Make It: Indian Spiced Lentils and Baked Eggplant

Every now and again, I like to eat clean and go veggie. Not to say that I don’t miss the meaty proteins but sometimes, grains are just the way to go.

While shopping for veggies in my local produce market today, I ran across some red lentils. Growing up an almost entirely sheltered American household, I’d never eaten lentils outside of the random bowl of chili. But seeing as that I’m trying to eat a lot of “whole” foods and opt for less unhealthy ingredients, I decided to try some Indian cooking and make Aarti Party’s Mum’s Everyday Red Lentils. And boy, am I glad I did!

Note: I substituted in Powdered Ginger Root instead of fresh ginger just because it lasts longer, and with specialized recipes like this, I always end up with half a ginger root left and it goes bad in the fridge before I get a chance to use it. I figure fresh would be better but it tasted great with the powdered stuff, too.

Mum’s Everyday Red Lentils (otherwise known as Dal):

  • 1 cup masoor dal red lentils, picked through for stones (I used a 1lb bag.)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 onion, diced (I used 2 small shallots instead, for flavor.)
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced (or powdered.)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 serrano chile, sliced in 1/2, optional (I opted out.)

Tempering oil (bagaar):

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • Generous 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika or bafaat powder
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Handful chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Note: Just like when cooking with thicker types of rice, it is really important to thoroughly wash and soak your lentils. The more pliable they are, the more flavor they will soak up while cooking.

Directions:
Put the lentils in a strainer and rinse them under running water. Add them to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of water, the onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, chile, if using, and the lentils. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim any scum from the surface. DO NOT ADD SALT YET; it will toughen the lentils, thereby lengthening their cooking time. Lower the heat, cover the pot with a lid and gently simmer until the lentils are tender, almost translucent, and almost falling apart, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Whisk the lentils, releasing its natural starch, and mash some them so the mixture becomes thick. Add salt, to taste.

Tempering oil (bagaar): In a small bowl, combine the cumin and mustard seeds. In another bowl, combine the spice powders. Have all the ingredients ready because this will move very fast!

Note: I added as much spice as indicated here but my lentils turned out to be less flavorful than I would like. Next time, I will make sure to double the amounts of spices before I bloom them in the hot oil. Everyone is different, so if you like your food REALLY spicy, I say add more. If you’re weary to take risks with spices, stick to the plan. Everything still turned out yummy.

In a small skillet, over a medium-high flame, warm 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add seeds and immediately cover so you don’t get covered in spluttering oil and seeds! Add the spices. They should sizzle and bubble a little – that’s the blooming and it’s exactly what you want. Don’t let them burn. The mixture should bloom for about 30 seconds, no more.

Pour the oil mixture into the lentils, standing back so you don’t get hurt when the mixture splutters again. Stir to combine. Transfer the lentils to a serving dish and garnish with cilantro.

Baked Baby Indian Eggplant:

  • 4-5 baby indian eggplants (you can use the regular size too but the small ones cooked so fast.)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (use that to toss with the garlic, I drizzled a bit more before putting in the oven to help them from drying out.)
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 450, cut your eggplants into thick slices. Toss in the olive oil and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

I placed by baked eggplant on my lentil and even though it was all veggies, I was stuffed when I finished. Healthy and low cal and organic and delicious! Can’t ask for much more!

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa

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