We had gone to Indian specialty store, Dual in NYC, and being curious about all the colorful products around us, quickly filled up our basket with various lentils, beans, grains, and spices.
Of course, we had never cooked any of these items before, so when we came home we were a little overwhelmed. Our knowledgeable vegetarian friend told us that red lentils were easier than other lentils because they easily break down when cooked and don't need to be soaked overnight.
A few quick online searches brought us an easy recipe for Spicy Red Lentil Dal from Cooking Light. We adapted the recipe and found ourselves with a very hearty, immensely flavorful dish. It makes a great appetizer or snack.
Cooking Light to adjust to our preferences and ingredients we had on hand (as noted below).
2 cups vegetable broth (the recipe called for chicken broth, but we wanted the dish to be vegetarian)
1 cup dried small red lentils
1 Tbsp canola oil (did not have vegetable oil)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (roughly 1 medium and 1 small onion)
1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
Lots of crushed red pepper (the recipe only called for 1/2 tsp but we wanted to taste the spice)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander (we had whole coriander seeds and crushed them for more flavor)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste (we needed more tomato paste for a richer color and sweet flavor since we omitted the coconut milk)
1/2 cup sour cream (we unfortunately did not have coconut milk on hand)
1/2 tsp salt
sour cream (to garnish)
1. Combine broth and lentils in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer 10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove from heat; cover and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, mustard seeds, and red pepper, and cook 5 minutes or until onions are tender and seeds begin to pop, stirring constantly. Add cumin, turmeric, coriander, and black pepper; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add lentils, sour cream, and salt; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature.
3. Serve with a dallop of sour cream. Since we didn't have pita on hand, we used this as a dip with crackers.