Thursday, September 17, 2009

Curried Shitake Lentils: Hello, Daal!

I’ve always said a good Indian meal is like a one-night stand.
It’s great that night, but when you see it the next day, it's not quite the hot dish you remembered. But it still tastes sooooo good.

This curried lentils concoction is my own take on the Indian dish, daal. It’s something I make different every time, so you don’t have to be that literal with the recipe. I add shitake mushrooms to give the lentils a rich, meaty flavor and texture. Cremini mushrooms will work nicely too. If you’re not into shrooms, you can omit them, and it will still have a full-bodied, earthy taste from all the complex spices like curry, coriander, cumin and ginger. Want to add turmeric or delete the coriander? Deviate away. Let your tastebuds be your guide. It'll be good no matter how you spice it.

Indians might raise an eyebrow at the use of olive oil rather than ghee (clarified butter), but I like to keep it light. This is a satisfying meal served over brown rice with some greenery on the side. I love arugula, and I’ll either have it in the buff or dress it with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. And best of all, this is easy to make—even for the lentilly challenged.


1 cup red lentils


1 - 2 TBSP olive oil

½ large onion, diced

1 heaping cup of mushrooms (about 8 medium shitakes), cut up

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-inch piece ginger, minced

1 TBSP + ½ tsp curry powder

2 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp cumin powder

¼ tsp salt

black pepper to taste

Makes about 4 servings

Put the lentils in a pot and cover with salted water that's about two inches taller than the lentils. Boil for about 20 minutes or until soft (brown ones take a little longer). When done, drain.

While lentils are cooking, grind the coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle. You can use ground coriander if you want, but I like biting into little pieces that pop with flavor. Mix all the spices together in a bowl.

In a skillet, sauté the onion in olive oil until slightly brown, and add the spices, shrooms, then garlic and ginger, and cook until soft. Add the lentils and simmer with the lid ajar for about 30 minutes. Add water on an as-needed basis to rehydrate and to deglaze the pan.

1 comment: