Sunday, March 31, 2013

Make the Ghee, Buy the Paneer

Once in a while, there comes along a book that is downright entertaining. I've been reading one such book lately, and it happens to be a cookbook: Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch by Jennifer Reese. The book contains plenty of practical information and recipes for the home cook, and the author's voice is genuine and funny, which made this book an interesting and enjoyable read.

Image: Goodreads
The premise of the book is that the author looks around at all the various foods we can buy in the supermarket and in restaurants, and asks the question: Is it better to buy this food or to make it at home? "Better" is measured in terms of cost, convenience, taste and time.

While setting up the premise of the book, Reese mentions Uncrustables- the frozen (and crustless) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches sold by the brand Smuckers. I completely identified with this example because I remember being completely baffled and annoyed when I heard about this particular product many years ago. My inner monologue went something like this: They sell frozen PB & J because it is too much work to slap some peanut butter (from a jar) and jam (from another jar) onto bread (from a bag)? Come. On. What is the world coming to, blah blah. But Reese talks about how, not too long ago, people would have been equally baffled by the fact that someone would buy bread or peanut butter or jam at a store instead of making their own. She points out that it is rather an arbitrary line about what one buys and what one makes.

Reese goes on to discuss dozens of foods, and her take on whether it should be bought or made from scratch. And she's dead serious about trying to make things from scratch- she keeps chickens for eggs and meat, and bees for honey. She sweats away in the kitchen making things like glazed donuts and hot dogs from scratch. Even though I pretty much skipped over her chapters on keeping livestock and curing meats, it was incredibly fun to follow along and see what her experiences were like. For each food, she issues her verdict: Make it or buy it? And how much hassle is involved in making it?

It goes without saying that how one weighs cost, time, taste and hassle is very subjective and each home cook would have their own line in the sand, so to speak, about what to make and what to buy. As an aside, I've seen peeled hard-boiled eggs sold in a plastic pouch (Trader Joe's) so I guess these lines in the sand can be miles apart.

Based on my personal experience, here's a list in similar style to this book, about what I choose to make and what I buy. This list has evolved since I started to cook, and will further change as I go along, I'm sure of it.

Ghee: Make it.
Hassle: Minimal; you only have to occasionally watch a pot of simmering butter for an hour or so. And I do buy the butter- unsalted.
Notes: Homemade ghee tastes wonderful and it is a staple part of my favorite comfort food dinners like varan-bhaat and khichdi and to make ghee rice and peas pulao for company. I'm spoiled now and I won't ever go back to buying ghee.

Yogurt: Make it.
Hassle: Minimal; you simply stir live yogurt cultures into warm milk and leave it in a warm spot for a few hours before refrigerating.
Notes: There are so many reasons to switch to making yogurt at home. Homemade yogurt tastes fantastic- none of the sticky texture of some brands you buy. You can strain it to make Greek-style yogurt. Making yogurt at home saves money and packaging. I use yogurt in place of sour cream in most recipes.

Paneer: Buy it.
Hassle: Not much hassle, actually. Just add lemon juice to boiling milk, strain away the whey and press the solids.
Notes: It takes a whole lotta milk to make a small amount of paneer, and my homemade paneer is never as soft and tasty as my favorite brand- Nanak from Canada. We use paneer only once in a while, anyway. So I've stopped making it at home.

Idli and dosa batter: Make it.
Hassle: It takes a little planning to soak and grind and ferment the batter but is easy enough if you own a good mixie or stone electric grinder.
Notes: My friend in Atlanta and my sister in Bangalore, for instance, don't make their own idli/dosa batter because they have access to freshly made batter sold locally. I don't have that option and I'm fine with that. I happily use my grinder to make vast quantities of batter. And I can make customize the batter with brown rice or whatever else.

Rotis: Buy it.
Hassle: Kneading, rolling and griddle-baking; technically not too much of a hassle but roti making is a skill for sure.
Notes: I am singularly untalented when it comes to making rotis. They turn out too chewy or dense and just not very appealing. I buy whole-wheat tortillas to use as rotis. If you can, make them by all means.

