Monday, July 1, 2013


Ask a Glutton: Your Perfect Dinner Party

I'm throwing a small dinner party. What are good things to make that have cohesive prep/ cook times? I always end up starting prepping or cooking items at the wrong time and then have to find ways to keep side dishes warm while waiting for the chicken to finish roasting.

The best thing to remember when hosting a dinner party is that everyone is already impressed with and loves you. These are, presumably, your friends, and you’re feeding them, so even if everything burns and you get drunk and order a pizza, they’ll still think you’re the best. Aside from that, the secret is appetizers. That way, if things take longer to make than you expect them to, or if you’re waiting around for a latecomer to show up, everyone will still be fed and happy. I like to make Smitten Kitchen inspired French Onion Toasts; all you have to do is caramelize some onions whenever you have time in the week leading up to the dinner party. Then, when people start showing up hungry, spread em on some sliced French bread, top with grated cheese, and slide under the broiler. A couple of these with some cheap red wine are more than enough to keep any hungry guest happy.

In terms of specific dishes, I find that the best things to make for dinner parties are things that can be served cold, or have flexible cooking times. Instead of roasting a chicken, try braising it, or making coq au vin. This means that you can make it ahead of time, then turn off the oven and let it sit while you make whatever else you want to eat; braises and stews only improve as they sit. As for sides, I like to make a bunch of different things that can all be thrown into the oven together. If you’re roasting that chicken, surround it with vegetables and potato chunks with a few cloves of garlic in their jackets. That way, everything comes out of the oven at the same time, and you don’t have to make any complicated time management spread sheets.

Pasta is another good option, because you can make the sauce ahead of time, and then heat it up as you boil the water right before eating—and also because it doesn’t require much accompaniment other than salad or maybe some bread if you wanna double down on the carbs (which, believe me, you do.) Just remember, whatever you chose to make, don’t worry if it isn’t as hot as you hoped, or if your friends have to wait a while to eat. You are feeding them! And if that isn’t more than enough to earn their eternal love and admiration, they aren’t the right kind of friends anyway.

I don't have a grill. What are some non-grill Summer Foods I can make?

I love this question, because I have personally never understood the tyranny of the grill in our collective conception of summertime cuisine. After all, with greater and greater numbers of Americans moving back into the cities, and the world’s population as a whole becoming more urbanized, the suburban backyard BBQ is quickly becoming a thing of the past. So your lack of grill space just means you’re ahead of the curve!

My all time favorite thing to make in the summer is this wonderful pasta with basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella. You chop up a big pile of the best tomatoes you can find, mix in a few cloves of garlic, some salt, and olive oil, and leave it to sit for a while. When the flavors have melded, and everything’s nice and garlicky, cook some pasta (I usually use angel hair), and mix everything together, topping it off with piles of chopped basil, some torn up mozzarella bits, and a few extra glugs of olive oil if it looks a bit dry. It’s delicious, summery, and endlessly adaptable. You can add whatever summer veggies you’ve got lying around, like corn, zucchini, or baby arugula. You can substitute brown rice or faro for the pasta, leave out the cheese if you’re vegan, whatever. It will still be fantastic.

Speaking of zucchini and corn, both make wonderful fritters, another summertime standby of mine. For the zucchini fritters, grate your zucchini, salt it, and leave it to drain for a bit. Then mix it with an egg, about ¼ cup of flour, whatever fresh herbs you have lying around, and some feta. For the corn fritters I usually beat the egg whites to give them more substance, and add a glug of soy sauce instead of the cheese. Both are quick, easy, can be baked or fried in some neutral oil with a high smoke point, and are the perfect accompaniment to a lemony salad and some stargazing in the back yard! I love summertime food, and could go on about this forever. Don’t even get me started on the increased potential for stone fruit desserts.

I love cheesy food. Unfortunately, I think I'm developing a slight lactose intolerance, mostly because when I eat a large amount my stomach hurts. Homemade Mac&Cheese is my ultimate comfort food. Any suggestions on how to maximize the ooey-gooey-creamy taste and texture while minimizing the actual cheesy content? I'm not looking for a vegan option, just a lower lactose level.

Oh honey. I am so sorry to hear this. Freshman year of college I was friends with a kid who was horribly allergic to lactose, but loved ice cream. And we were living in Italy, the land of perfect gelato! So he would still go down to Grom and grab a cone a few times a month, even if he was doubled over in pain afterwards. Dairy is a cruel and subtle mistress.

