Monday, March 1, 2010

Red chard daal and an interesting grocery smackdown article!

Recently I came across this very interesting article Walmart Vs. Whole Foods (link courtesy Mark Bittman's bitten blog). When it comes to my food shopping I am not a fan of either of these grocery chains. I like to buy my fruits and vegetables local, seasonal, organics (when feasible) and direct from the source as much as possible. Bulk of my produce shopping happens at my local farmer's market. For the rest of the pantry staples (like onions, potatoes, milk, eggs, bread etc.) I rely on Trader Joe's (yes, I am a big fan of TJ!). I have shopped Whole Foods multiple times before but the place is a bit costly and beyond my budget for most part. For the not-so-common items (like quinoa, teff etc) that only Whole Foods stocks, I instead buy them online from a local grain producer farm (Bob's red mills). 

Coming back to the article: the two company's images could not be more different. Walmart's impression as a corporate super-power who mercilessly destroys local economies and relies on cheap bulk manufactured goods from faraway places to reduce consumer cost is wide-spread (read The Walmart Effect for further). On the other hand Whole Foods is known as a high-end fancy grocery chain stocking healthy, local, organic ingredients albeit at a much higher price. So when the article announced a grocery smackdown between Walmart vs. Whole Foods I was all eager ears!

Read the article for the whole story but in essence it covers Walmart's foray into organic healthy foods by subsidizing local farmer's whose farms are in vicinity of one of its supercenters. The reviewer buys identical produce and meats from both the chains and a few experts are called upon to taste test and compare the local/seasonal line from Walmart to that of Whole Foods. I won't disclose here but the results would surprise anyone for sure!

Now, I don't believe for a moment that Walmart is investing in local and organics out of consciousness or for greater good so to say. They are a corporation who want to make profits. We also know that when they set a target they execute extremely well. As they see that the local organics/healthy food movement is growing and as they also see that the number of customers opting to shell higher for local/seasonal is steadily climbing, they sure want a share of that growing market segment which I believe must have spurred this organics/local line. In any case though, I am happy to see these changes.

I strongly believe that each and every one of us makes a choice everytime we buy local or buy organic (albeit shelling few cents extra) and all of these choices together can contribute to something large and has potential to change the market direction for good. I am happy to see Walmart making a priority to stock local, seasonal and fresh produce based on the consumer demand. It will be monumental in making fresh organic and healthy accessible to each and everyone who wishes to eat healthy. It is surely a small step in the right direction and looking forward to many more :) I am definitely looking forward to visiting one of its supercenters to explore this myself.

Many fellow bloggers like Indo from Daily Musings are doing an excellent job of covering organics movement, local farming issues and many such topics near and dear to me. I was happy after reading the article and so thought I'll share it with all of you today. I would love to hear from you what you think about this article and the local/organics movement in general.
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Okay, now coming back to the recipe: today on menu I have a simple daal with red chard. I just love the deep red color that the chard imparts to this daal. Take a look for yourself!
Just after you make the daal with red chard it will look like any other regular daal. Only after an overnight does the red chard starts giving out its redness. Next day the regular daal is somehow magically transformed into the deep red colored daal you see above.

Recipe: Red chard daal
Ingredients:
1 bunch red chard - 8-10 large chard leaves
1 small onion
3 small green chilis
3 large cloves of garlic
1/2inch piece of ginger
2 tomatoes
1/2C split red lentils (masoor daal)
1/4C split green moong lentil (or use any lentils of your choice - just adjust the cooking time and water accordingly per package directions)
4C water
2tsp coriander powder
1/2tsp turmeric powder
1tsp cumin seeds
1Tbsp tamarind paste
juice of a lime
salt
vegetable oil

Recipe:
  1. Finely chop onions, green chilis, garlic, ginger and tomatoes. Wash the chard leaves, remove the tough stems and chop them into small ribbons.
  2. Heat oil in a pan. When hot, temper with cumin seeds.
  3. Add chilis and onions and cook until onions start to brown.
  4. Add ginger and garlic to the pan and cook until aromatic (couple of minutes).
  5. Add tomatoes and cook until oil starts to separate.
  6. Add chopped chard leaves and cook covered for 5minutes or so until the leaves shrink in volume and some of the water has disappeared.
  7. Add the lentils, turmeric powder, 4C water. Bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and simmer covered for half an hour or so or until the daal is cooked through (time will vary based on how fast cooking the daal is).
  8. Add coriander powder, tamarind paste, salt and remove from heat. Adjust the seasonings, add lemon juice and serve with rice or chapati.
If you are not as fussy about colors as I am, green/yellow/rainbow chard are all perfectly good substitutes :) If chard is not available then even regular spinach can be used in its place.

