Celery's seductive lookalike is beginning to sprout up at the markets these days. Rhubarb, with its stringy stalk and rouge skin, is often paired with fruits, though it is actually a vegetable. Its tart flavor is typically tempered by sugar (think pie, compotes, etc.), but here it is incorporated into a savory dish that preserves its natural zing.
The rhubarb stalks join a pot of red lentils (prepared as a traditional Indian dal with ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cloves, cardamom, and dried chile for heat). As the dish simmers, the rhubarb practically dissolves, leaving behind molten flesh and its tangy trademark flavor. The dal is delicious sprinkled with fresh cilantro and served over rice or another grain (red quinoa here), or scooped up with toasted pita.
DAL WITH RHUBARB
[Recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything]
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 40 minutes, largely unattended
1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over
2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp minced garlic
4 cardamom pods
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
2 whole cloves
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 dried ancho or other mild dried chile (optional)
2 Tbsp cold butter or peanut oil (optional)
chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
1. Combine all the ingredients except the salt, butter or oil, and cilantro in a saucepan, add water to cover by about 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and keep cooking to the desired tenderness. The lentils should be saucy but not soupy.
2. Remove the cloves and, if you like, the cardamom pods (they’re kind of fun to eat, though). Stir in the butter or oil if you’re using it. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then garnish with cilantro and serve.
Dal with Rhubarb. To the pot along with the other ingredients, add 3 or 4 stalks rhubarb, strings removed and chopped.