As for the reduced cheese macaroni and cheese, you have a few options. Since lactose is typically found in the whey of cheeses, hard cheese like parmesan and aged Gouda tends to be easier to digest for lactose intolerant people. A general rule is that the harder the cheese, the lower it is in lactose. Goat’s milk cheese has normal amounts of lactose, but is naturally homogenized, which can make it easier to digest, and recipes for goat cheese-based mac and cheese are all over the internet. Or you could just say the hell with it and only make this amazing Joan’s on Third Mac and Cheese every once in a while; it’s pretty much the cheesiest, most amazing thing ever, so a small portion should sate your cravings with minimal fuss.

I tried to make some Dhal Tadka (with red lentils and rice bran oil instead of ghee, plus I skipped the curry leaves) the other day, and I did not season it enough—it is super bland. I tried fresh coriander, an entire lemon (juiced) and some more whole dried red chillies thrown in toward the end of cooking, to try and make this taste like something. Apart from not using enough seasoning/spices in proportion to the amount of lentils cooked, did I go wrong by using rice bran oil instead of ghee? Does it make a big difference going sans-ghee and sans curry leaves? Also: what do I do to rescue a shit-ton of bland-tasting Dhal Tadka in the freezer? Here is the recipe I used (and did not follow re: proportional amounts of spices).

I can already tell you what your problem is here. The rice bran oil! Ghee is the magic ingredient that gives all the best Indian food its wonderful, slippery unctuousness, and by leaving that out you’re basically just making some healthy lentils. Delicious as well, when done right (y’all KNOW I love lentils), but a different beast entirely. If you don’t want to buy a whole jar of ghee, clarifying butter at home is super easy; just melt some unsalted butter, and skim off the solid butterfat that rises to the top.

As for rescuing your freezer dhal, you have a couple of options. Number one, and my personal favorite, is the condiment dump. Toss a bunch of siracha on there. Maybe some soy sauce; a little unami never hurt nobody. I also really like yoghurt on my dahl, and you can make a really easy, delicious, and traditional accompaniment called raita by grating a cucumber, salting it and leaving it to drain, then squeezing it out and mixing it with garlic, freshly grated pepper, and whole milk yoghurt. This stuff is delicious enough to eat on cardboard, so it should certainly help elevate your dhal a little. Another way to go would be to do makeshift veggie burgers by mixing it with some cooked brown rice and shredded greens, forming into patties, and frying in some of that ghee you made. Remember not to beat yourself up about this one too much! Sometimes recipes just don’t work out the way we want them to. The most important thing is to be proud that you’re expanding your culinary horizons, and live to fight another day.

As a special 4th of July bonus, here is the only barbecue hack you'll need: watermelon and feta salad. Your hosts will have the grill covered, and everybody will bring beer (although, OK, they will obviously love it if you bring beer, too), so salad is a great way to go. Plus, it’s delicious, refreshing, fast to make, and gets better as it sits. You just have to chop about half of a small watermelon into rough chunks, crumble in about half a cup of feta broken into big chunks, and some chopped up basil or mint. Drizzle some olive oil over the whole mess right before you head out the door, and you're done. It's the ultimate summertime salad. Plus, my friend just texted to see if I wanted to go to a barbeque hosted by some dude who used to be on The Bachelor, so if you make it next Thursday know that you’ll be eating the same thing as some reality TV star somewhere.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is called living the modern American dream.


Previously: Ask a Glutton Who Wants to Help

Emily Beyda is a part time writer and full time snack enthusiast who lives in a treehouse in the Hollywood hills. Ask her anything.

70 Comments / Post A Comment


Dinner party foods: a good lasagna (like a nice mushroom/beschemel one) is awesome because you can prep it the day before and just pop it in the oven when people arrive.

Non grill summer foods: Quinoa+lime juice+black beans+corn (defrosted frozen is fine)+diced pepers+diced avocado=awesome super easy summer salad.


@smartastic Ooh I will also say tacos, which in actuality are meant for all the time, but are also pumped up by summer produce iterations. I love the Charred Corn and Zucchini tacos on Serious Eats. Fresh Salsa, guacamole.

Really fresh corn anything.


@districter I have a friend who throws tortilla parties: he provides fresh dough, tortilla presses, a hot stove, and a good number of toppings. Guests can bring whatever to share (other toppings or booze). It's always a good time.


