Lettuce is not the most favorite vegetable in our household. “It is tasteless, insipid, and boring” – I get this all the time from my husband and my two kids. My son and I love a well dressed salad with lettuce and other vegetables, but this is one green that needs a lot of help.
We are part of this farm share where we have been getting a head of lettuce every week! Yup… And I finally gave in and said, I have to feed my family lettuce as part of our traditional meal without it sticking out like a sore thumb. I have to figure out a way to make it really tasty for them.
While I was drinking my afternoon coffee, sorting out my pantry and I saw the big unopened bag of Udad Dal (black gram dal) that I had yet to put away, and the bag of red chilis that also had to be put away, the aha moment arrived.
I could make a traditional thuvaiyal, with a western twist. This is a most delicious chutney made in traditional South Indian homes. Mixed in with long drained white rice and a teaspoon of sesame oil, served with a roasted pappad, this has to be one of the most conmforting foods ever. Traditionally, this is made with coconut, or onions or just lentils. Today, I was going to make it with Lettuce.
It was made and served for dinner, and everyone wolfed it down, no questions asked. Game set and match!
OK now, shhhhh they still don’t know… I trust my secret is safe with you!
Recipe for Lettuce Thuvaiyal
1 large head of butter lettuce cleaned, cored and roughly chopped.
2/3 cup udad dal
2 large red chilis (I used the Arbol Chile)
2 teaspoons tamarind paste or a ball of fresh tamarind the size of a key lime
2 medium cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
4 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro (optional)
In a frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of sesame oil. Add the udad dal and saute till the dal becomes golden brown, add the arbol chiles and garlic pods and continue to sautee, turn off the stove and add the dried tamarind fruit, or the paste and mix till it warms up. Put this in a food processor with the roughy chopped lettuce and grind to a fine paste. Do not add any water, the juice of the lettuce is sufficient.
Collect the thuvaiyal/chutney in a bowl.
To a frying pan, add the rest of the sesame oil, about 1 tablespoon. Add the mustard and cumin seeds, and once the seeds start sputtering turn the stove off. Add this to the Thuvaiyal. At this time you can also add the cilantro, if you so decide.
Serve with hot long grained rice.
A couple of wonderful serving options are as a pesto, with noodles, or as a spread on grilled cheese or any other sandwich.