Bread, including sliced bread, rolls and pizza crust: Make and buy.
Hassle: Bread making is certainly a hassle what with mixing and kneading (of course there are all the no-knead recipes), rising, baking, worrying, washing up. But bread making is also therapeutic and the aroma of baking bread makes a house smell like home. There are some things money can't buy.
Notes: Over the years, I've made lots of bread and bought lots of it too. When you have time, it is so worth making bread.

Beans: Make it.
Hassle: With a pressure cooker, there's no hassle at all. You just need to remember to soak the beans overnight if possible.
Notes: Dried beans are much cheaper than canned ones and they taste better to me. But I do keep a couple of cans of beans at home for really busy days when I need a last minute meal.

Spices: Make and buy (and swap).
Hassle: Minimal hassle to make spice mixes- you just need a small spice/coffee grinder.
Notes: In the US, "ethnic" stores such as the ones where Indian groceries are sold are a good source for fresh and inexpensive spices compared to supermarkets and gourmet stores. Once you buy whole spices, it is easy to make your own blends. But there are certain brands of spice mixes that I also like to buy.

Ginger Garlic Paste: Make it.
Hassle: It takes only a few minutes to peel and roughly chop fresh ginger and garlic, then 1-2 more minutes to blend it into a smooth paste with a little salt.
Notes: I've used bottled ginger garlic paste for years before I made my own, and it worked fine. Make it if you have time, otherwise, buy it. But it is an awesome fridge staple for quick, tasty meals so keep it on hand no matter what.

Tamarind chutney: Make it.
Hassle: None, just simmer a few ingredients together on the stove- my recipe is here and these days I just simmer baking dates (sold in a slab), tamarind paste and jaggery for a no-straining-required version.
Notes: Homemade tamarind chutney is cheaper and tastier than anything you can buy. And you'll use dates instead of loading it up with refined sugar. There's also the question of whether to buy tamarind (and extract the pulp yourself) or whether to buy tamarind paste. I've done both; these days I use tamarind paste that comes in a jar.

Pickles: Make and Buy it.
Hassle: Not much hassle to just clean and chop veggies and mix with spices.
Notes: Although it is easy enough to make pickles, and there are so many wonderful recipes out there, I do end up buying bottled Indian pickles while occasionally making my own. I'd love to make pickles this summer- both Indian style and pickled cucumbers in vinegar/brine, American style.

Jam: Buy it.
Hassle: Canning scares me. On the other hand, freezer jam seems to be very easy to make.
Notes: I buy good quality jam and marmalade (and often get these as gifts). We eat jam so rarely that it doesn't seem worthwhile to make it.

Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Tahini: Buy it.
Hassle: Minimal, cleaning sticky nut butter from the food processor is probably the only hassle here.
Notes: It is too easy to buy good quality nut butters so that's what I do. I might try making peanut butter in the future though.

Pasta Sauce: Make it.
Hassle: Not much hassle at all to simmer tomato sauce on the stove, especially if you start with canned tomatoes as I do.
Notes: Bottled/jarred pasta sauce is likely to be loaded with salt and sugar and various things that have no place in pasta sauce so it is completely worthwhile to make your own.

Pasta and noodles: Buy it.
Hassle: Quite a hassle, and most recipes call for a pasta maker.
Notes: There's so much wonderful fresh and dried pasta out there so this is one food where I'm happy to let the experts do the work. I have made fresh gnocchi as a fun project once or twice.

Pesto: Make and Buy it.
Hassle: None- just a few ingredients needing a whirl in the food processor.
Notes: I make pesto in summer when basil is plentiful (always with walnuts and not pine nuts); other times I will occasionally buy it.

Soup: Make it!
Hassle: Who cares? Soup should be made at home.
Notes: I did not eat canned soups growing up, so I don't have any nostalgia for canned soups- they taste awful to me. Instead, I've collected a repertoire of soup recipes that are very easy to make and provide both comfort and nourishment.

Cookies: Make and buy.
Hassle: The usual moderate hassle of baking, but most people will agree that cookies are fun to make.
Notes: I have a few favorite brands of cookies that I can't resist buying once in a while (cough Trader Joe's Triple Ginger cookies cough). But I like to bake cookies and have my favorite cookie recipes that I make most often in the holidays. My policy on cookies, and sweets in general, is that I won't eat one unless it is excellent- no sense in wasting calories. Ditto for candy, I like making candy for gift-giving and will sometimes buy candy from excellent confectioners but I stay far far away from the horrid stuff in the supermarket candy aisle.