@allofthewine I do this! It goes over super well, and you can do most of the prep ahead of time, dicing up toppings, making salsa and guac, etc (pro-tip: always cover the guac with saran wrap pushed down into the guac - prevents it from browning cause it stops air from getting in). Makes the actual party stress-free. (Also, having nothing to do with tacos, Bryce comes back tonight!)


How has a discussion of "perfect dinner party" foods gone on this long without mentioning short ribs?

The article calls out braising meats, and it really is the perfectest dinner party food: all the prep is hours (if not days) before the party, and you get to use the cheaper cuts of meat, since they're actually the ones ideal for braising. I swear by Mark Bittman's coffee and chile short ribs (and so will your guests), but carnitas or any other low-and-slow-and-wet dish is amazing.

All of our dinner parties are either short ribs or tacos.

kat bee

Speaking as a lactose-intolerant lover of macaroni and cheese: cheddar is often naturally lactose-free (Cabot cheese even mentions specifically on their website: http://www.cabotcheese.coop/pages/lactose-free/)

Also Lactaid pills work for me when I am particularly craving dairy items, which is often, because I just like cheese, damnit.


@kat bee Came down here to say exactly this! I grew up with my summertimes minutes away from the original Cabot Creamery so I didn't even realize people made mac and cheese with anything that wasn't cheddar until recently. My mom always made it with Cabot Extra Sharp.


@Biketastrophy Cabot is the only cheddar I will buy. My boyfriend made fun of me at first but now he agrees it's the best :). I usually get the Racer's Edge one, which is still nicely sharp but not as crumbly as the Extra Sharp can be.


@kat bee I can vouch for the Lactaid too. Last time I was in the US I picked up 2 large boxes of tablets, since they don't have them in the UK.

I can handle goat's cheese as well. But my go-to cheese lately has been Lactofree cheese (try googling for it.) I don't know if they have it in the States, but it has been slowly appearing on supermarket shelves here in the UK. It's basically cheese that has been pre-treated with the lactase enzyme, so I can digest it without any problems. The same company does Lactofree milk too. Can't say how happy I was to discover the cheese. I keep buying it 2 blocks at a time because I want my local supermarket to keep stocking it, and I sometimes get cravings for it. It's a semi-hard cheese with proper holes in it. Tastes great melted on toast, or grated over pasta.


@kat bee I have an intense Cabot affinity, due entirely to my Greensboro, VT summers. And also lactarded stomach. Vermont's Northeast Kingdom pinup this summer?

Hot Doom

The link for the dal recipe isn't working so I don't know what went in it, but I find that when I make dal, I tend to use double the amount of spices called for in the recipe. I never bother with ghee, probably to the detriment of the recipe, but it still ends up tasting nice! Since a lot of the taste in the spices comes out when they're fried in the beginning, maybe you could add an extra concentrated flavor boost to the existing dal by sauteeing some chopped onions with lots of tumeric, cumin, cinnamon, a bay leaf, garlic and ginger (fresh and dry, if possible), salt and any other curry flavors if you have them.

Once the onions go soft and the spices smell good, you could either blend them and add them to your dal, or add them to the defrosted dal, and then blend them all together to get a smooth consistency and help them meld with what ya got. Hope this helps!


@Hot Doom I have also made sadly tasteless lentils. The recipe I followed (first mistake) didn't have you sauté the spices with anything first, which made me suspicious, but since I had never cooked Indian food before I wanted to follow the instructions. So I just threw them into the big pot of wet lentils as instructed and, no surprise, their flavor disappeared completely.

I think I did wind up adding a bunch of sriracha, as recommended, but most of the sad boring lentils just didn't get eaten.

Lesson: sauté your spices first!


@Hot Doom I would add to your excellent onions and spices tip the admonition to use an awful lot more butter than you think you should to sautee those onions and spices (I suppose you could use ghee, but I never have ghee and am lazy so I just use butter). Stir that into the sad dal and it should be much improved.

Mustard seeds are also tasty in dal- Bittman has a red lentil dal recipe in How To Cook Everything that has rather a lot of mustard seeds and turned out remarkably well.

georgette hair

@Hot Doom Salt! The answer is salt!
It makes such a big difference, and you will be able to taste all the spices you already added better.

Hot Doom

@georgette hair and @beaks Yes, fer sherrrr to the salt and mustard seeds! And also? just some good ol' down home tasting of the mixture in the cooking process goes a long way for making sure you like the final outcome. As long as there's no raw meat in there, taste the shit out of the food all the way along.




