Red Lentil Dal

This past winter, I went through a spell when all I wanted to eat was beans and lentils. Joe and I made split pea soup, minestrone, lentil soups, black bean soup, chickpea curry, hummus… you name it. I desperately was trying to find my “go to” recipe for a lentil dish that I could make frequently without difficulty. Eventually, I landed on masoor dal. I already had red lentils in my pantry from making “Friendship Soup” for my friends at Christmas, and the recipe is very straight forward.

Recently, I’ve been looking for simple recipes to make after work that are filling – and the hot weather has reignited a craving for Indian food (let’s be honest, it never really goes away.) This dal recipe came out again this week. I changed things up a bit by sauteing the onion and adding it later with the spices, and using yellow mustard seeds instead of black because that is what I had on hand from pickling. Not only is it good served on rice or with naan for dinner and lunch, but this morning I put a fried egg on top and had a wonderful breakfast, too.

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Red Lentil Dal
adapted from Aarti Sequeira’s recipe

serves 4

1 c red lentils (masoor dal)
2 c water
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 serrano chile, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds (I only had yellow, so that is what I used)
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp paprika
handful of fresh chopped cilantro leaves to finish

1) Rinse the lentils in a strainer, then put them in a bowl and cover with water to soak for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2) In a medium saucepan, combine 2c water, tomatoes, chile, ginger, and lentils. Do NOT salt your water – it will toughen the lentils at this stage. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim the scum from the surface. Lower the heat, cover the pot with a lid, and gently simmer until the lentils are tender and almost falling apart, about 30 minutes.

3) Whisk the lentils – this will cause the mixture to emulsify and become nice and thick.

4) Have the cumin and mustard seeds ready in a small bowl and the spice powders ready in another bowl.

5) In a small skillet, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. When the oil starts to smoke faintly add the seeds and immediately cover the skillet with a lid. The seeds will pop and sputter. When the oil stops popping, remove the lid and add onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until onions are cooked through. Then add the spices and stir thoroughly for about 30seconds.

6) Pour the oil, onion, and spices into the lentils and stir to combine. Add salt to your taste. Let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro.

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