Cake: Make it (and not from a mix).
Hassle: Cakes are simple and fun to make. Sure, there's some clean up at the end.
Notes: Homemade cake is probably not all that cost-saving because cake mixes are so cheap, but I'll keep making cakes from scratch anyway. I don't like the ingredient list on cake mixes and I'd rather save on packaging waste.

Granola: Make it.
Hassle: Very little, just mix ingredients in a bowl and bake. Here's our favorite recipe.
Notes: Store-bought granola is ridiculously expensive; it is so easy to make your own and you can fully customize it.

Oatmeal: Make it.
Hassle: None.
Notes: I find the stuff in the packets completely inedible. On the other hand, old-fashioned oats cooked in almond milk, eaten warm with fruit, nut butter- now that's good eats, and easy to do even on the busiest morning.

Hot chocolate: Make it.
Hassle: Minimal.
Notes: Making the mix at home is super easy and they make nice gifts. I've never found a store-bought cocoa mix that I like anyway.

Dips: Make it.
Hassle: Dips are very easy to make, and even easier with a food processor.
Notes: Some of my favorite go-to dips are caramelized onion dip, sweet potato hummus and guacamole.

Thai curry paste: Buy it.
Hassle: Sourcing the ingredients is a major hassle for most of us.
Notes: I can make vegetable-rich curries in a jiffy with canned curry paste so it is an important pantry staple for me. Brands like Maesri make very good Thai curry paste.

Coconut milk: Buy it.
Hassle: For someone living in a small town in the US, it is a huge hassle to find a decent coconut.
Notes: Canned coconut milk is an absolute pantry staple for me. I love the Chaokoh brand. I never bother to buy low-fat coconut milk. If I want to cut the calories (and I rarely do), I'll water it down myself.

Ice cream: Make and buy.
Hassle: Depends on the recipe. In my case, I also need to remember to freeze the ice cream maker bowl.
Notes: I'll happily make ice cream several times each Spring/Summer but I also don't mind buying good-quality ice cream once in a while to go with homemade brownies or apple pie.

Lemonade: Make it.
Hassle: None. Stir lemon juice and sugar into water.
Notes: Indians like salt in lemonade too.

Salty snacks: Make and Buy
Hassle: Deep-frying is the biggest of all hassles for me, personally, so any snack that requires deep-frying is too much of a hassle. Other snacks that don't require frying are not much of a hassle at all.
Notes: I buy potato chips and tortilla chips. Popcorn I make from scratch on the stove top. Chivda and chex mix and spiced nuts are easy and fun to make. Crackers I prefer to buy.

There are many other things, such as ketchup and mustard, mayonnaise, creme fraiche, vanilla extract and fruit vinegar, that I would love to make at home sometime, but the truth is that I use so little of these ingredients that it just does not seem worth it to me. In general, if I find that we're consuming a fair bit of something- granola, yogurt- I'll make an effort to make it in my kitchen.

Other recipes for usually-store-bought-treats can be enjoyable weekend projects. I remember getting together with my BFF Neighbor Girl years ago to make pretzels one hot summer afternoon. It was such a memorable experience even though I haven't made them since.

With some other things, making a food/drink at home can be astoundingly cost saving. An example is this cold brewed coffee. Costs probably 1/10 of the cold coffee with the fancy name that one could be sucking down in the coffee shop all summer. In my book, these recipes are totally worth learning.

Now, it's your turn: What do you make and what do you buy? Tell us in the comments!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I've read a half dozen very interesting books in recent weeks. I'm sure you're dying to hear about them ;) and even if you're not, here goes...

Image: Goodreads
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud (Non-fiction, graphic). This book was recommended by two people- Gretchen of The Happiness Project included it in her book club picks and Radhika recommended it in a comment. And so I was intrigued enough to pick up the book. V did a double take when he spotted me reading it: "You're reading comics??!" Because he knows I'm not particularly keen on the genre. On the other hand, he can spend hours guffawing over Calvin and Hobbes. I did read  my fair share of Archie comics as a child, and Indian comics such as Tinkle (I know! Unfortunate name!) and Amar Chitra Katha. There was a Marathi comic that was my favorite- about a little boy named Chintu. I have very fond memories of reading Sunday comic pages with my maternal grandfather- I remember his distinctive chuckle as he read Beetle Bailey and Dennis The Menace and Garfield to me.