Related dinner party question - how do I get people to actually RSVP? And if they have, how to get them to show up on time? I've actually stopped inviting people for meals because I got tired of people showing up late, eating, then leaving early for another party.

The Lady of Shalott

@HereComesTheMetricSystem I have no answer besides "smack your friends" but maybe some ideas? Are you sending out legit invites/evites with a dedicated RSVP thing? Because sometimes people aren't clear on "legit dinner party" and "just having some people over for eats casual-like" so it can help to be SUPER CLEAR about it. In the second place....you can't force people to RSVP so if you want a dedicated head count you have to be FORCEFUL about calling people up two or three days ahead of time and saying "Listen, I am SUPER PSYCHED for my dinner party but I have to know, now, if you plan on coming!" Hopefully the answer will be YES PLEASE!!! or no, bummer, that is too bad! If the answer is "Oh, I don't know, maybe I can make it" then comes the Hard Step of saying "Well, I need the final head count today, so that is too bad. Maybe I'll see you at [x event] next weekend then."

And HOLY SHIT, if someone came to a dinner party I threw, ate my food, then left early to go to another party....they would never be invited to another party thrown by me or my friends for as long as I lived AND I would not be very nice in bidding them good-bye because that is an unbelievably rude and thoughtless thing to do.


@HereComesTheMetricSystem Oh lord- the late guest. It's the bane of my dinner party giving life (I throw lots of dinner parties).

Like you, I've actually just had to cut some people from the guest list. It's one thing to arrive 15 minutes late- it's a whole other to arrive an hour late- especially when you know it's a freakin' dinner party and not some college frat party where you can show up whenever.

Since then I've also learned to be chill about the start time. I actually set the arrival time 30-60 minutes ahead of when I'd like to start the first course. I call it the cocktail portion of the evening- I usually have a pre-made cocktail themed to the meal and people can have one and hang out and have fancy cheese or whatever. And the late comers just miss out on that- and not the whole meal. I've never had anyone leave a party early to go to another one- but that could be because I'm old and my friends are old.

RE: RSVP- I've found that fancier invites get better attention. I've occasionally even sent actual paper invites. But paperlesspost.com is really nice too.


@HereComesTheMetricSystem Make friends with people who do RSVP? Like me and Kirs and Shalott?

I think the formal invites and formal check-ins the day before are the best ways to politely enforce the behavior you expect of your friends. But if it is so much work and headspace and time out of your life to do it... maybe spend that work and time developing new rewarding friendships!

Or, you know, not do meals with them and do other stuff instead. If they're late to a movie showing, they're the only ones hurt by that! You'll be nomming your popcorn happily, watching the previews.


@PatatasBravas Yeah, I've just stopped trying to cook for other people, other get-togethers (that I don't have to cook for) go fairly well.

@all I know the general "people don't RSVP!" is a standard grouse on the internet. I've tried upping my invite game (from texts, to emails, to FB events, haven't made it to the Evite level though). Mostly it's just articles on dinner parties (ie- thekitchn) that cause my confusion at having friends that will actually show up for a meal or structured menu.


If "structured, sit-down meals" as A Thing is new to your peer group, that might be part of the deal. Also, FB-level is still fairly "this start time is nominal" among my peers, although if it said, explicitly, "Dinner Party, please arrive at 7pm" that would give me the heads-up as to how to treat it.

So, yeah, if your friend group is still close enough to college to be operating on a college-person-ish schedule, you either have to give them a few years or go ahead and go the "imma pick up this phone and CALL you" route.


Well summertime cuisine typically includes the grill because the house is too hot! Outdoors in some shade you have a nice breeze and you don't heat up the house with your cooking.


@Biketastrophy Sorry, what is "outdoors?" Do you mean the (flammable) fire escape?

The Lady of Shalott

@Biketastrophy Yeah, I think we all know that the grill would be awesome. But....not grilling on my wooden balcony/fire escape and I'm not lugging everything I own down to the park to use their weird BBQs there. No thanks, we like the grill, but...not practical for everyone.


@wallsdonotfall Okay okay, so those of us in super dense urban settings don't have that option. I'm very used to Boston where its mostly triple deckers with at least a tiny paved area outdoors.


@wallsdonotfall Yes, I have both these problems (house heating up, no grill)! Plus Mr. Iceberg and the BBs are vegetarian so it seems kind of stupid to get a grill?

