In starving grad student times, dirt-cheap Indian dinners on East 6th St were a welcome break in a routine of ramen and grilled cheese. For $8-10 a head, my comrades and I basked in the nuclear glow of a bazillion Christmas lights and winking Mylar garlands, sharing lamb korma, palak paneer, steamy basmati biryani, and mounds of naan. Nothing like a caddy of chutney to make a lady feel festive and fed.
In the course of these budget feasts, the little aluminum dishes of complimentary turmeric-touched cabbage and lentils inevitably fell by the wayside. But I've always loved them, and consistently ended each dinner with a portion of rice draped in canary-yellow lentil gravy.
I've discovered embarrassingly recently (like, last week) that the ubiquitous dal is dead-easy to replicate at home. Thrifty-and-filling, delicious-and-nutritious, simultaneously bone-sticking and sunny, dal's an ideal balm on a rainy spring day.
And unlike their pulse/legume cousin, the bean, lentils/dal need no soaking or long-minded prep, and can be ready in 30 minutes. Procrastinators, gather ye lentils while ye may!
This bowl of saffron feel-goods has little to do with anything traditionally Indian; it's a grab-bag of things I happened to have in the pantry, and it produced a generous pot that ensured a week of dal-on-rice, dal-as-soup, dal-with-random kale, with even enough for a quart of frozen emergency dal.
(Just in case there is an immediate and overwhelming need for something creamy, spicy-savory, and punchy carmine.)