47 comments:

  1. Great writeup!!!nice click as always with a delicious recipe!

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  2. Reading your article makes me realise that there's a huge difference in the basic lifestyle there and here. In India the supermarts run on extremely low profit margins. A large number of super marts are shutting down as they bear huge losses.Walmart has opened a few stores here and to my understanding they are having a tough time here..
    Organic section have been a new introduce here and are pretty expensive, surely out of the reach for middle class people. The stores bear huge shrinkage as some people do not want to pay..but one thing's surely common Retail as an Industry is the most challenging one to run across the world.

    Personally I surely compare prices and pick up stuff where I get it at reasonable rate and of good quality. So, my grocery shopping does not end at one store....grins.
    The daal looks great with that red color, makes me think of laal bhaaji that we get here.

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  3. Shahana, thanks, I am so glad you liked the writeup and the recipe!

    Pari, very interesting to read your views of the same story from India. Yes, retail industry everywhere is a very tough industry to play in and to make profits. Over here a lot of local farms and organic producers are having a very tough time due to these super chains subsidizing the produce costs -- they buy produce from some faraway places and add thousands of food miles by transporting it to somewhere else. Consumer gets non-fresh, preservative laden foods for cheap and local, organic farms are left with no competitive margins at-all. It is interesting you say though that Walmart is also struggling at India.. might be because a lot of mom and pop shops are still around and are giving fresher produce for better deals?? I wonder..

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  4. That was a good article...i too compare prices whenever i go shopping..i have heard abt wallmart but never been to both these shopping centers....and the recipe is too good and what a beautiful looking dal,can have it anytime with a hot bowl of rice

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  5. Great info, PJ that really concerns us..whatever it is we have to make a proper choice when purchasing...lovely color and delicious daal, nice pic too...

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  6. Good information dear here...the dal is amazing...luved yur post here...bookmarked :)

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  7. Nice write up. Dal looks superb with that red colour. I am sure it will taste good too.

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  8. Useful information with a lovely dish.

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  9. PJ, I have used Bob's Red Mill online store too...for items like brown rice flour, white whole wheat flour n so on...and I do so often go to Trader Joes as well!

    Love the striking hues of your dal!!!

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  10. That bowl of daal looks so comforting and yummy!!! A beautiful click!

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  11. I agree with you about Walmart monopolizing the market with cheap products. I for one run to Stop and Shop for everything since that is the closest one to my house. I do have a Trader Joe's about 15 mins from my place..will try to go and visit that place sometime.

    BTW, the red chard looks eyecatching and lovely!

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  12. Very ineresting...yeah i guess everybody still does rush to walmart but i think in India ,overall who's dominating is reliance where they source directly form the farmer,this way the farmer also makes more profit and surely deserves too....about how well they are doing i dont know but what i know i all the biggies are investing in retail big time and their expansion plans are massive even in 'b' n 'c' zoning....

    Loved ur articale so so muc PJ dear sweety and yeah this red dal rocks babes....

    and may have some good news about my feed for u soonnnnn....

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  13. PJ, thanks for this. Sourcing local produce during winter months is the biggest challenge. My next post focuses on the same company.

    Chard sambhar has beaten drumstick sambhar and taken over favorite status in our house. The dal looks absolutely gorgeous.

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  14. Nice article, PJ...Being grown up in a small town, we used to literally pick up vegetables from the farms or they are always at doorstep, freshly picked up!

    Dal looks colorful...wonderful red color !

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  15. Wat a fantastic bowl, wonderful, healthy as well as delicious dal...

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  16. PJ, read your write-up..its quite interesting, tho I did not go to the links you provided for further reading, but a giant is taking a step towards what I am personally looking for to go more organics, local stuffs..is really impressive..just last weekend I was talking to my H, about this...and today I read this article..in between the dal looks very comforting..

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  17. Hm...you have me thinking with your post today. To be honest I have not given so much thought to organic food except maybe while buying poultry and eggs. Although, I stop at "all natural" which does not necessarily mean 'organic.' But you are right to be conscious about these going on because genetic engineering every produce has gone too far. It's time someone took noticed and so even if its only to gain buisness if walmart is getting out there its great. Hopefully we will see more organic around.

