Saturday, September 01, 2007

Red Lentil Dal

I bought a huge bag of darling, vibrantly-hued red lentils at a newly discovered Middle Eastern market, and since then they have sat in my pantry. With no recipe and no inspiration, red lentils aren't exactly something to toss into any old thing I cook.

This brings me to how I decided to finally use some of them. One of the most common questions I am asked about my blog is how I decide what to make and how I create my, here is one example.

I have been sick almost all week with a summer cold and last night was still feeling bad and wanted a quiet night at home. With not even enough energy to run to Blockbuster or to grab take-out or go to the grocery store, I was forced to peruse my quite small DVD collection and go pantry diving.

The movie was easy (when you only have 12 choices it's much easier to choose), I decided on Monsoon Wedding, a lush and lovely story of a Punjabi family wedding in New Delhi. This inspired me to cook something vaguely Indian in keeping with the theme and recalling my red lentils, I was off.

Thanks to the following sources, I improvised a delicious and comforting vegetarian meal that soothed and warmed and went great with the movie.

Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey
A recipe from Epicurious
A recipe from Top Indian
An Indian food primer from Meena of Hooked on Heat

Red Lentil Dal:
(serves 4 as a hearty meal)

1 c red lentils (split)
3.5 c water
1 inch ginger, peeled and minced finely
3 garlic cloves, minced finely
1 tsp turmeric
3 small yellow onions, chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
Fresh cilantro for serving
1 c dried white rice, steamed (about 3 cups once cooked)
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil, rinse lentils. Add lentils, ginger, garlic, turmeric and salt and pepper to boiling water, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop onions. After lentils have cooked about 15 minutes, heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add cumin and cook until fragrant. Add onions and salt and pepper. Cook onions until softened and translucent.

Add onions to lentil mixture and stir, continue to simmer until thickened to desired consistency and onions and all ingredients are completely incorporated and softened. Adjust salt and pepper to taste before serving. Serve over steamed rice, garnish with cilantro leaves.


Nora B. said...

That is perfect comfort food! Hope you are over the cold now. I like going pantry diving on my days off work, I never never know what ingredients might inspire me.

Peabody said...

I just can't look at another lentil. When I was younger I dated a Vegan for years and all he ever seemed to eat was lentils...I had them coming out of my ears!!!
Though we never tried something like this, so you never know.

Anh said...

Yum yum! I love red lentil dhal!

Kelly-Jane said...

I'm big on food looking pretty, and the rich colour of the dal and white white rice looks great, yum!

Anonymous said...

Monsoon Wedding -- Great movie. The entire film is awash in brilliant color from beginning to end.

As for dal, most Indian restaurants serve a muddy brown dal that I don't care for. Dal made from red lentils, which I find more often at southern Indian restaurants, is something I enjoy so much more.

At home, I like to make red lentil soup, which doesn't seem to need pureeing as much as typical green/brown lentil soup.

Patricia Scarpin said...

This would be so good today, Kirsten, on this rainy and cold night that's coming!
And you served it with rice - a girl after my own heart. :)

Anonymous said...

I love that this is what you make when you're too tired for takeout. Someday I hope to be as effortless a cook as you... until then I'll just salivate over the pictures.

Kirsten said...

Thanks Nora! I am finally feeling better.

LOL @ Peabody re: lentils. Isn't it funny how ex-relationships can cool you on places/foods,etc. like nothing else?

Thanks Anh and Kelly-Jane.

Hi Silverbear - I am so glad someone else has heard of Monsoon Wedding. It was such a great movie. I loved how pretty and tender the red lentils were - way better than the army-looking lentils.

Thanks Patricia!

Emiglia - I wasn't always so effortless, but it happened over time. :) Thanks for the comment.

Mo said...

I thought I was the ONLY person in the world to own Monsoon Wedding! :) Great flick, and what a fun and soothing dish to enjoy while watching.

Glad to hear you are on the mend.

Chez Asima said...

Bonjour from Paris!
I stumbled upon your blog. I wanted to comment - your dal looks great. A few tips if you like things spicy...
When your dal is nearly done:

In a seperate pan, sautee 1 small onion or 2 shallots, 1 sliced green chilli, 1tsp red chilli powder, 1cm chopped ginger, 1 clove of garlic. Fry this is oil or ghee (clarified butter)until golden brown and top off the dal. This gives the dal the extra 'kick' it needs. This is called a 'tarka'.
I'd be interested to know how this turns out for you.
I am a culinary student at Le Cordon Bleu in can check out my blog if you like!

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