Spicy Zucchini and Chana Dal (gluten free, vegan, high protein)

Indian food brings me to my knees.  And a few days ago, I had a hankering for something warm and beany and full of cumin.  So I pulled out my big jar of dry chana dal, and put some in a bowl to soak.  As I gazed at the hopeful dry beans, I wondered what sort of Indian concoction I'd come up with the next day...

Chana dal, also known as Bengal gram dal, is a split bean that is very popular in India, very closely related to the chickpea, but more similar in appearance to a yellow split pea.  Chana dal is harvested when young, and is smaller and sweeter than the chickpea.  While it still requires soaking, it cooks down fairly quickly into something smooth and creamy, similar to moong dal,  split peas, or lentils.   Best, yet, chana dal  is high in fiber and iron, provides a whopping 10 g of protein per 1/4 c of dry beans, and is even recommended to people with diabetes as a healthy, low glycemic option!  

I decided to adapt a chana dal recipe from The Ayurvedic Cookbook, one of my favorite recipe books.  Not only is this book full of wonderful Indian recipes, it also provides very good information about ayurvedic philosphies and the healing properties of foods.  I love that the recipes use simple ingredients and techniques, but yield such complex flavors and textures.
The original recipe called for scallopini or summer squash; I had zucchini on hand and used that instead, changed the proportions of some of the ingredients, and left out what I can't eat (curry powder and green chili).    I served it up over some cooked buckwheat groats with salad of raw collards and sunflower sprouts on the side, and greedily at it for lunch.   Warmly spiced and very flavorful, this recipe is a hit.  I'll be freezing leftovers for later (bean dishes freeze very well!), but will have to make this sometime for friends - it makes a ton, and is super affordable to make, so it would be a cheap and easy dinner party option!

SPICY ZUCCHINI AND CHANA DAL (gluten free, vegan, high protein)
adapted from The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar and U. Desai

yield: 4-6 servings
1 c chana dal, soaked 
2 medium zucchini
6 c water
2 T sunflower oil
2 t mustard seeds
1 t turmeric
2 t cumin
2 t salt
2 T coriander powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Soak the chana dal in water overnight or for at least 8 hours.  Drain and discard the water, and rinse the chana dal.
  2. Place 6 cups of fresh water and the soaked chana dal in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil.  Skim off foam, reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until chana dal is soft, and most of the water has been absorbed, about 1 - 1 1/2 hours, depending on your dal.  Remove from heat, and set aside.
  3. Wash and cut zucchini into 1" cubes.  
  4. In a deep skillet, heat oil, then add mustard seeds.  When the mustard seeds pop, add the turmeric and zucchini, and stir.  Then add remaining ingredients.  Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, adding a little water if necessary to avoid sticking.
  5. Add cooked chana dal, cover, and cook for 5-10 minutes more over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  6. Serve warm with grains, greens, or flatbreads.  Enjoy!