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  18. Wow, thats a well-written post, indeed. I am a locovore too...buy as much as possile from the local farmr's market...buy staples online...

    Dhall looks comforting to me:)

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  19. Sushma, thanks! I think with so much information around about what to eat what not to eat the onus of making right and budget friendly choices always falls on us.. doesn't it?

    Treat and trick, thanks! I am so glad you liked the daal and the pic. About the choices, yes, thats the scary thing. Many times it feels to me as is (in US atleast) there is an overload of information about what to eat, what to buy.. I wish it was as simple as when I was growing up where we had a small farm of our own which would supply all the staples and thats that :)

    Supriya, thanks! I am so glad you liked the daal and the post,.

    Padhu, thanks! I am so happy you liked the daal. It was very rewarding to eat it with rice on a cold day,.

    Kamala, thanks! I am so glad you liked the dish and the info.

    Meena, I started using Bob's red mills fairely recently.. but I am really liking buying stuff from there. The grains are fresh and clean and reasonably priced. TJ ofcouse is my favorite store for grocery shopping.

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  20. Rachana, thanks! I am so glad you liked the daal and the click.

    Cool Lassie, I have never shopped at Stop n Shop but I have a few friends who sure swear by it everytime. Visit TJs sometimes, I am sure you will love it.

    VanillaStrawberrySpringfields, thats awesome! looks like finally your feed issue is getting resolved. Google glitch? Very interesting to read about Reliance. I didn't know they were in the retail market in India.. sourcing directly from the source is always the best.. quality-wise and for everyone's benefits :)

    Indo, yes, I can imagine in winter months it might get really tough to source local. I guess thats when a big power like Walmart/WH sourcing local might help. I am looking forward to your take on this! I would have to try chard sambhar some day, sounds delicious.

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  21. SE, thanks! same for me too.. I was born and brought up in a small town and things were just so simple :)

    Priya, thanks! I am so glad you liked the daal.

    A2Z vegetarian cuisine, exactly! any small step forward by such a super power has got to help a lot in the long run! I saw a documentary on TV where they showed some familys who wanted to eat fresh and healthy but buying borccoli enough for dinner for 4 was so much more costlier than buying entire happy meals for 4. Such situations can only be improved when a giant like Walmart takes to the cause of local/organics and manages to lower priced there too.

    Nostalgia, So true! all this genetic engineered long lasting produce makes me scared for sure. This small step forward is definitely something to look forward to.

    Malar, thanks! I am so glad you liked the dish and the article. I am liking online grains shopping more and more as I do it :)

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  22. Interesting read. I am from a "different" city in US,Boulder. People call this "people's republic of Boulder"..lol..They are more like left liberals and the City DOESNT have a Walmart, for the same reasons like underpaid employees, cheap goods and local economy crisis. Boulder (read, the people)hugely supports the local businesses and die hard fans of healthy living.You find most of the organic stores, here :-)Personally I do compare prices, whatever it is, organic or non :D

    BTW the daal looks gorgeous and nice click as always :-)

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  23. I too buy after checking price at different places and after the QC is done :)..Its true that the supermarkets sell here at a very low cost as compared to others but then you arent assured about the quality..so at time its better to cough up some extra money but get paid for it..

    The dal here looks so deliciously yummy..would love to have with some jeera rice..mmm

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  24. Gulmohar, oh, so interesting! I did not know about this side of Boulder. Its definitely a good cause, so do you have a lot of small shops and a booming local economy over there?

    Deepa, so true! you can get something for real cheap but you have no idea what preservative, pesticide laden foods you are getting. Its definitely worth shelling a bit extra (whenever possible) for some peace of mind.

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  25. When I lived in east coast- I have once went to walmart "super store" where they sell grocery! That was my first and last one!
    I ve seen an ad. about Target is bringing local produce in my area. But I am not quiet interested, I am huge fan of local farmers... I love to talk with people when the produce is unknown, taste it, knowing mostly the farms. Important thing, ur contribu boost the economy which is badly needed in CA!

    The dhal is super catchy!

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  26. Hey PJ

    nice info...Daal looks just so gorgeoues!! pics making me hungry here and daal sounds really tasty..;-))

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  27. Gorgeous dal. Why is that rice bowl far away from the dal? I feel like dumping the rice in to that dal. :)

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  28. Nice write up PJ.. me too prefer buying in local farmers market and we love going for picking during seasons... And the dish looks so yumm..perfect. I badly miss the farmers market in Minneapolis.

