Dal Saag — Our Version

Dal Saag — Our Version
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dal saag
A quick, nutritious lunch!

This week we got a large bunch of mustard greens in our CSA share. Now, if you’ve ever had mustard greens, you might agree with our assessment that mustard greens are a little bit too, too, well, mustard-y, to eat cooked just as greens. But, we know that mustard greens are to nutritional content as the Hoover is to dams. Huge. With a capital H. So, we wanted to find a way to enjoy eating our greens.

We think that mustard greens are popular in Indian cooking — well we aren’t really sure, but it seems as though they might be — so we thought that we’d make up a version of dal saag. We know, the saag refers to spinach, but hey, maybe mustard greens will work, too. It’s worth a shot. Besides, we had lentils (a type of dal) and some common Indian spices. That was enough to get us scratchin’.

Dal Saag — Our Version

Dal Saag — Our Version


  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 bunch greens, chopped
  • 1/2 Tbs garam masala
  • 1/2 Tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk

Abbreviated Instructions

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add onion and fry for a minute or two, add garlic and fry an additional minute.

Add cayenne, turmeric, salt, pepper, cumin seeds, and coriander, stir and fry for a minute.

Add lentils and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in chopped greens and continue to simmer until lentils are cooked and starting to fall apart.

Add garam masala, lemon juice, and buttermilk. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.


Ingredient discussion:

For the lentils, we used what we had on hand. When it comes to buying spices, head on over to a local ethnic market. Great prices and they have just about everything you could want. Another choice is Penzey’s Spices, which also has great prices and a good selection. How much is in a bunch of mustard greens? Well, to use the official greens measurement, it’s enough to make a mess o’ greens. You know, a bunch.

Procedure in detail:

mise en place
For dishes that go quickly, we like to do at least a bit of prep work in advance. It makes cooking less stressful.

Mise en Place. To make everything go smoothly, start by doing some prep work. Mix together the cayenne, turmeric, salt, pepper, cumin seeds, and coriander in a small bowl. A custard cup works perfectly for this. Then chop the onion and garlic. There, you’re set.

Cook onions and garlic. Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. We use canola because it’s what we have on hand, but any light, nearly flavorless, oil will do. When the oil is hot and shimmery, add the onions. They should sizzle. When we aren’t sure if the oil is hot enough, we toss in a single piece of onion to check the sizzle factor. Fry those onions for about 2 minutes, stirring once or twice, then add the garlic and fry for another minute, stirring four or five times so the garlic doesn’t burn.

cooking spices
After the alliums have cooked, toss in the spices, stir, and cook for about a minute.

Add spices. Since you made up that little bowl of spices, toss it right into the onion and garlic and stir it around for a minute. This will cook the spices and change the flavors, removing a raw taste that occurs, especially in coriander.

cooking lentils
Bring the lentils back to a boil, then simmer until they are about halfway done, 10 minutes.

Add lentils. Toss in the lentils followed by 2 1/2 cups water. Stir around and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the lentils are about halfway cooked, 10 minutes or so.

adding greens
This is with about two-thirds of our greens added; we definitely had a mess o’ greens.

Add greens. Stir in those chopped mustard greens and bring back to a boil. Cover and continue cooking until the lentils are falling apart and the greens are completely cooked, about 10 minutes.

finishing the dal saag
Finish up by adding garam masala, some lemon, and yogurt or buttermilk.

Finish. To finish the dish, add the garam masala, lemon juice, and the yogurt or butter milk. Stir to mix, then taste and adjust salt and pepper.

dal saag
A bit of rice and a flatbread, and you have a complete meal.

We had this as a quick lunch, along with basmati rice and chapatis. Now, we will say that this is by no means authentic Indian food, but it was a great way to eat a super nutritious lunch with only a little effort. Plus, by using some of the Indian-style spices, it changed the tone of the entire meal, making it seem out of the ordinary (at least for us). We’ll definitely be making more dishes like this as we move more into greens season, so four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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