I haven't really read comics in a couple of decades though, but can I just say that I loved Understanding Comics? It is a brilliant book in which McCloud explores comics as an art form, using the medium of (what-else-but) comics. What a cool book- I highly recommend it. Also, please tell me about the graphic novels and comics you love. No superheroes, though, I'm not there yet.

Image: Goodreads
And what do you know- the very next book I'm talking about is a graphic novel: Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie.  This one was recommended by Niranjana- I read her eloquent review and knew I had to find the book. And it was indeed a fun and quick read. The story is set in the Ivory Coast in 1978 and the illustrations transported me right into a working class neighborhood in Yop City and into a colorful teenage drama about a girl named Aya and her friends, flavored with regional slang and replete with sticky situations. Apart from the story itself, the book was my first introduction to the culture and history of Cote d'Ivoire and a gentle reminder that socioeconomic differences notwithstanding, the human spirit (and teenage drama) will always prevail.

Image: Goodreads

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (debut fiction, drama). Victoria is a young adult with a troubled past who has lived her entire life in the foster care system. The story weaves between her past and her present efforts to build a life for herself. I liked two things about the book: it focuses attention on the lives of foster children, a group that seems to be largely ignored and forgotten (the author has started a foundation to help foster children build their lives). And the central theme of the book is Victoria's special talent for the Victorian language of flowers (the Victorian era tradition of assigning romantic meanings to flowers). Some of these meanings of flowers are popular even now- such as red roses for love, but the whole list is fascinating and I enjoyed that aspect of the story. Other than that, I found the narrative to be quite uneven and many things in the story were implausible and unexplained, I felt. So this was a strictly OK read for me.

Image: Goodreads
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (fiction, thriller). This book made it to many book lists last year and I had to wait in line for a full 6 months at the library to get my hands on a copy. The story was engaging enough,and with enough twists and turns that I raced through the book in a weekend, even sneaking in some reading time while dinner almost burnt on the stove because I wanted to know what happened next. But that's about the only good thing I can say about Gone Girl. This book left me with a very sick feeling. The characters were toxic and the ending most unsatisfying. I came away shaking my head and thinking- wow, there's no justice in this world. For a hard-hitting psychological thriller, I much prefer the work of Tana French, say, because I end up caring about the characters she creates.

Image: Goodreads

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain (non-fiction). Cain explores how current society, especially in the US, relentlessly idolizes extroverts (They network! They engage! They dazzle!), and this book is a manifesto in favor of introverts. On a personal level, this book naturally makes you ask yourself whether you are an extrovert or an introvert (or an ambivert- which is equal parts of both. No, I did not make this word up). In my case, growing up, I was labeled an absolute bookworm and an introvert. These days, my friends are likely to say something like "Nupur is totally a people person. She makes friends so easily. She can chat anyone up."

You can take a shorter form of the book's quiz here. The truth in my case, as with most people, lies somewhere in between. I clearly tilt on the introvert side of things from the quiz results: Prefer one on one conversations? Check. Express myself better in writing than speaking? Absolutely. Feel drained after social occasions and need solitude to recharge my batteries? OH YES. But when I am passionate about something, I seem to channel it into extroversion- relating with people and making friends quickly based on common interests. Certain parts of the book were thought-provoking, but there were other things that sounded like stereotyping and psycho-babble. Overall, a worthwhile read. If nothing else, it reminded me not to label myself or other people as "introverts" or "extroverts" but to recognize that most people can be one or the other based on the situation, and that both qualities bring something to the table.

Your turn: What are you reading these days? I'm linking to the It's Monday meme on Book Journey.

Before I leave, I have a mini recipe to share. OK, it is a stretch to call it a recipe- let's call it an idea. I got this darling salt and pepper shaker as a gift (thanks, Ashwini!).

