Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mmm-mm... A delicious dinner, a simple joy: Masoor Daal

Cooking is yet another favorite activity. Still, I can't help but occasionally wish I had the time and resources to cook only for pleasure. Never the less, cooking is a necessary activity to ensure one has access to healthy and nutritious food on a daily basis. As a result of this condition of life I try to find recipes that taste incredible but come together easily and relatively quickly. I find that prepping ingredients when you have a spare 10-30 minutes is a great way to stay ahead of the lunch or dinner time crunch. I don't always have the time or initiative to do this, I'll admit right this instant. But I love to keep fresh fruits and vegetables on hand and in a ready-to-use condition.

The steps are wonderfully simple... For produce meant to stay in their original form such as grapes, strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers: I wash them well and, if necessary, place them in a clean container, lined with a clean cloth or paper towel. (I recommend never placing tomatoes in the fridge as they will lose their flavor and consistency.) Some produce is intended to be consumed or cooked in smaller pieces, such as watermelon, onions and carrots. I wash these well too, of course, slice or chop them up as desired and put them to rest in a container in the refrigerator until I need them.

Taking these basic steps adds ease and convenience to my day. I feel a special sense of pleasure and satisfaction when it comes time to use the advance-prepared ingredients. Not only do I save myself time but I love having what I need ready at hand.

Doing this also encourages healthier snacking and adds much desired nutrients, fiber and vitamins to my meals. For example, just adding some diced green peppers, shredded carrots and chopped onion to a basic marinara sauce allows me to consume 7.5 grams- 30% Daily Value of dietary fiber, 145mg -250% DV of vitamin C, 440% DV of vitamin A, 36% DV of vitamin K, and 36% DV of vitamin B6. There's also a good amount of Potassium, Manganese and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Note, these numbers are based upon 1 cup each of raw onions, carrots and peppers. When cooked, the nutritional information will usually vary, sometimes lowering or raising the levels. Additionally while 440% DV of vitamin A is wonderful, keep in mind that it would be in all the marinara, not just 1 serving, as is true for all the Daily Values listed.

I found the nutritional information on the website. It is a free resource for nutritional information. And it contains more than just info on raw vegetables, I happened to only look up raw ones because it was quick. The website has a wealth of information. When searching onions alone I found info on fast food and restaurant onions, onion rings, frozen onions, fried, canned, dehydrated flakes and so on and so forth.

As often as possible, I find ways to add vegetables and fruits to my diet. Tonight I cooked Masoor Daal for dinner. My version is based off of the Taste Buddies blog post you can read here! I don't think there have been any updates in about a year, but her blog contains many wonderful recipes that have become beloved staples in my home. Many of my loved ones have adopted her recipes as their own too. My mom is crazy about her raw broccoli salad recipe.

When I make Masoor Daal I do a few things differently than Syrie's recipe. One thing I do differently is adding carrots. This initially happened because of a cute twist of fate when I thought her recipe had carrots in it. I was in a rush and saw flecks of orange (other than the lentils) in the picture. I assumed it called for sliced carrots so when doing my prep I shredded 2 organic carrots. When I actually read the recipe again as I was preparing it I realized none were called for. I forged ahead and added them to the stir fry of onions and tomatoes. The result was delicious. The carrots added a mild hint of sweetness so I've been adding them ever since.

Masoor Daal with Basmati Rice


  • 1 cup Masoor daal (split red/pink lentils)
  • 1 1/4 tsp Garam Masala spice mix (available in most grocery stores, even McCormick makes a version)
  • 1 1/4 tsp Turmeric, ground
  • 1 teaspoon Sea Salt, but be sure to salt to your own preference
  • 1/8 cup Grapeseed Oil (you can use any oil you like)
  • 1 large Yellow Onion, diced 
  • 2 Carrots, sliced thin or grated
  • 5 Garlic Cloves, minced 
  • 1 1/2 inch piece Ginger, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, not as good but will do in a pinch)
  • 1 small Red Chili, finely chopped (for those with mild preferences use one small jalapeƱo or red bell pepper)
  • 2 medium Tomatoes, diced finely
  • 1 cup Cilantro leaves and stems chopped, about 2 tablespoons reserved for garnish
  • 2/3 cup vanilla or plain Yogurt (optional)  
    For the rice:
  • 2 cups Water 
  • 2 cups of Basmati Rice
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds, not ground
  • 6-10 Green Cardamom pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Turmeric
  • 3 cups of Water
  • Plus enough Water to cover rice (for soaking)                     

  • Rinse the rice well until the water runs about clear. Use a rice steamer to cook the rice with the cumin, cardamom and turmeric, if you have one and follow it's directions with water to rice ratio. If not just cook it on the stove using the above ratio. Place the rinsed rice in a bowl and cover it with water for about 15 minutes. While it soaks boil the 3 cups of water in a large pot. Drain the water from the rice and add the rice, cumin seeds, cardamom pods and turmeric to the boiling water. Bring the rice to a boil then reduce, cover with lid and allow it to simmer for just 5 minutes. Remove from heat, keeping the lid on, and let it rest for 15 minutes. Do not check on the rice and do not open the lid after it is placed on until it has rested for the full 15 minutes. Once the rice has rested 15 minutes, check it. If it's a bit too firm for you let it sit for a few minutes longer. If it is a bit dry add a splash of boiling water. Transfer to a bowl, cover and set aside.

  • Rinse the lentils well, until the water runs clear. Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a pot. Add the lentils and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the lentils for about 10 minutes and then add 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and half of the salt. While the lentils cook they will absorb a lot of the water, especially toward the ends. When the lentils have cooked and softened lower the heat as much as possible.

  • While the lentils are cooking heat the oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the onions and the other half of the salt. Cook the onions until they're beginning to caramelize but aren't quite there and add the carrots, garlic, chili and ginger. Cook the onion mixture a few minutes longer and once the onions have caramelized add the remaining garam masala and turmeric, take care you do not allow the spices to burn. Stir constantly and after about a minute add the tomato. Cook the mixture for about 3 minutes then add the chopped cilantro. Pour the onion and tomato mixture into the lentils and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

  • Taste and add more salt if desired. At this point you may stir in the yogurt if desired. If using vanilla yogurt it will add a sweet creaminess. If you are not partial to that effect just leave it out or use half the amount of plain yogurt. It's delicious all ways. Serve over basmati rice and sprinkle on some of the reserved cilantro for garnish. For heightened enjoyment accompany Masoor Daal with warm, buttery naan or the flat bread of your choice.
This serves at 4 adults, with left overs, in my experience. Happy Eating!

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