Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mild Masoor Dal (Red Lentils)

masoor dal

Dal, or dahl, has any number of variations. This version is made with the lovely, mild and quick-cooking red lentils.

The flavors are mild enough for my family's blandness-loving palate, although I would have liked it a bit more spicy myself. If you like more spicy foods, try doubling the cumin, turmeric and/or mustard. You could also add a clove of garlic and a sauted onion, or your favorite vegetable(s).

If you are allergic to a spice, just leave it out or substitute something you like. Any grain can be used instead of rice, or you could just serve the dahl as a sauce over lettuce, tofu or meat. Serving a legume with a grain, such as rice, makes a complete protein.

Mild Masoor Dal

Makes 4-6 servings.

Soak 1 cup of red lentils (hulled and split), or masoor dal, overnight in about 4 cups of water and the juice of half a lemon (about a tablespoon) or a splash of vinegar. If you will be serving the dal over rice, soak the rice in water as well (I soaked 2 cups of rinsed brown rice in 4 cups of water for almost 24 hours). This step is optional, but disables the antinutrient phytic acid in the grains, making them more digestible.

Drain and rinse the soaked lentils, combine with 3 and 1/2 cups of water (4 cups water if you didn't soak them), and bring to a boil.

Turn the pot down to a simmer over medium-low heat and add:

1/2 tsp ground cumin seed
1 tsp crushed coriander seed
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1/8 tsp powdered mustard
1/2 tsp salt (wait to add salt until the last few minutes of cooking)

Cook for about 30 to 45 minutes or until lentils are tender. Serve on flatbread or over cooked rice. I started the dal cooking and then put my soaked rice into the rice cooker, and they both got done about the same time.

This dal is very good served over cooked rice. I cooked 2 cups of soaked brown rice with 4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.

To serve as in the photo, start with a bed of leaf lettuce. I used one large leaf with more salad on the side, but a thicker layer of lettuce ripped into bite-sized chunks might work better under the dal. Put a good-sized portion of rice on top. Ladle a spoonful of lentil mixture over the rice and garnish each plate with chopped green onions or chives.

If you can tolerate dairy products, you might want to try making the dal more spicy and adding a spoonful of sour cream or plain yogurt under the green onions.

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