Monday, July 22, 2013

Zucchini Dal - fresh from the backyard, bursting with flavor

Gardening for me is therapeutic just like baking is. It is almost like bringing up a child with added perks, the plants never become teenagers and they don't grow up to get out of the home :-). Seeing the plants thrive, grow from seeds into a sapling to a mature plant capable of producing flowers or fruits is very fulfilling. Come Spring and we start planning a small kitchen garden every year. Since most of these plants do not survive after the frost in Oct/Nov, it is a new effort every year. Last year, we had loads of fresh Methi and other greens but not much of other veggies. Earlier in Spring, we spent a couple of weekends digging up a patch of land in the backyard, tilled and topped a couple of feet of top soil and made a raised bed and planted a few small tomato, zucchini, cucumber, green beans and peppers. I had some dry beans and okra seeds which I planted separately. I also have a couple of brinjal plants which refuse to grow at all. Any garden enthusiasts out there with tips on growing brinjal - what kind of soil, fertilizers, care etc?

With the beautiful summer we are having, the plants thrived and Tomatoes seem to have over shadowed all other plants and from a distance, the patch looks to be entirely filled with Tomato plants. There are a whole bunch of small green tomatoes, not yet ready for picking. We noticed a bunch of bright yellow and orange flowers on the squash plants and very soon they sprouted small, baby squashes which grew in length and breadth. Last weekend we harvested our first crop of the Summer, a basket full of green zucchinis and a yellow squash. I am preparing myself for some squashy rains from the backyard :-), so look out for recipes with squashes/zucchinis.
Today I decided not to blabber a lot like I usually do but let my pictures do the talking. I will take you on a tour of our yard and I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I do. I am surrounded by a burst of colors, pretty flowers, beautiful fragrances, tiny vegetables and I am content and happy :-).
A fragrant, delicate Jaji mallige (Poet's Jasmine)
A pink Lily with a heady aroma
A bouquet of cheerful white Daisies
Pretty faced Hibiscus
Mildly fragrant, abundant blooms of Roses
A bright yellow squash nestled in the bushes among the big yellow flowers
A green Zucchini shooting out from under the branches
Zucchini or Courgette is a type of summer squash and is considered a vegetable by chefs although botanically it is an immature fruit(Source:Wiki). Zucchini with its delicate flavor blends wonderfully in many dishes and is usually served cooked. I like to add them in Dals, make pachadis or serve them grilled in salads. Cooking a zucchini is very quick and it holds the shape unlike a cucumber without becoming mushy. I made some delicious South Indian Dal (a.k.a pappu) with our home grown Zucchini, very flavorful and tasty. This dal preparation is very similar to the Andhra lemon cucumber pappu (Dosakaya pappu).
What do you need to make Zucchini Dal? 
1 cup Toor dal/pigeon peas (See notes for variations)
1 medium sized zucchini
2-3 green chilies (adjust to taste)
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
2 Tsp finely chopped cilantro for garnish

2 Tsp oil
1 Tsp mustard
1/2 Tsp cumin
1/4 Tsp fenugreek seeds (optional but recommended)
1/4 Tsp Asafoetida
1/4 cup thinly chopped onions
4-5 curry leaves
1 dry red chili
How do you make Zucchini Dal? 
  • Soak Toor dal in 3 cups of water for about 45 minutes or until the dal softens up. 
  • Wash and pat dry zucchini, remove the ends. 
  • Slice the zucchini vertically in half and chop into bite sized pieces.
  • Remove the stems and slice the green chilies vertically into half, keep aside one green chili for later.
  • Drain the water from the soaked dal, wash it once in running water. 
  • Take the dal, zucchini pieces and green chilies in a pressure cooker, add 2.5-3 cups of water and cook it for 2 whistles. The dal should get cooked completely and the zucchinis should not become mushy - See notes below for tips.
  • Let the cooker cool down completely. 
  • Heat oil in a big pan (that can hold your dal mixture also later on), add mustard, let it pop. Add cumin, asafoetida, dry red chilies. fenugreek (if using) and the curry leaves. Let them fry for 30 seconds. 
  • Add the thinly chopped onions and let it sweat and cook to become soft stirring frequently. 
  • Chop the preserved green chili into small pieces after removing the stem and add it to the pan just before adding the dal mixture. This will give a very slightly cooked but crunchy bites of chili for that added zing you find in the restaurant Dal Tadka. This is a completely optional step. 
  • Add the cooked dal & zucchini mixture, salt, turmeric powder, mix well. Adjust consistency with water (this dal is slightly thick). Garnish with chopped cilantro.
  • Let it come to a roaring boil before switching off. Serve warm with hot rice and dollop of ghee or roti.  
  • You can add roughly chopped tomato pieces (one medium tomato) in to the seasoning after onion turns soft. Or you can puree the tomato, add it to the Dal & zucchini and let it cook. 
  • Soaking Toor dal expedites the cooking process, this is essential in this recipe since you cook both the dal and zucchini together in the pressure cooker. You want the dal to be cooked soft but zucchini should still hold its shape. If this sounds complicated, go ahead, cook the dal and zucchini separately and add them together later. 
  • Variation 1: Add a Tsp of grated ginger to the seasoning before adding onion for a flavor boost, I kept it minimal to showcase the fresh zucchini in my dal. 
  • Variation 2: you can use any other summer squash, cucumber, lemon cucumber, bottle gourd and such vegetables to replace zucchini in this recipe for an equally refreshing dal. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

wonderful recipe with beautiful pictures. i must taste it sure

kitchen queen said...

delicious and lip smacking zucchini dal.

Wer SAHM said...

Zuchhini in making dal,must be a tasty attempt...

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Oh! you have a beautiful garden I suppose...lovely gives great joy in cooking with vegetables grown in our backyard...
nice dal.

Swathi Iyer said...

Homemade veggies are always add extra flavor.This dal is really yumm.

Mysore Hotel said...

Thanks for sharing Zuchhini dish

Vani said...

You have a lovely garden. And to cook with produce from your backyard is great!

LG said...

Waah, nim garden tumba chennagide ri. Loved all flowers there. Thanks for dal recipe :)

Chitz said...

How lucky u r dear, I too wud like to have my own garden like that sometimes :) And awesome looking flowers & zucchini ! And for the pappu, I like it anytime, it's definitely a comfort food for me :)