Masoor Dal

by Valerie on October 23, 2008 · 1 comment

I discovered this recipe for red lentils early this year on A Mighty Appetite. If you have not yet checked out this blog, there’s no moment like the present. The author, Kim O’Donnel, was a food blogger before, well, food bloggers existed. She started hosting a cooking web chat in late 1998/early 1999 on the Washington Post website and is seriously one of the reasons I stopped being afraid of cooking. You see, I grew up never cooking and, by the time I finished college and got my own apartment (with my very own kitchen) in mi-1998, I was seriously intimidated.

Fast forward ten years and there is very little I will not try to cook — and if I don’t try it’s usually because there’s a safety issue — like deep frying on a stove where the adjoining wall is up against the stove.

Kim calls this red lentil recipe Snowday Salve. I would go as far as call it the Make Everything Better Recipe. It’s warm and comforting, but not heavy like pasta, and not too liquid. It’s like a substantial mush that is spicy and tasty and once you eat it, things really don’t seem so bad. And, unlike chocolate or pasta or ice cream, this recipe is incredibly good for you, packed with fiber and vitamins.

It got cold this week, my first week at my new job in Washington, and of course I had to make it. Kim says it makes at least 4 main course servings — I have gotten as many as 6 servings out of 2 cups of lentils.

Masoor Dal

2 cups red lentils, rinsed
1 1-inch hunk of peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 whole garlic clove, peeled
Optional: 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise pod, 1 bay leaf
1-2 teaspoons coarse salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or broth
Pinch asafetida (optional –  I have never included it)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2-1 medium onion, sliced into thin half-moons
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (I actually use almost 1/2 teaspoon)
6-12 baby tomatoes, halved (I skip those)

Place rinsed lentils in a heavy-bottomed pot and add enough water to cover, plus one inch (about four cups). Add ginger, turmeric and garlic, and any or all of the optional whole spices. Use what you have on hand and what you like ( I use whole cinnamon and a bay leaf and have lovely results every time).

Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover and cook lentils at a simmer, until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove whole spices and season with salt, stirring and tasting with each addition.

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add asafetida (if using), quickly cooking for about 10 seconds, followed by cumin seeds (30 seconds), then garlic and onions. Cook over medium heat, allowing onions to brown at edges. Add cayenne and tomatoes (if using), and season with salt to taste. Pour seasoned mixture into soup, stir and serve.

And finally, be sure to check out Tales from the Fairy Blogmother, aka the home of What’s Cooking Wednesday.

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