Inspired by Tigers and Strawberries, I decided to make dal for dinner. I've made dals once in a while before, pretty casually, and they came off pretty bland and dull. I voewd that this one would be different.
I made a lot -- a triple recipe, 'cause our freezer stores are kind of low. That's about three or four or four cups of dry red lentils, eight cloves of Rhys-smashed garlic, and a cubic inch of ginger, brought to a boil in a smallish amount of water and simmered with occasional stirring for about an hour. Lentils would be edible before that, but the goal is to boil them into a thick paste. Adding modest amount of random Indian spices when you start is not a bad idea -- I threw in a tablespoon of turmeric, and a tablespoon of a basic garam masala.
Then chop a couple zucchinis into small dice, and toss them in. Add salt and lemon juice -- to taste. (Or tamarind, say.) Simmer 'til zukes are keen.
Now the part that makes it work: the tarka. This is flavorsome stuff fried in butter (or oil) at the last minute and stirred in. I did something much like Tigers and Strawberries' grand tarka: half a Vidalia onion and two cloves of garlic, sliced thin and fried in butter 'til browned. Add black mustard seed, yellow mustard seeds, and cumin seeds, and a tiny dash of asafoedita. Fry 'til fearsomely fragrant, and mix it into a dinnersized amount of the dal. Freeze the rest, with a note that it deserves a tarka before being served.
Serve to your 4yo (who is reasonably pleased with it), and your wife and her girlfriend (who were going to be going out for dinner and a drivein movie, but were stuck in the house by a thunderstorm.) Beware. Wife may retaliate by making chocolate-chip cookies. The doom!