March 12, 2011

Soppu palya / Lentil and Spinach sauté

Fresh sautéed greens and onions tempered with red chilies and lentils, wow, one of my comfort foods, mainly because it reminds me of my home town. 

Vendors would come by in their carts with fresh greens and vegetables early in the morning or late evening. Even the mud on the roots would be wet and fresh. My dad's home was nestled in his plant nursery, in the heart of the city. Amidst the traffic, and pollution, our home in the garden served as an escape into nature. The trees changed attire during seasons, many birds and little animals made it their home. We called dad the plant and animal doctor! We had a dozen dogs, cows, rabbits, you name it. What more did a child need? My sisters and I had a lot of fun there, racing in our little bikes through the rows of plants, playing hide and seek with the helpers kids, splashing in the fountain ponds. We always had fresh dairy products right in our backyard! That explains all of mom's yummy cakes and pastries. The garden was filled with Rain trees, Silver Oaks and Palm. 

My personal favorite were the rain trees. There were two huge grandpa trees that had grown into umbrella canopies to shade the garden. The trees would sprout little green leaves in spring, overflow with pink flowers in summer; and when fall arrived, the orange leaves would shed like there was no tomorrow. I have spent many summer afternoons underneath it, just sleeping beneath them, and see them sway in the breeze. Squirrels ran up and down the large network of branches. Little sparrows made their babies in it. The cuckoo bird always sat there in the evenings, singing her melancholy. Many a times, during my final exams, I would take my books to study, but always ended up day dreaming, and fell asleep. It was a breath of fresh air, the silent slumber of the nature around me, how can I forget it. The fragrance after the rain, the pitter-patter of raindrops on the green house dome....nostalgia! I really wish, that my little boys have half the joy I had, during my childhood. It is overwhelming, and sad, to be away from it now. Well, those are lot of memories to make this little sauté!


What I used: Serves 4
3 big bunches of fresh palak (spinach) or a combination of greens like sabbakshi (dill), dantu (amaranthus). Rinse them well in warm water and rinse. Chop them up into chunks of desired length.
1 medium onion chopped
1cup onion cut lengthwise
2 whole red chilies cut in half
Pinch of turmeric
½ tsp salt or more as needed
1tsp olive oil
½ tsp each- uddina bele (urad dhal) and kadale bele (channa dhal)
¼ tsp mustard seeds

Get a skillet nice and hot, add the lentils and oil together, roast on medium heat for a minute. Add in the onions and red chilies. When the onions get transparent, add the chopped greens. Sauté them for a few minutes, until they wilt and get watery. Add salt and turmeric. Toss them quickly and serve hot as a side dish, with meat, vegetables, rice or chapathis/flat bread. Enjoy!