Uma, that uber-sweet and talented blogger from Teluguruchi, sent me a secret ingredient for the Arusuvai friendship chain ages ago. But swamped as I was with my trip to India and a crazy workload after I returned, I didn’t have a chance to make and post a recipe worthy of it until now.
By now most of you know about the Arusuvai chain and have participated in it, but for anyone that doesn’t know, this is a very special idea from the ladies over at the Yum Blog, Bharathy of Spicy Chilly and Bhags of Crazy Curry. Arusuvai, in Tamil, means the six tastes. In this chain, a blogger sends on a secret ingredient to another, and they cook with it, post about it, and send on another secret ingredient to yet another blogger, and so on. It is indeed a wonderful way to make and maintain friendships in our strange world where we usually only know each other by our urls and recipes.
Uma’s ingredient came with lots of goodies including a plush poodle for a dog-lover, a lovely bookmark, lentils, and a card. Thanks, dear Uma, for your thoughtful gifts.
Now after all these years of cooking Tamil food, you’d think I’d have guessed the secret ingredient right, but I didn’t. I thought it was rasam powder, but it turned out instead to be sambar powder. Oh, well, it does have some of the same ingredients. Anyway, an email to Uma later all was well and I knew just what I would make. Rasavangi.
Rasavangi, a dish that’s one of my favorites, features the wonderful eggplant. I know it seems like I’m on eggplant overload right now, but hey, can one ever have too many recipes starring this wonderful veggie? I, for one, don’t think so.
For the Rasavangi, I used a variety I planted this year in my tiny vegetable garden. It’s goes by the cheesy name of Lavender Touch and has a beautiful white color with lavender streaks and tender white flesh (the one in the picture looks more purple than is typical). Believe me, this eggplant is almost too good-looking to eat.
I used red lentils, or masoor dal, although tuvar dal is the more traditional ingredient for Rasavangi. There’s a story behind this: I used to cook the tuvar dal in my handy dandy pressure cooker, because the cooker does a great job of reducing it to the nice, mushy consistency I love in any sambar.
But my big, gorgeous dog Lucy has a tremendous fear of all things noisy, and the hiss of the pressure cooker tops her list. A close second are thunderstorms. Since the DC area is racked by thunderstorms almost every other day in the summer, Lucy is in a perpetual state of panic these days, with her tongue hanging out, tiny whiny noises coming out of her throat. She is so acutely aware of the pressure cooker that she doesn’t even wait for the hiss: she recognizes the distinctive clink the cooker makes when I take it out of the kitchen cupboard and put it on the countertop. The next minute I hear her feet thumping down the basement stairs as she flies for cover.
So despite Desi’s objections- he feels, guy-like, that Lucy has to get over it- I have tried to minimize my use of the pressure cooker as much as possible. In the past few months, I’ve found I can use the microwave to cook most lentils, but tuvar dal takes inordinately long and never comes out quite as well-done as I like it to be.
So pink lentils it was for the Rasavangi, and a good thing too, because not only do they cook up in a jiffy, they tasted absolutely wonderful. Uma’s sambar powder added a spicy, fragrant flair that took this dish from super to sublime. Thanks, dear friend. And thanks also for your patience.
What’s more, Lucy couldn’t be happier…well, almost. Mommie can’t do anything about the thunderstorms.
2 medium eggplants, chopped into small, even-sized pieces
3/4 cup red lentils or masoor dal, boiled until very soft
2 tsp of sambar powder (the Arusuvai ingredient)
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil (not olive)
1 sprig curry leaves
1 1-inch round ball of tamarind, soaked in warm water, then crushed to extract juices. Discard the solids.
A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
2 dry red chilies
Fry in 1 tsp oil and then grind to a smooth paste:
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp chana dal (bengal gram dal)
1 dry red chili
1/4 cup coconut shreds
For the tadka or seasoning:
1 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dry red chilies
2 tsp udad dal (black gram)
Heat the oil in a deep saucepan. Add the eggplant and curry leaves and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes until the eggplant is quite tender.
Add the tamarind water, sambar powder, and the ground spice paste and let them boil together for a few minutes.
Add the lentils and simmer 8-10 minutes on a low flame for the flavors to merge
For the tadka, heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add mustard seeds, red chilies and black gram.
Take off heat as soon as the lentils turn golden-brown. Add to the rasavangi.
Garnish with chopped coriander.
Rasavangi tastes absolutely delicious served hot with rice. Enjoy!
The Arusuvai now goes out to my dear friend Priya of 365 Days of Vegetarian.