Day 4: Acid
Recipe: Lemon-Cumin Dal
Let’s begin with a confession, shall we?
I was mildly aware of what I was going to find in this section. This is because I occasionally read a blog written by Jennifer Reese, author of Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. When I say occasionally, I mean maybe once every couple of months. It just so happened that I stumbled on her post about her experience with the recipe for Cider Vinegar Tart found in the Acid section. You can read her thoughts here: Fiddling While Jersey Floods.
I tweeted about it, and Michael later commented on it, saying “sorry about the recipe“. This is what kind of launched this Twenty/20 endeavor. I wanted to see what my experience would be with the book for myself.
I had purposely put the Cider Vinegar Tart recipe on my schedule for today. After reading through the recipe itself, I realized that as a person who really doesn’t do any baking, I was lacking some tools of the trade that would likely make it a lot more difficult than it needed to be. Since my husband and I absolutely love Indian cuisine, the recipe for the Lemon-Cumin Dal was the logical choice…but we’ll get to that.
As far as the essay for this section is concerned, I found it to be right in line with the ones that I have covered so far. Jennifer Reese’s points about selecting the quality of cider vinegar (or any vinegar) are valid, but honestly I’m not sure it is a problem for someone like me who doesn’t really bake. I simply would not have any reason to worry too much about that kind of detail for the tart recipe.
The information he gives regarding other acidic components used in cooking (pickled fruits and vegetables being an example of something I never would have thought of in this manner) are fascinating. Luckily for me, he declares the following about lemon:
A few forms of acidity deserve special attention.
The first, by a good mile or so, is lemon juice. Lemon juice is one of the most valuable seasoning tools in the kitchen…Always have a lemon on hand. Salt, onion, lemon – a kitchen without these items is handicapped. (p. 93)
I have a Meyer Lemon tree in my front yard. Score.
Recipe: Lemon-Cumin Dal
This recipe has been the easiest I have made so far. Without giving too much away, the prep time involved is roughly five minutes. The cooking time is about an hour. It simmers in one pot, so it is very user-friendly.
Having said that, it does involve the use of mung beans, an ingredient that the average home cook may have not encountered on a typical basis, unless you’re a vegetarian. Because of this, I reached out to Marlene Newell (hi Marlene!) to clarify what, if anything, I needed to know to cook them properly. I had done a Google search and became concerned because I found most people talking about soaking the beans for up to a full day in advance.
I contacted Marlene because she worked with Ruhlman and tested every recipe in this book. She graciously answered my question promptly and I went about making dinner. The answer? For mung beans in this Dal, rinse the beans and then cook them as directed in the recipe. Simple.
Of course, the average cook may not think to reach out to an author of a cookbook or know who tested the recipe. Then again, social media is sort of changing things a bit. In any case, it is noted that the recipe itself is a variation on an Indian recipe, so mung beans are not the only choice.
In any case, it turned out well, and my husband and I enjoyed it. I think it came out a little soupier than I intended, but it was delicious.