Sunday, May 11, 2014

Red Lentil Dal

A few weeks ago when our son Dan said he and a friend would be here for dinner in a few hours, I made this dal because it was quick to make for their unplanned arrival, and it is delicious. When I started to serve it, Dan's friend commented that his mother, who is Lebanese, frequently makes dal.  I was suddenly concerned that mine would be paltry in comparison to her authentic creations. But Jack had high praise for my version and I knew his comments were genuine when he ate several servings.  

I was, however, a bit surprised that Lebanese cooking included dal.  I generally associate dal with the cooking of India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and that general vicinity, but a little on-line research showed that those countries have influenced the Mid-Eastern cooking resulting in several renditions of dal.  When I asked my friend Tahirih about the origin of this particular recipe that she shared with me, she said she had received it from a Persian friend of hers. Another example of dal in the Mid-East!

If you are not familiar with dal (also spelled dhal, or daal), it is a thick soup made from any variety of lentils or split peas.  I have several versions, some given to me by friends from East India. 

The thickness of this dal can be varied depending on how much water you add.  If you make it very thick, let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days and then it is delicious served cold as a dip or spread. You'll see a photo at the bottom of it in this form.  

Lentils are great food for diabetes because of their low glycemic index. They also provide protein, and dal is precisely the type of texture and fiber that my digestive system needs.  Served with basmati rice and plain yogurt (cow, soy, or goat), it is delicious.  A raita salad (cucumber, yogurt and mint) is also a superb compliment.  I will post my pureed version of this salad someday. 

If you have a favorite dal recipe, let me know!

Dry red lentils
2 cups dry red lentils
1 cinnamon stick, 2 -3 inches long
1 bay leaf
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 slices of fresh ginger, about the size of quarters
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 of a whole lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you want it

Wash the lentils and let them drain. In a large pot, combine the lentils, 4 -6 cups water (4 - 5 for dal consistency, 6 for soup consistency), cinnamon stick, bay leaf, garlic cloves, ginger slices and turmeric. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently for about 30 minutes.

Slice the lemon into 5 or 6 rounds. Remove the seeds. Lift the cover of the pot and put in the lemon slices, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Stir. Cover and simmer another 10 - 15 minutes, until the lentils are completely soft.

Remove the bay leaf, lemon slices, garlic cloves, and ginger slices. Stir well and ladle into soup bowls.

Nutrition per serving:                                       
Servings per recipe: 5
Serving Size: 1 cup                                              
Calories:  280
Total Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 716 mg
Total Carbs: 46 g
Dietary Fiber: 11g
Protein: 21g