Sunday, February 13, 2011

Masoor Dal (Red Lentil)

Dal is thick Indian stew made with lentils.   Lentils cook very quickly and are high in protein, dietary fiber, iron, and other trace minerals.  Turmeric, although not adding much to the taste, adds a wonderful color and is an excellent anti-inflammatory.  The black mustard seeds add to the look of the dish and also an interesting, subtle crunch.  Blooming the spices in hot oil is an important step which brings out all the flavor of the spices, so don't skip it. 

Note: if you can't remember the last time you used your spices, they may be stale.  It's important to always use fresh spices for the best flavor.

2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1 onion, finely diced
5 – 6 large garlic cloves, minced (or pressed thru a garlic press)
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
red pepper flakes, to taste
2 ½ cups red lentils, rinsed and drained
6 cups filtered water
1 can coconut milk (full-fat)
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained (or 2 cups chopped tomatoes)
Salt to taste
Handful cilantro, chopped roughly
In a large dutch oven (or soup pot)heat coconut oil over medium heat, add the mustard seeds and sauté until the seeds begin to ‘pop’.  Add onion immediately and sauté a about 5 minutes, until soft.  Add chopped garlic and sauté a few more minutes.
Add spices (turmeric, cumin, and red pepper flake).  And sauté a few more minutes.  Turn the heat down if necessary (be careful the spices do not burn). 
Add red lentils, water, coconut milk, and chopped tomatoes.  Stir to incorporate (the lentils tend to clump together somewhat).  Turn heat up to high and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down again and let simmer for about 30 minutes (until lentils are very soft when completely cooked).  Add salt to taste (I add about 2 teaspoons).  Add cilantro just before serving.
- add more (or less) garlic
- add ginger
- add veggies such as carrot, sweet potatoes, cauliflower with the spices
- add other spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, garam masala, or your favorite curry powder
- add unsweetened, flaked coconut (this might sound strange, but adds an interesting texture and coconuts are rich in lauric acid, which is known for being antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal, and boosts the immune system)
- serve over brown basmati rice
- serve with naan or roti (or any whole grain flat bread)
- if you cannot find red lentils, use any kind of lentil (although red lentils are pretty!)
(adapted from the Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook)

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