The Lady of Shalott

@iceberg Dude, you can grill all kind of vegetables. Either in grill baskets or chop up your veggies, put them in a double-layered tinfoil packet (seal it up like an envelope) with some oil and spices/herbs, cook on grill. No muss, no fuss. Delicious.


@iceberg If you got a grill you could make portobello mushroom and fennel burgers!

Speaking as someone who almost set herself on fire when stubbornly trying to use my tiny grill on my tiny balcony.


Mark Bittman wants us to all use slow-cookers instead of grills and stoves during the summer. He claims it keeps the house cooler and allows more summertime laziness... I follow the logic, but I am not convinced I want to eat stews in the summer, so I am unpersuaded until I find more appropriate summer recipes.


@iceberg But but but grilled vegetables!

I am also in a crowded urban place, and I don't have a grill and try to use my friends' as much as possible. Everything tastes delicious on the grill and not anything like things cooked in/on the oven.


@iceberg I'd like to echo the "grilled veggies" fandom, seriously there is nothing better in the summer than grilled vegetables. Grilled summer tomatoes? Oh. Oh my god. A buddy of mine just uses a tailgating grill at his place, cost him about 40 bucks and it does a great job. Totally worth it.


@PatatasBravas Man, I am not bought into the slow cooker at all. Every recipe I've tried seems like it overcooks and gets dry, or undercooks and then I have to eat late. Maybe I just have a crap slow cooker?

The Lady of Shalott

@OhMarie What kind of things are you cooking in it? It can take a while to get the hang of it and some slow cookers are weird about heat transfer--if you're doing vegetables, they usually benefit from higher heat/shorter cook times, to avoid getting all mushy. As far as meat...usually slower and longer. What kinds of meat? Pork can be REALLY tricky to avoid drying it out, beef is usually easier as long as you pick a good cut with plenty of fat marbled through it. Do you have a dedicated slow cooker cookbook or are you adapting recipes?


@PatatasBravas Rick Bayless has some good slow-cooker type recipes in his Mexican Everyday cookbook. We just made the tomatillo pork with white beans, which is super-tasty. It's still a pretty stew-like consistency, but the tomatillos make it a much fresher-tasting option than, like, beef and potatoes.


@PatatasBravas I just made this Barbecue Chicken, and it's a perfect slow cooker summer time food. Tasty cold for lunch, and super easy.


@iceberg GRILL SOME CORN. Holy moly is that ever good.


We just made slow cooked pulled pork for sandwiches and they were excellent (from a Food Network Magazine recipe of all things). The 10th Anniversary Edition of How to Cook Everything also has a slow cooked pork recipe which is my favorite thing to put on tacos ever. So basically, maybe try the slow cooker for just the meat part? Summer is for fresh fruits and veggies anyhow.

I've had beef dry out on me several times, but pork shoulder has never failed me. So completely the opposite advice as @The Lady of Shalott. Which I'm sure is totally helpful.


@Biketastrophy The America's Test Kitchen cookbook Slow Cooker Revolution is basically the best thing in the world. Everything I've made from it has been amazing, except for one lentil soup (which was my fault; lentils do not need to cook for ten hours!). There's also a great recipe for caramelizing onions without standing over the stove sweating forever. I recommend it most strongly.


@Biketastrophy Slow cookers don't heat up the kitchen as much as the stove, but with no AC and a heat wave going on I put the slow cooker out on the deck (and watch out for wild animals)


@OhMarie I run my slow cooker overnight, then reheat the food for dinner the next day. I'm at work/commuting for 9-10 hours a day, but I very seldom sleep more than 8 hours.

Summer slowcooker meals: pulled pork, beef tacos, chili, cold poached chicken on salads (and it's cold because of previously-mentioned overnight cooking)


@iceberg A thousand times yes to grilled veggies being the tastiest, not to mention much easier to cook on a grill than meat.

However, I do differ from Lady of Shalott's grilling methods: I grill virtually all my veggies (and fruits) with the "cut in half, slather in fat, place directly on grill" method. Summer squash, tomatoes, onions, apples, peaches... and of course, the already-mentioned portobello caps, corn on the cob (shuck it first!) and the always-awesome roasted bell peppers.

Some of these might need to spend some time on the cool side of the grill to get the cooked-to-charred ratio right, but they are all amazing.


@ThatWench MAY I ADD. Grill your corn, shucked, natch (grill marks are delicious), then rub a half lime dipped in salt and chili powder on it. Then you are done, forever.


