Tag Archives: cumin

Recipe: Red Lentils with Coriander and Cumin (Masoor Dal)

27 Feb

The first time I ever cooked red lentils, they promptly turned yellow and fell apart–which is what they are meant to do, only I didn’t know it then. Red lentils are lentils with the hulls removed; in addition, they are also usually split in half, so they cook (and disintegrate) fairly quickly. I look forward to this transformation, because the resulting golden, buttery, and aromatic stew-like dish is the ultimate comfort food served on top of rice, or even eaten on its own.

Most dal recipes call for spices cooked in oil (a tadka) to be added to the lentils at the end of the cooking time. This recipe also calls for cooked onions, garlic, and spices to be added at the beginning, too. Mmm good. And even better because my husband made the version shown below (pictured with brown rice). This dal is great the second day because it thickens slightly and the flavors deepen, so it’s an excellent make-ahead dish.

Red Lentils with Coriander and Cumin (Masoor Dal)

1 c. red split lentils (masoor dal)
4 c. water
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 large onion diced
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tbsp. butter (optional)
finely chopped cilantro (optional)
fried onions (optional)

Preparation
1.  Pick over the lentils, rinse thoroughly in a fine-meshed colander, and place in a heavy-bottomed pot along with the 4 c. water. Bring to a boil over high heat and remove any foam that rises to the surface.
2. Heat the 2 tbsp. canola oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the onion and cook until it is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the coriander seeds, ginger, and turmeric, and cook for 1 more minute. Add this mixture to the lentils; set the skillet to one side for later use.
3. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. The lentils will turn yellow as they cook and will disintegrate.
4. Toward the end of the lentils’ cooking time, heat the other 2 tbsp. oil in the same skillet over medium heat and add the cumin seeds. Let sizzle for a few seconds, then add the ground coriander and salt. Cook for 1 minute, then add the spices and oil to the lentils, along with the butter (if using). Stir to mix well.
5. Before serving, garnish with chopped cilantro and/or fried onions  if desired.

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.

Recipe: Spicy Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes

27 Oct

I have always loved logic problems. You know–the kind where a man in a blue coat on a bus is sitting two seats away from a woman with red hair who is diagonally across from another woman using an iPhone and one seat away from a man with a green scarf reading the paper.  Eventually, given more clues, you’d have to say where everyone was sitting, what color hair they had, what they were wearing, and what they were doing.

Perhaps that is why I also greatly enjoy certain culinary challenges. For example, tonight we had friends over for dinner and had a lovely time with them. But having lived in Berkeley, we learned early on to ask if our guests had any dietary preferences or restrictions. This time around, several of our guests could not eat dairy, gluten, or meat (two friends are each avoiding one of those items, the other cannot have two of them–but no one friend is avoiding all three). Five people at the table tonight ate anything and everything. No one was vegan.

So, what to serve? In cases such as this, I find that Indian food is perfect. There are myriad vegetarian and non-dairy options, and rice does not contain gluten. So I decided to use this opportunity to experiment by making several dishes I haven’t tried before. This eggplant dish is one of them, and one of the reasons I chose it is that it can be served at room temperature. Anything that can be made ahead of time, I like. This recipe, which family members deemed a keeper, is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.

Spicy Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes
Serves 6

1 tsp. ground ginger
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1/8 c. water
1 3/4 lb. baby eggplant
about 1.5 c. canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp. whole fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 (15-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or chili flakes)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Preparation

1. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into halves, then cut each half lengthwise into four strips; cut the strips in half crosswise.
2. Heat 1/2 c. of the oil in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat; when hot, add one layer of eggplant and cook until the eggplant is golden-brown, turning pieces over as they cook.
3. Remove eggplant and drain on a layer of paper towels.
4. Repeat until all eggplant slices have been cooked, adding additional oil to the pan each time as needed.
5. Once all the eggplant has been cooked, keep about 3 tbsp. of the oil in the pan, and discard the rest.
6. Add the fennel and cumin seeds to the hot oil in the pan. Stir for a few seconds, then add the tomato, ginger-garlic mixture, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, salt, and sugar
7. Stir and cook for 5-6 minutes, breaking up the tomato pieces with the back of a slotted spoon. Continue to cook until the mixture gets thick and paste-like.
8. Return the eggplant to the pan and gently mix in; add the lemon juice. Cook on medium-low for about 10 minutes, adding some of the reserved tomato liquid if the eggplant looks too dry.
9. Check the seasonings and adjust as needed (you may like to add more salt, or a pinch more sugar, or a bit more lemon juice).
10. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe: Curried Lentils with a Twist

7 Nov

People either love lentils, or they don’t. I fall in the former camp, and luckily, so do most of my family members. One of my sons can eat his weight in these lentils–ok, half his weight in the actual lentils and rice, and the other half in the extremely hot lime pickle he slathers on top. I’m not sure how he has any taste buds left.

This dish is actually a hybrid (hence “the twist”). It is mostly Indian, but with a few Spanish and Latin American hints. There is some degree of overlap between the cuisines, which I capitalized upon here: the lentils, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cumin, coriander, and lemon. But the turmeric and garam masala tip the balance toward a more pronounced Indian flavor, while the use of bouillon powder is typically Latin American. Either way, the result is a testament to fusion food, and like so many recipes that stand the test of time, it is one you can adapt almost any which way.

Curried Lentils with a Twist
Serves 8-10

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lg. onion, diced
3 tsp. whole coriander seeds
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tomatoes, diced (after dicing, remove as many of the white core parts as possible, without worrying too much)
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 (16-oz.) bag lentils (about 2 heaping cups), picked over and rinsed
6.5 c. water, divided
4 tsp. chicken or vegetable bouillon powder (or equivalent cubes to make 4 c. bouillon)
salt to taste (if needed)
2 tsp. garam masala
juice of 1/2 lemon

Preparation

1. Sauté onion and coriander seeds in olive oil in a medium saucepan until onion is soft; add garlic and cook for a couple minutes more. Add tomatoes and cook until soft, mashing them with a large slotted spoon to break them up. Add ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric, stir, and cook for a a minute or two. Add lentils, 5 c. water, and bouillon powder/cubes.

2. Bring to a boil, cover saucepan, then simmer lentils until soft, usually about 30-45 minutes. Note: Stir lentils every 10 minutes or so, adding remaining 1.5 c. water as needed if the lentils start getting too dry. Depending on the lentils, they may absorb a lot of liquid, so it’s important to check periodically. Ultimately, the lentils should be soupy and almost stew like–not too thin, not too thick.

3. Add garam masala and lemon juice and check seasonings.

4. Serve with rice (short-grain brown rice is great) and chutney or Indian pickle (such as lime pickle for those who like it hot).

Recipe: Cumin-Scented Black Bean Salad

17 Jul

This is a perfect summer salad, because unlike the rest of us, it doesn’t wilt. Its Latin accents, with a bit of seasoned rice vinegar thrown in as a counterpoint, are just the thing for a summer’s eve when it’s too hot to cook.

Black Bean Salad
Serves 4-6

1 15.5-oz. can black beans, well drained
3 tbsp. finely diced red onion
2 scallions (green onions), white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/4 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 green bell pepper, finely diced
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro (can vary amount to taste)

Dressing
1 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. sugar
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice

Combine dressing ingredients in medium serving bowl. Add salad ingredients (except cilantro) and mix gently. Just before serving, fold in cilantro.