Delightful Dal

Delightful Dal served as part of an Indian buffet.
Delightful Dal served as part of an Indian buffet.

In addition to being a food lover, I’m also a lover of poetry … and a poet. I’ve written poems on and off for as long as I can remember. Late last year I joined a poetry society. I learned recently that many states in the national federation of this society run summer poetry contests, and deadlines for several of these contests are at hand.

I made a commitment earlier this year to submit poems for contests, so I’ve been writing poems instead of maintaining my usual pace of posting food blogs here or pretty pictures with sometimes pithy thoughts or poems on instagram. #amwriting #sortofcooking #feelingguiltyfornotblogging #sparselyposting

I’ve enjoyed trying some new (to me) poetry forms and look forward to getting my first entry packet out in the next couple of days. Whether I place in contests or not, I’ve already achieved my goal, which is to both write and submit poems into contests.

Do you have a big goal for 2020 … that didn’t get busted by the pandemic? If so, please share (if appropriate). If not, consider it—especially if you’ve felt a bit overwhelmed by the broad changes that have taken place this year. (And remember, even “little” goals can be really important. Almost every winter, at some point my goal is to resist the urge to hibernate and get out of bed at a reasonable hour.)

Delightful Dal is one of several varieties of dal that has become a bit of a go-to these past few weeks. This time of year dear, sweet husband likes to grill—mostly meat—and this is a nice plant-based protein alternative to balance out our week. (My Mojo pork loin alternative—portobello caps) is another excellent vegan alternative that hubby likes to grill—and eat.) 

Dal means legume and derives from a word meaning to split. It also means soup. There are so many ways that dal can become a delicious meal or snack. I call this recipe Delightful Dal because it is the first one I made that my husband said, “This is real Indian dal!” 

This is a filling and satisfying meal over rice, with naan—or both! I like to make several dals and curries and have a small buffet-style meal. Best of all, leftovers are also delightful. A cumin-spiced rice pilaf makes an excellent complement to the dish.

This gluten-free, vegetarian dish can be made vegan with some substitutions. I add a little salt, but you could use a substitute if needed for low or no-sodium diets. 

“The sea-lentils tied to giant serpentine string beans, sea-liquor brine, sea-lyme grass, sea-moss, sea-cucumbers. He never knew the sea had such a lavish garden—sea-plumes, sea-grapes, sea-lungs. […] The sky put on its own evanescent spectacles, a pivoting stage, fugitive curtains, decors for ballets, floating icebergs, unrolled bolts of chiffon, gold and pearl necklaces, marabous of oyster white, scarves of Indian saris, flying feathers, shorn lambs, geometric architecture in snows and cotton. His theater was the clouds, where no spectacle repeated itself.” 

— Anaïs Nin 

Prep time:  about 1 hour

Yields: about 5 1/2 C 

Ingredients

1 TBSP ghee or canola or grapeseed oil

1 1/2 C brown lentils

3 C vegetable stock

1 diced tomato

1 onion chopped

1 green chili, sliced

1 garlic clove, sliced

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger / 1 tsp fresh grated ginger (about a 1-in. piece)

1 1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp salt

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

Juice of 1/2 lemon

To bloom spices:

2 TBSP ghee or canola oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped 

Parsley sprig, optional

Directions

For base:

Chop onion and tomato. Trim and slice pepper. Set aside.

TIP: for less heat, deseed pepper. For different heat, sub the pepper type.

Slice 1 clove garlic.

Grate ginger and set aside.

Rinse and remove debris in lentils and set aside.

Put 1 TBSP ghee or oil in large pot and heat to medium. 

Add onion and saute until translucent.

Add pepper, garlic, ginger and seasonings except for the bloom and heat, stirring frequently. 

Add tomato and lemon juice. Stir well.

Add vegetable broth and lentils.

Bring to boil then reduce and simmer for about 20-30 minutes until lentils are tender. 

For bloom:

Coarsely chop 2 cloves garlic and set aside. 

While lentils are cooking, heat ghee/oil to medium high in a small pot with a lid. 

Place cumin and ground pepper in pan and cover completely with ghee/oil (this may required tilting the pan). 

Cover with lid and allow spices to sizzle. 

Remove from heat and add garlic, stirring into solution well. Garlic will brown. 

Add immediately to lentils.

Use handheld immersion blender or potato masher to mash about 50% of the dal.

Serve warm.

Top with parsley if desired. 

Delightful Dal at a glance.
Delightful Dal at a glance.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with basmati rice, naan or roti as a stand-alone meal or with other Indian dishes.  For gluten-free eaters, try with a gluten-free flatbread.

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