Indian Dal Nirvana
Vegetarian and packed with complex flavors — ginger and garlic for spark, tomatoes and cream to smooth it out, and cayenne to pep it up — this dal elevates the homely lentil to supermodel status. Serve with basmati rice, naan or toasted tortilla.
- 1 cup dry lentils
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste (Nirvana calls for 6 ounces tomato puree, but paste worked great!)
- 1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (the restaurant called for 1 teaspoon, but I say 1/4 teaspoon gives a spicy kick for most people and 1 teaspoon would be scary)
- 1 cup water (plus more later)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (maybe more to taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup heavy cream (1/4 cup is fine, says me!)
- 4 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro (Nirvana called for 2 T, but we love our cilantro so we doubled it to 4 T. You could also use fresh Italian parsley)
In a large sauce pan, add the lentils and fill pan with water to cover lentils by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the lentils open and are tender. Drain the water from the lentils and return the lentils to the pot. Stir the lentils around in the pot, mashing some of them against the pot to break open. Add the tomato paste, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, 1 cup water, butter, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook, covered, for 1 hour, until the dal is thick.
Check the pot several times during cooking to make sure the mixture isn’t getting too dry and scorching. (I had to add an additional 1/4 cup water at the 40-minute mark.)
Stir in cream, taste for salt (add a pinch more if needed), spoon onto plates, and garnish with minced cilantro.
Source: Recipe slightly adapted from Nirvana Restaurant, Beverly Hills . I originally saw it at the brilliant Steamykitchen.com 
Healthy kitchen: Lentils are high in protein, iron, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B and minerals. The tomato paste adds lycopene.