The salt went in one shaker, naturally, but I don't like putting ground pepper in the other shaker- preferring to use a pepper grinder instead. Madhur Jaffrey had a nice idea in her book World Vegetarian; I remembered it vaguely and looked it up on my bookshelf. She calls it "An Indian Salt Mixture" or some such. Very simple- toast cumin and coriander seeds and peppercorns gently. Cool, grind to a coarse powder and mix with salt. Fill this spice-salt mixture into a shaker and use at the table to perk up just about any food that could use more flavor. Now the second shaker is full and I love sprinkling this masala salt on fried eggs and sandwiches and so many other things. I wanted to share this idea for anyone else who has a empty pepper shaker sitting around.

On a final note, you know what this post needs? Some vegetables. This was a gift I put together for Lila's friend's second birthday last weekend. My friend Cathy sent a book to Lila as a gift some months ago- Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert. The darling illustrations made me fall in love with fruits and veg all over again. So I bought a couple more copies to give as gifts to other kids.

For this gift, I crocheted a few items- onion, eggplant, carrot, apple and pepper and packaged the book and veggies in a basket. Hopefully the little birthday boy will spend some happy hours playing with these.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Swap Round-Up: Spices and Nice Things

44 swappers all over the U.S. signed up to send a "Spice and Something Nice" package to each other. During the course of the swap, I heard from several people that they reveled in the delight of having a pen pal, that they had fun thinking of all the special things they could send, they felt a child-like excitement while waiting for their surprise, and that they ended up making a new friend. Would you like to see the goodies we exchanged?

1. Angela received chaat masala and kachoris from Priti.

2. Priti received copies of Sunset magazine, and ingredients to prepare one of the recipes from the magazine: smoked paprika and marcona almonds, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Angela.

3.  Supriya received a handmade potholder in her favorite colors, green Thai curry paste, and chocolates from Chaitanya.

4. Chaitanya received dhaba masala, buttermilk masala and yummy nankhatai from Supriya.

5. Sanjana received smoked cayenne, mixed herbs, Vietnamese cinnamon, smoked Spanish style paprika, TJ's dark chocolate caramel wedges, pretty fabrics and hand-knit dishcloths from Rebecca.

6. Rebecca received sambar powder, a spicy snack mix and a pretty fabric from Sanjana.

7. Swapna received homemade sambar powder and a beautiful niranjan from Viswa.

8. Viswa received dabeli masala and earrings from Swapna.

9. Sonali received rasam/sambar powder, chocolate and face cream from Sheela.

10. Sheela received pav bhaji masala, bhakarwadi, jeera goli, a kitchen towel and body butter from Sonali.

11. Shilpa Ag. received Maharashtrian goda masala and a picture frame from Noorie.

12. Noorie received Hyderabadi biryani masala, a bag of lavender (from a friend's garden) and a bar of chocolate from Shilpa Ag.

13. Isha received sambar powder (made by Anu's mom), Girl Scout cookies and a set of measuring spoons from Anu.

14. Anu received garam masala (a family recipe) and a book - The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni from Isha.

15. Pavani received vatha kozhambu podiidli/ dosa mulagai podiGood Housekeeping Cakes cookbook and a coaster from Usha. 

16. Usha received Andhra curry powder, a necklace and a bracelet from Pavani.

17. Rukmini received kokum (and a recipe of Solkadi), kulith flour (and a recipe for pithale) and a pair of earrings from Shilpa N. 

18. Shilpa N.  received rasam powder and lip gloss from Rukmini.

19. Riha received panchphoran and chocolate walnut cookies from Snigdha.

20. Snigdha received a homemade spice blend for roasted root vegetables and chocolate bars from Riha.

21. Ashwini received parippu podi, masalas to make rasam and vatta kuzhambu, and pretty floral cupcake holders from Aparna.

22. Aparna received Goan garam masala, mild garam masala and a spoon rest from Ashwini.

23. Shweta received home made rasam powder and yummy butterscotch, chocolate and Hazelnut cookies along with an assortment of M&Ms from Vindya.

24. Vindya received sumac, organic dark chocolate and earrings from Shweta.

25. Saylee received usal masala, a candle and a painting (by Surabhi's son) from Surabhi.

26. Surabhi received homemade kaalaa masala, suntha powder (dried ginger) and a smiley coffee mug from Saylee.

27. Almas received amti powder (made by Gauri's mom), smoked chipotle peppers with a recipe, and a Thai red curry paste, and salt caramel candy and some Indian candies for childhood nostalgia (mango bite and melody) from Gauri.