I actually registered just to comment on this post (longtime reader, first-time commenter): Smitten Kitchen (holla) has a magical recipe for buttermilk roasted chicken that makes an EXCELLENT dinner-party dish (for non-veg people, ahem). It takes about 5 minutes of prep time, one day of marinating/do nothing time, and about 40 minutes of cook time. Boom: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/01/buttermilk-roast-chicken/ I seriously recommend. Plus, it tastes fantastic with an easy green salad and some bread on the side. So easy. Hi everybody.


@MadeleineClaire My love for Smitten Kitchen knows no bounds


RE: the dal, did you do the mustard seeds and spices thing at the end (tempering/chaunk/etc)? I think your best bet is to do that whole step again using ghee. It's supposed to be served shortly after that step anyhow, so that seems like a great way to perk up individual servings from the freezer.


Another dal hint: tht recipe says "salt to taste," which with lentils can mean quite a bit. If you thought, "that must mean a pinch," you probably needed a lot more salt.


@SarahP My new trick for making sure I salt things enough is to think about how many servings it's actually going to make, and how much salt I would probably want in each serving, and then multiplying those together. It feels like a LOT of salt, but everything tastes so much better now.


Re: people loving you if you feed them - it's true! It reminds me of the BBs 2nd birthday party - I worked myself up into a lather about should I do something special and fancy and then I was like, listen lady, you have toddler triplets. I swept the house, vacuumed the carpet, made a sheet cake form a packet mix, opened a bag of chips and cut some cheese into cubes. And everyone that came was just happy to hang out and it was super-casual, cool and fun because the people I invited are nice people. And the BBs were happy because they ate their weight in potato chips.


@iceberg One time I tried to make brownies for a college potluck, and to my dismay, the brownies did not bake. I was in a hurry and yanked them out of the oven, and later, when they were on the table with the other food, I realized that I had basically brought a pan of uncooked brownie batter. The group proceeded to eat the whole damn thing. I am less self-conscious about my cooking now, since apparently raw brownie dough does just fine.


@iceberg Nice people will eat whatever, especially if there are ample drinks around (both alcoholic and non). I've done whole dinner parties with just appetizers and desserts. No one complained.

And I can related to the BB's, because whenever people bring chips to my house, I usually eat my weight in them too. Nom.

baked bean

The basil/tomato/olive oil pasta thing is sort of like what my mom likes to make but her recipe also includes red wine vinegar. It is soooo good.


I've lived in Brooklyn for ten years, and grilling is a VERY big part of my summertime eating situation. My friends have rooftops, yards, mini-grills to bring to the park. You can have it all! Also, a million times yes to this watermelon feta salad. So good.


@beatrixkiddo1 Also a million times yes to the watermelon salad. Adding a little balsamic to the mix makes it even more amazing.

Beatrix Kiddo

I'd like to salute whomever chose the photo to accompany this post.

fondue with cheddar

@Beatrix Kiddo I remember it but forget what it was about. I just know it was really powerful. Each place setting was different, and represented something or someone (women?). What was it about?


@fondue with cheddar It's "The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago. More here: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/dinner_party/

fondue with cheddar

@nowwhat OH YEAH, I remember now. Thanks for the link!


@fondue with cheddar

Vaginas! They're all vagina plates (er, vulva plates, I guess), each representing a notable and important vagina-haver. Good art is good.

fondue with cheddar

@peasofmind Good art is good. Vulva/vagina art is better. Vulgina? Vavulva? Mulva!


@Beatrix Kiddo I LOVE JUDY CHICAGO'S DINNER PARTY. I cried and cried when I saw it. I'm a pussy. (Get it?)


Great dal without ghee: a thing!

I fry onions with a dash of rice bran oil + some chopped green chillies, fresh ginger, cumin seeds, turmeric, bay leaves, salt, until onion is soft. Add whatever spices you like in this. Stick in lentils, cover with enough water to be soupy. You might need to top up with water periodically to keep it runny. Near the end of cooking, I fry an improvised spice mix involving cumin seeds + ground cumin, garam masala, mustard seeds, turmeric, cardamom. when that's fragrant, chop up another onion and add. When it's soft, add water to cover and dump it in your dal. That's just for depth of flavour - now make your tarka! Fry onions and green chillies with mustards seeds until really really cooked/blackened and top your delicious dal with it.

Tl;dr: I have success with fried spices at both ends of cooking. And salt, lots of salt. Yum!

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