I cheated on my grandmother’s lentil recipe. There, I said it! Phew.
It had been a while since I started flirting with the idea of making dal, a year to be exact. I remember that day perfectly. We had been living in our Brooklyn apartment for less than a week. We woke up at four in the morning to take a four-hour bus to Cambridge with the objective of to bringing back everything that we had left in storage six months earlier. As soon as we stepped out of the bus into a slushy, snow covered Cambridge, we took a cab to storage, rented a truck, unloaded, loaded, and started making our way back, all in one day. It must have been around nine or ten in the evening when we parked in front of our building. We were starving, and had about five minutes to eat something before starting that crazy, exciting, and exhausting process of settling in. We ordered take-out from the only restaurant that was still open. Everything was ordinary except for that complimentary bowl of dal.
Let me start by saying that I have never been a fan of Indian food. I love the flawless use of spices, but the food always felt to heavy. Never having tried dal before, I was surprised at how tasty a simple bowl of pureed lentils could be. So aromatic, spicy, and delicious!
A couple of weeks ago, all that flirting became a reality when I stumbled upon a bag of beautiful orange lentils (masoor dal). Immediately after, I found myself cooking with those lentils, devouring every bite with gusto, discovering how delicious Indian cooking can be.
Traditional dal is made by boiling the lentils in water until cooked. A fried mixture of spices, onion, tomatoes, and garlic, is added to the cooked lentils right before serving. Because I don’t like following traditions, I slightly changed the recipe. I added onions, garlic, tomatoes, and spices in the beginning, and ribbons of fresh kale at the end. The result: a less fatty, more healthful variation, which is full of flavor, spice, and aromas.
Even though I will crawl back to my grandmother’s lentils, begging for forgiveness, I know I can have these whenever I feel like having fun, and reminiscing on new beginnings.
Masoor Dal with Kale
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- ½ large yellow onion
- 1 shallot
- 2 gralic cloves
- 1” piece fresh ginger
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. mustard seeds
- 1 tsp. cumin powder
- 2 tsp. curry powder
- 1 ½ cup fingerling potatoes
- 1 cup canned plum tomatoes
- 1 cup Masoor lentils (orange)
- 6 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 cup kale (sliced into thin ribbons)
In a large pot over medium temperature, heat oil until hot. Add onions, shallot, garlic, ginger, salt and spices. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add potatoes. Stir for another five minutes. Add plum tomatoes, lentils, and either water to vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and lower temperature. Cook for 30-40 minutes. Stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Lentils should be soft, and falling apart. If you prefer thicker consistency, lightly mash lentils using a whisk for a couple of minutes. When ready to serve, add thinly sliced ribbons of kale. Pour over rice, or eat by itself as a soup. Enjoy!