28. Gauri received dal gosht masala, chili seasoning from Hard Times CafĂ© (with a recipe for chili with bulgur wheat) and a lovely citron green tea from Almas.

29. Bharathi received a Mangalore curry mix and whole spices for chai from Neela.

30. Neela received rasam powder and chocolate truffles from Bharathi.

31. and 32. Unfortunately, we are unable to communicate with one of the partners in this pair of swappers and I'm still working on resolving that.

33. Pinal received Szechwan sesame blend, lemon verbana soap and a piggy egg cup and spoon for her little boy from Anupama.

34. Anupama received Mexican adobo sauceEthiopian spice mix 'Berbere'Ethiopian tea and plantain chips from Pinal.

35. Shilpa Ar. received garam masala (a special family recipe), homemade cookies and candles from Shalaka.

36. Shalaka received Maharashtrian masala, a seashore themed hook and Florida candy from Shilpa Ar.

37. Ujwal received kadhai masala, body mist and color markers from Divya.

38. Divya received sambhar masala (family recipe), homemade masala biscuits, a pair of earrings, and Hershey's chocolate from Ujwal.

39. Vidya received U.P. masala (which she already used in a soybean curry!), homemade date rolls and 2 books for her kids from Pallavi.

40. Pallavi received daal powder, Chettinad spice powder and jewelry from Vidya.

41. Sandeepa received all-purpose sambar powder and chocolates from Mamatha.

42. Mamatha received Bengali garam masala, all the ingredients for a quick khichuri, a jar of homemade organic ghee and dark chocolate (some of which reportedly vanished before the photo could be taken!) from Sandeepa.

43. Dena received Parampara egg curry masala, MTR bisibele bhath paste, garam masala, rasam powder, Orange Pekoe tea, chai masala, chivda, banana chips and a scarf from me.

44. I received two spices (Penzey's China Tung Hing cinnamon, Herbes de Provence, along with matching recipes for these spices), a cookbook, yarn, note cards and fabric (to feed my newly acquired quilting habit) from Dena. Yup, she spoiled me all right.

All in all, I think the swap was lots of fun. Thanks to everyone who took a chance and participated (and thanks for sending pictures so we can all share in the fun). Sambar masala and garam masala shared honors as the most popular spices exchanged. And lots of people seem to agree that chocolate and cookies are nice things!

For any of the swappers who want to play again, and for anyone who missed the first round, watch out for another swap announcement- I'm hosting family in April and taking a work-related course in May- so let's do this again in June.

As for me, I had a great time flipping through the cookbook that Dena sent me- Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven. Do you ever find your pulse quickening when you open up a cookbook for the first time? No? Just me? There's that delicious anticipation because you never know what fabulous recipe or idea is hidden within the pages, just waiting to be discovered and, er, blogged about. I've always loved Mollie Katzen's vibe- her cookbooks are vegetarian and flavorful and she illustrates them beautifully; this cookbook is no exception.

The first recipe that caught me eye was "Lentil soup with a hint of fruit". Doesn't that sounds tantalizing? Turns out the fruit is plump golden dried apricots, and they make for a very nice embellishment to quite-ordinary lentil soup. The resulting soup has a sweetness and you know I'm the world's biggest fan of sweet notes in savory dishes.
Katzen's recipe for this soup calls for cumin and dry mustard as the seasoning, with balsamic vinegar to add contrasting tang to the apricots. I simply modified my basic lentil soup recipe to include apricots, like so:
  1. In a pressure cooker, heat a little oil and saute a minced onion
  2. Season with cumin powder, a hint of chili powder and some minced garlic
  3. Add 1 cup whole brown lentils (masoor) (rinsed and soaked) and 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots. Add salt to taste and 4-5 cups water. Pressure cook. 
  4. Garnish with lemon juice and cilantro.
Although the recipe is titled "soup", this would be fine as a dal on an Indian thali. For the last two weeks, all three of us in our little family have been absolutely walloped by a respiratory virus, and this soup provided warm comfort. Have a great week, all, and I'll be back next Monday with a book-themed post.