The B57

I went to the graveyard day before yesterday. I catch the bus in front of two abandoned restaurants and a Starbucks. It rolls under the train tracks and makes a left at a strip club called, Sugardaddy’s. I try to memorize the route, in case I ever have to walk. Then I give up always trying to prepare for the worst and just let the view roll by. It has that faded look of the stuff people throw by the side of railroad tracks. In Manhattan, everybody has an eye on your business. On the B57, you can cry all you want. I get off at an old Irish deli in Maspeth and then it’s a block to the gate. The hours are from 8 to 4:30, and the rule is that you can’t leave anything with water from April to October, or they’ll throw it away. I don’t leave anything that needs water. I walk up the sidewalk until the sidewalk ends and then walk on the grass further up the hill and between the graves to a bent cypress. I lie down on top of where I know they left him so I can hear better. There’s always something. Before he died he said, the reason he picked that grave was because it was easy to take the bus to get there.

He also said, “overcooked chicken is highly underrated.” I’m still arguing with him about that, even though he’s dead.

I’ve loved dal from the first time I tasted it, but I never got it right. People say it’s easy, but it’s not easy. You don’t want to over spice it or under spice it. You don’t want to over stir it, and if you’re using urad dal or moong dal, you have to soak it first.

It goes really well with a whole, roasted chicken stuffed with ginger, garlic, and cilantro and glazed with tamarind water from soaking dried tamarind, mixed with honey and red chile flakes.

For the dal, start with 2 cups of fine red lentils (moong dal). Rinse them until the water runs clear and simmer with about an inch of water over the top. Add a knob of ginger to the pot. When the lentils are tender and the water is nearly absorbed, remove the ginger and turn off the flame. If the water is absorbed too quickly, replenish to keep the inch of water at the top. If there is too much water when the lentils are done, you can always skim the water off. Add a few solid pinches of salt and using a wooden spoon standing straight up in the lentils, roll the handle between your palms, to soften them, moving the spoon around the pot. In a separate saute pan, saute 5 garlic cloves, 2 inches of grated fresh ginger, and one small shallot. Add 1 teaspoon each of black mustard seed and cumin seed that you have first crushed in a mortar and pestle, and about a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes, or a green Indian chili. Be sure your flame is low, so that nothing is browned, just cooked through. Add two seeded and diced plum tomatoes. Season with salt. Add to the pot. Break off an inch of tamarind and cover with about a quarter cup boiling water. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Break up the tamarind, and then pour the strained water into the pot. Taste for salt. Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, and taste again.

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