Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Green Beans Paruppu usili

This recipe is especially for my friend Adrianne.  This past summer, I had the great pleasure of swapping banana flower recipes with her and another friend.  In South India it is common to eat banana flowers sauteed with paruppu usili, steamed lentil cakes, broken up into small pieces.  She will have to give us the recipe for her banana flowers in coconut milk from the Philippines (and also for mango salad, please!), but here is a recipe for paruppu usili, which she specially requested.

In the kitchens of my family, paruppu usili is added to vegetables when the main soupy dish of the day doesn't have lentils in it.  We usually eat Rasam or Sambhar, which are made with lentils, but when we have Mor Kuzhambu or Milagu Rasam or Vatha Kuzhambu, none of which have lentils in them, we put the lentils into the vegetables!  Vegetarian meal planning!

When the professor brought home some pretty green beans from the grocery store the other night, I knew it was finally time to write up the recipe for Adrianne.  Sorry it took me so long!

Green Beans Paruppu usili
Makes 6 servings
Takes 45 minutes

1 cup toor dal
3 dried red chilis
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 dash asofetida
fresh or dried curry leaves, if available
1 pound green beans, ends cut off, and chopped into tiny slices
1/4 tsp. turmeric

Soak the toor dal for 1 hour.  Drain but reserve the water.  In a blender or food processor, grind the lentils, chilis and salt to a chunky paste, adding water as necessary.

Make little patties from the lentil paste and steam in a steamer set over boiling water.  I don't have one, so I used a strainer, making sure the water was below the basket.  

Steam for 15 minutes, or until the paruppu usili is firm and not sticky when you touch it.  Set it aside to cool, and when you can handle it, break it up into smaller pieces.
Heat vegetable or canola oil in a saute pan on medium high heat.  When it's hot, add the broken up paruppu usili, sauteing until the pieces are further broken up and nicely browned.  Set the parruppusili aside, and return the saute pan to the heat.

Add more oil, and when it's hot, add the mustard seeds.  When they begin to splutter, add the asofetida and the curry leaves.  Stir around quickly, for just a few seconds, and then add the green beans, turmeric, and salt to taste.  Saute until well combined, add about 1/4 cup of water, put a lid on it, and let cook for about 10 minutes.  Check on it, because if you've cut the beans small, they will cook very quickly.  When they are just about done, add the paruppu usili back to the pan, and stir it all around, cooking a few minutes more.

We ate the Green Beans Paruppu usili with carrot salad and some Milagu Rasam.  So good!  My favorite combination is green beans and lemon rasam, the meal I would always ask for my first night home from college.