MAKES: About 3/4 cup
TIME: 1 hour, largely unattended
I love chutneys bursting with chiles and ginger and herbs, but when you’re pairing a chutney with richly flavored legumes like the dals in Simplest Dal, sometimes a simpler, more directly assaultive accompaniment is in order. This onion-based chutney a standard in India certainly fits that bill: It’s fresh, bright, pungent, and mind-bogglingly easy. White onions, shallots, or chopped scallions work equally well here, and since whatever you use will essentially be pickled in the vinegar, it will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a month.
2 small to medium or 1 large red or Vidalia onion, quartered and thinly sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon or more paprika
Pinch cayenne, or to taste (optional)
Pinch chaat masala (to make your own, see Chaat Masala), or to taste (optional)
Separate the layers of the onion and combine with the salt, peppercorns, vinegar, and paprika in a small bowl; let sit for an hour.
Stir in the cayenne and/or chaat masala if you’re using them and serve.
Hot Pepper Chutney. Not necessarily fiery: Replace the onion with 4 to 5 hot fresh red chiles (or use a red bell pepper or a combination for a milder version). Substitute 2 cloves peeled garlic for the black peppercorns. Pulse in a food processor until coarsely chopped (do not pure). This will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 weeks; bring back to room temperature before serving.