Simple Red Lentil Dal

January 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

I feel as though I’ve only just — like, in the past 3 weeks — discovered soup.  Granted, I grew up in the desert – with a 2-week winter & 50-week summer – and soup (save gazpacho) hasn’t sounded appealing.  At least not when you stack it up against cilantro + bean salads, year-round (in-season) crisp heaps of lettuce or room-temperature noodle salads speckled with off-the-vine tomatoes picked in (I’m not kidding) January.  But lately, I’ve been getting a real kick out of boiling beans and cutting the rinds off of parmesan cheese blocks to flavor a deep pot of broth.  These happy discoveries have coincidentally coincided with my complete loss of cold/cool endurance, such that I now wear a scarf permanently indoors (a balmy 66-degrees).

A few days ago I decided to make Dal.  Dal is an everyday, spicy, aromatic side dish made with seasonings, curry, onions and a legume.  It’s often eaten with a starch — like rice or bread — and dairy.  Dal comes from the Sanskrit word “to split” and refers to dozens of different types of dried split peas.  Last Wednesday, I dug out my red lentils from the depths of the pantry.  Thirty minutes later, I had a bubbling, creamy pot of thick, collapsed lentils — it looked a lot like split pea soup.  This Simple Dal is Mark Bittman inspired.  There are only a smattering of ingredients in the whole recipe; the spices (and salt) are key to the good flavor. I ate it plain, with a spoon, but it would be equally good paired with a starch, as it’s typically eaten.

1 tablespoon green tea oil or olive oil
1 medium yellow/white onion, chopped
1 cup red lentils, picked over*
1 teaspoon minced ginger (fresh)
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 whole cloves
salt, pepper to taste
1/3 cup cilantro, optional

*If following the specific carbohydrate diet, add lentils back into diet after one month of symptom free days.  Before preparing this dish, soak lentils for a full 24 hours to remove excess starch.


1. In the bottom of a medium-sized pot, heat oil and onions until caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Once wilted, remove onions from heat and set aside to add-in later.

2. In the same pot, add red lentils and saute with ginger, mustard seed and garlic for just a minute, until garlic becomes fragrant.  Add cloves and enough water so that the lentils are covered by about 1″ of liquid.  Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Cook for approximately 25-30 minutes until the lentils collapse and loose shape.

3. Before serving, taste for salt and pepper.  Serve immediately with cilantro as an optional garnish.  This soup makes terrific leftovers, but the soup will thicken in the fridge.  When reheating, loosen with a bit of water.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, SCD-safe (see asterisk)


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