Tonight’s post was going to be about how easy lentil leftovers are to use, and how they are wonderful because you can continue to cook them, throwing them back into some water and cook for longer, making them like their softer cousin, split peas, and how their entire essence changes. But, there was an incident.
I have an admitted love for Indian food. Scratch that, an admitted adoration. There is no cuisine so flavorful and rich with spices and zest. I have spent months building up my spice cabinet to accommodate any Tuesday night craving of masala or saag. I have made all of my favorite Indian restaurant dishes, with at least moderate success, and I have to shamefully admit I’ve become a bit big-headed about my skills at whipping up a mean curry. Until tonight, when dahl conquered me.
I chose to make dahl because my Indian tastebuds were yearning for some spice and the lentils from last night could easily be re-boiled, softened, and seasoned to perfection. Hooray!
Its a lesson for any cooking novice: get comfortable with cooking, but don’t get so comfortable that you stop paying attention and following directions.
My first mistake was that I knew I would want to re-season my dahl after it was initially cooked. So why not add most of the spices after the lentils have gone in the pan?
The second was that a glass of red wine and a battle with some frozen spinach led me to disregard said dahl during its crucial time, as the liquid is boiling off.
Z came in as I was cursing the spinach and I asked him to taste the lentils. He stirred the pan and I gasped in horror. Instead of a light, soupy consistency, it was just a pile of mush. And it hadn’t been seasoned yet! I threw in the spices, but rule #1 of Indian cooking is to cook the spices in the pan before adding the bulk of the ingredients, or at least cook the dish long enough for the spices to cook through. Otherwise it really tastes like you are eating powder.
The lentils were already so mushy that if I cooked it any longer I would have been able to make Indian lentil burgers (good idea though!).
So, my friends, this recipe is truly wonderful. But just follow the directions.
2 cups cooked lentils (al dente)
3 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon allspice
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon tumeric
Salt and pepper
Cooked spinach, plain yogurt, and homemade tortilla chips to serve
In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add all of the spices and stir briskly until they become aromatic, about 30 seconds.
Add the lentils and water. Stir to incorporate the spices. Bring to a simmer and continue stirring while the liquid reduce by 3/4, or until the lentils have softened and the dish resembles split pea soup.
Add any extra seasonings to taste.
Serve with the spinach, topped with yogurt and eat with either tortilla chips or naan.
With the spinach and the yogurt, it wasn’t half bad. But I can’t wait to have some more leftover lentils and make this the right way. Maybe I’ll stay away from frozen spinach. Its such a distraction.