There are so many kinds of dal (lentils) that a trip to the Asian Grocery can be quite an adventure. Take a look at some of the varieties by going to this link www.foodsubs.com/Lentils.html. And now imagine...whole aisles filled with bags and bags of all these different lentils. It is not a surprise that I go there looking for one type and then come home with several.
My introduction to lentils not served as a soup was years ago when I ordered an intriguing, warm lentil salad for brunch. A hard and risky choice, especially after eyeing the plate of sure-to-be-delicious, fluffy pancakes with sweet butter and real maple syrup next to me. And, personal favorites Huevos Rancheros with spicy homemade salsa and frijoles and Eggs Benedict with fresh local crab were also on the menu. Decisions. Where's the buffet when I need it?
But, I was not disappointed. Far from it. The salad arrived topped with beautiful roasted red and yellow beets and carrots and a sprinkle of tangy local goat cheese, all served on a bed of fresh greens and drizzled with a lovely, lemony vinaigrette. Oh, it was fabulous and my homemade version soon became a go-to comfort food during cooler months. And so, for awhile, I was pretty content to have two lentils dishes, one soup and one salad, under my belt. Until my trip to India. Every dish I tried and I tried them all, became my new favorite and opened up a whole new world of flavors and preparations, and so, now back home, I am working on my lentil skills.
While Christian was here, we tried out this recipe and it is a keeper. Not only for the fun new taste of yellow lentils but also for the luscious addition of cooked mango. It is a fruit beyond description, a little bit orange-y, a little bit peach-y and every bite uniquely delicious. I first tasted mangoes when I was an exchange student in Colombia and during my summer there, for sure ate my weight's worth. Lucky for me in this case, my weight kept going up.
I also like this dish because it encouraged us to venture further and play with the rice. We used brown basmati instead of white, added a few pods of green cardamom, 2 or 3 slices of fresh ginger and a generous dollop of coconut oil to the cooking liquid. These additions made it silky, really fragrant and a nice flavorful companion for the dal. This recipe said it served 6, but who are they kidding? The recipe testers must be the same ones who label Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Get real.
Springtime Mango Dal
1 cup yellow lentils (toor dal)
3-4 cups water (I used 3 cups)
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
1/2 t ground turmeric
1 T canola or coconut oil
1/2 t cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T minced fresh ginger
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 mangoes, peeled and diced (see picture above)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Place lentils in a colander and rinse well.. Combine lentils, 3 cups water, 1/2 t sea salt and turmeric in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and cook until fragrant and starting to brown, about 1 minute or more. Add onion and cook until beginning to brown, about 4-6 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cayenne and remaining 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more.
Stir the garlic mixture and mangoes into the lentils. Return to a simmer, cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are falling apart, about 10-15 minutes. Adjust seasonings for spiciness desired. Stir in cilantro and serve over rice. Serves 3-4.