oil separates from the roasted spices ( a strange and specific Asian cooking technique) and even anticipate when I’ll ask for another onion. Very impressive. He is officially trained in the deshi kitchen (he’s already quite a chef during Steak and Burgers, Southern, Italian and Mexican kitchen nights). Jim not only helps me cook but has also graduated from eating modified Bengali food to keeping up with my confessedly inauthentic taste. No coconut milk or cream was added, no heat removed, no vegetables or spices were denied yesterday.

It was reassuring to be able to share a meal that reminds me of my parents and larger family, with Jim. Cooking may have taken two hours but considering going to the stores and washing dishes afterwards, it was a whole day event. It was time well spent together. What a true luxury to have an open day to make something that invites thoughts of family whether present or not (you are missed and loved).

Here are loose directions for each of the dishes for Amani, my eldest at college (one of many missed yesterday) and you my patient readers:

Thick Split Chana Dal

  1. Cook the lentils in water until tender. I had about 1/2 cup of dal with 2 cups of water. Some kernels will start breaking apart. This takes a while (about an hour on medium heat).
  2. Add salt and tumeric.
  3. Saute cumin seeds until fragrant (about 30 secs), sliced onions, slivers of garlic ( a little later otherwise the garlic will burn and become bitter), chili peppers, in ghee. Add the mixture to the dal, stir and let simmer until desired consistency. Add water if needed.

Mixed Vegetables

This a super easy way to make a light vegetable curry.

  1. Cut vegetables ( I had eggplant, pumpkin, potatoes and a particular type of green large and long squash found in Indian markets, I have no idea what the English name might be) into equal sizes, about a 3/4 inch dice.
  2. Cook with a little water until tender.
  3. Add salt, tumeric to the cooked and soft vegetables.
  4. Repeat step three of the dal recipe. Here you can add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger or a spoon of any indian jarred pickle you might have.

Spicy Shrimp Curry

  1. Make a spice paste with 1 teaspoon tumeric, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic paste, 1/2 garlic, 1/2 cup onion paste (just blend up an onion)  1/2 coriander powder, 1/2 cumin powder and salt. 
  2. saute spice mixture in oil
  3. add 1/2 can (or fresh) of diced tomatoes, saute spice mixture in oil until oil separates. You may have to add oil, until it does so.
  4. Add a bag of cleaned shrimp.
  5. Simmer until shrimp is cooked, add cilantro before serving.

Roasted Lamb Shank

  1. Rub lamb shank with salt, ginger and garlic paste and let rest. If you have any packaged spices or garam masala you like, you can rub that on as well. I’m guessing any spice rub would work.
  2. Brown shank on all sides. Set aside.
  3. In same pan, saute sliced onions, add 1/2 teaspoon each of  ginger and garlic paste, slivered almonds, raisins until roasted and brown. Place the shank (s) in the sauce. Add water to just cover the bottom.
  4. Cover and bake in a low heat oven (325) for about 1 hour-2 hours until meat almost falls off the bone.

We enjoyed these dishes with Pulao (Rice pilaf) and store bought naan. Left-overs are even better! I had a fantastic and fulfilling lunch of vegetables and rice today. Oreo, the dog, who turned 3 yesterday, is chewing on a lamb bone as I write. He is so happy.

That’s my food story for now.

Wishing all of you random days of shared cooking, eating and remembering,


Garden to Table


Summer garden bhaji is what I decided to make with my friend Meg’s gift of fresh veggies this week. A bhaji is basically a stir fry of shredded vegetables with turmeric, onions and other spices ( if desired). Meg’s garden bhaji was a combination of cabbage, green peppers and okra. I added the juicy red cherry tomatoes to a dry shrimp sauté. Some simple dal, lentil soup and rice complete deshi dinner night. Stir fry or bhaji is an easy solution to having little bits of a variety of vegetables.  A good wok is worth having in a busy kitchen. Mine just lives on my stove. This garden to table dinner is a product of west Lafayette, good friends who garden, south Asian cooking techniques and spices. Its a dinner that reminds me of my friend down the street with her bountiful garden, my Bhabi (sister-in-law) who first  taught me how to make a bhaji, my baby girl’s craving for “home food,” my southern-raised beloved’s request for dal and how I need to make this for my vegetarian, Indian-food aware friend, Kathy.  Food is magic in its ability to bring such diversity together, just like a mixed vegetable bhaji. 

Who inspires your dinner plate tonight?