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  29. Cham, me too.. I have a walmart very close by but not one that is a supercenter which stocks produce. Farmers market works the best for me though :)

    Jagruti, thanks! I am so glad you like the daal :)

    Latha, heh heh, okay, next photo I'll keep it closer. But the daal and the rice is all yours whenever you want it.

    Pavithra, thanks! Yeah, in winter months MN farmers market is probably not possible. In such cases I think a super grocer stocking fresh produce might help, isn't it?

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  30. Farmers markets are the way for us too..And my garden will be back in summer so I shop mainly for rice and similar stuff..But I am not too sure that most markets will do the distance to support organic farmin/produce..

    Reg the event..Yup it has done its purpose..calling relatives and asking for forgotten remedies ;)

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  31. I am also surprised and happy to read all about walmart efforts, i never saw grocery in walmart in our area may be they have special branches..i do most of my grocery shopping from indian grocery store , i would love to shop from farmers market but here it is like four times more expensive than grocery store and you can find compartively good and fresh stuff in indian stores too

    your daal looks amazing, sometimes as simple as dal makes a amazing comfort food

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  32. ironically, in NYC, Whole Foods is actually cheaper than local grocery stores (and we don't have a Walmart) so I divide my shopping between there and Trader Joe's. I've gotten a feel for what is less expensive at each store. The Farmer's Markets here are beyond expensive. It's quite tragic.

    I'm loving this daal! It has SUCH a vibrant color!

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  33. Ruchika, thats wonderful! So your garden provides for most of your veggies.. thats awesome!

    Preety, nice new profile pic! Yeah, farmers market also can be very expensive sometimes. My previous one was; this one is working out a bit better though.

    Joanne, really! wow, are the general prices higher all other places or the Whole Foods prices more comparable? I would have visited the place much more often had it only been for the comparable prices. Thats good to know though.

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  34. this dal looks very delicious...lovely colour prajakta...adding thse leaves is new 2 me...vl c if i can find them here n try...lovely one

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  35. hey n thnx for the wishes on my blog

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  36. Today, i can comment on Red Chard daal only. :) I never have had tried red chard itself.
    oh my! I can't resist myself as it look mouth watering and gal...you are trying to lure me to show the bowl of rice behind. :D

    Well, No experience with Walmart or Whole foods. Here we don't have any chain store of either.

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  37. Thanks for the links and the discussion - its definitely worthwhile how the big W will try to dominate this segment and who will pay the ultimate price for the lower costs...

    The red chard dal looks delicious - don't find this here so easily...

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  38. Interesting write up PJ!
    Red chard dal looks mouth watering!

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  39. Siddhi, thanks! I am so glad you liked these. Spinach would always bea good substitute for red chard.

    Sonia, welcome back! Red chard does impart a beautiful red hue thats so interesting to me!

    Miri, that is a very good point, someone will pay for the lower cost.. traditionally it has been the farmer, lets see now who does.

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  40. Nice write-up yaa.
    Never made a dal with red chaard, looks great.....nice click too!

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  41. Very good write-up. And yes wonderful click also. The picture is making me hungry ;-)
    Here in India Walmart has a cash-and-carry venture with Bharti enterprise. Although a growing no. of people are reaching out for organic food, it is still a niche product.
    Deepa

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  42. Aruna, thanks! I am so glad you liked the red chard daal and the photo :)

    Deepa, welcome to my blog! I am so glad you liked the daal and the writeup. Yes, based on a lot of other comments it looks like the grocery scene in India is very different from what it is over in US. I just wish things were as simple as they were when I was a kid.. just walk a few blocks and buy all the sabzis from the nearest bhaji-wali :)

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  43. Hey, I am visiting this for the first time. A very nice write-up. Nice pic too. I liked going through your blog.

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  44. PJ, you have a lovely blog with some awesome pictures.

    Thank you for visiting my blog, and sorry that I didn't stop by earlier. However, I will from henceforth!

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  45. Veg, thanks and welcome to my blog! I am so glad you liked browsing here. I am off to visit yours now.

    Aquadaze, thanks and welcome to my blog blog! No problems at all. I am so glad you stopped by and liked my space here.

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  46. Very nice and interesting post. Dal looks tempting, spicy, yummy and mouth watering.

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