Simple Indian dal, made with red lentils, onions, garlic, spices, tomatoes, and cilantro.
- 1 cup red lentils (orange lentils will work as well)
- 3 cups water
- 3 plum tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons grapeseed, vegetable, canola or other high-heat oil
- 1/2 cup white or yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped and made into a paste*
- 2 teaspoons of Bengali five spice mix (panch phoron) or 1/2 tsp black (or white) sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, and (if available) 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1 lime, juiced (equal to about 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice)
- 8 sprigs cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped
- Cooked basmati rice, optional
*To create a garlic paste, finely chop the garlic, then sprinkle with a little kosher salt (to act as an abrasive) and crush with the side of a large chopping knife over the mixture until garlic breaks down and becomes paste-like.
1 Rinse lentils and cook with water until soft: Place 1 cup of red lentils in a metal sieve. Rinse well with cold water. Pour cleaned lentils into a medium sauce pan. Add 3 cups of water. Bring lentils and water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
2 Blanch and chop the tomatoes: While the lentils are cooking in step 1, bring a separate small pot of water to a boil. Score the peel of the tomatoes with a sharp knife in the shape of an "X". Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and blanch for one minute.
Remove the tomatoes to a bowl to cool. Once cool, peel the tomatoes and cut out and discard the tough stem end. Chop the tomatoes, or mash them, and set aside.
3 Sauté onions, garlic paste, spices: After the lentils in step 1 have cooked at least 5 minutes, start preparing the onions and spices. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions. Cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic paste and cook for 1 minute more, stirring continuously, making sure that the garlic does not burn. Add the Bengali five spice. Cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Add bay leaf and turmeric. Stir.
4 Add cooked lentils, salt: To the onions and spices, add the cooked lentils along with the lentil cooking water. Add salt. Cook for 10 minutes.
5 Add lime juice, tomatoes, cook, then add cilantro: Add lime juice and tomatoes. Cook for 3-5 more minutes. Adjust salt if necessary. Stir in chopped cilantro and remove from heat. Garnish with more chopped cilantro.
Serve with basmati rice or naan bread.