The village Punjabi cook doesn’t waste a thing, nor does she use many spices. When I saw a beautiful bunch of beets with bright green leaves and almost neon red stems, I planned to make three dishes—a roasted beet sald with walnuts and goat cheese with the beets, a mixed stir-fry with the leaves and, because I had a container of cooked black lentil thawing on the counter, a mahan dee daal with beet stems. Well, it was fabulous!

Black Lentils with Beet Stems

Yield: 6-8 servings

1 cup whole black lentils (urad daal or mahan dee daal), picked over and rinsed
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups beet stems, in 1/3 -inch pieces

For the tardka:

1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece ginger, minced
1/4 cup ghee or canola oil
1 long green chile, seeded and thinly sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala (optional)

Soak the lentils and beans overnight in 1 quart of water. Drain and rinse and put in a large microwavable dish with 6 cups of water and the salt. Tightly cover and heat on high for 50 to 60 minutes (or cook in a pressure cooker for the same amount of time following the manufacturer’s directions carefully; or place in a large saucepan and simmer on top of the stove for about 4 hours). Stir occasionally at first and more often as they thicken. Check them and add more water if needed. Lentils will be creamy when fully cooked. Microwave the beet stems until tender. Stir into the cooked lentils.

In a medium skillet sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger in the ghee or oil until lightly browned. Add the chile pepper and tomato and sauté until the tomato is cooked and the oil begins to separate. Add the garam masala and sauté a minute more.

Pour the lentils into a serving bowl and then pour the tardka over the lentils and swirl it in.