This is the one of (God willing) many opportunities to share my recipes with you. I wish to start off the year with two healthy recipes from my book Menus and Memories from Punjab: Meals to Nourish Body and Soul because they are really hearty -- stick to the ribs, yet low in fat and delicious! Lentils and bread are the base of the Punjabi diet. Punjabis don’t feel they have eaten a meal unless it has bread. This one is so simple, just flour and water -- but wait ‘til you taste them!


Yellow Chickpea Lentils with Long Squash (vegan)
Chana Daal Kudoo

Yield: 8 ½-cup servings

Bebeji taught me to make this very popular combination from Punjab, also known as “tardka dal” when made minus the squash. Chana daal is very high in protein and is great for those who favor carb-reducing diets. Did I mention it is full of flavor? The leftovers (if you have any!) may be frozen for another day.

1¼ cups chana daal (yellow hulled chickpea lentils), picked over and rinsed well
4 to 5 cups cold water
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 to 4 small red chile peppers (optional)
2 cups (approximately1 pound) kudoo* (light green squash), peeled and chopped into1½-inch dice

For the tardka:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece ginger, minced
Pinch of toasted cumin seeds (optional)
1 small tomato, chopped (optional)
1 green chile pepper, seeded and chopped
½ teaspoon garam masala (optional)

Put the chana daal and water in a large pot. Bring to a rolling boil and skim the foam and discard. Add the turmeric, salt, and chile peppers. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Add squash and continue to cook for 45 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

To make the tardka: Heat a medium pot and add the oil. Add the onion and sauté until transparent. Add the garlic, ginger, and cumin and stir-fry until the onions are lightly browned. Add the tomato and some chopped green chili pepper and fry for two or three more minutes.

Pour the daal mixture into a serving dish and top with the tardka. Stir. Sprinkle with garam masala and serve.

*Kudoo is also called dudhi. Use bottle squash or zucchini if this light green squash is not available.
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Grilled Whole-Wheat Flat Breads (vegan)
Phulka

Yield: 16 5½-inch breads

The staff of life, our daily bread -- no salt, no fat, yet amazingly satisfying and tasty. Nothing like it when hot off the griddle! In our family, everyone sat at the table with food on the plate waiting for the freshest, puffiest phulka. The phulka maker was the last to eat, but her sacrifice was appreciated.

The dough may be kept covered tightly in the refrigerator for several days. Break off what you need and make the bread fresh each day. It only takes a few minutes.

3½ cups chapatti flour
1¼ cups lukewarm water
Butter (optional)
In a medium bowl, mix 3 cups of the flour and ¾ cup of the water thoroughly until uniformly crumbly. Gradually add more water, sprinkling it on dough and working it in until the dough is pliable and all flour is incorporated. Remove dough from bowl and knead on a flat surface for 3 to 5 minutes. Rest dough for 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight. Before making the breads, allow refrigerated dough to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Heat a griddle until hot, but not smoking. Lightly flour a board and rolling pin. Turn the dough onto the board and with your hands roll it into a tube. Cut in half, then in quarters and then in eight pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball; pat it flat, and with the rolling pin, roll it into a disk, turning to keep it an evenly rounded 5½-inch disk. Slap the disk between your hands to loosen the extra flour and place the bread on the griddle.

Heat until the dough starts to cook through to the other side. Flip and press edges with a folded towel (careful to keep from flame) until bread just begins to puff with internal steam. At this point it can be finished over a gas burner or flipped again on the griddle.