Weekday Vegetarian: Red Lentil Dal with Cumin-Fried Onions and Wilted Spinach

weekday vegetarian dal with spinach photo

Photo: Kelly Rossiter

We are off to dinner at my mother-in-law's tonight, and she doesn't really get vegetarianism. So I make something to take along for my vegetarian son to eat, as he is usually on his way to dinner from work. It has to be something that is easy to reheat and doesn't require any last minute attention or kitchen space, and this red lentil dal just fit the bill. Red lentils cook so much faster than green or brown lentils, that you could have this on the table for dinner in about 40 minutes.

Saute the onions while the lentils are cooking and then set them aside until you need them. I mixed the onions into the dal, but you could always use them more as a garnish and then everyone mix them into the dal while they are eating it. I also used some of my canned tomatoes, which I chopped up and added to the dal, rather than the grape tomatoes that the recipe calls for. I also wanted a slightly stronger ginger flavour, because my family are all big ginger lovers, so I minced it, rather than leaving the hunk whole. Add a couple of pieces of naan, and you have a light, but satisfying dinner.

This recipe is from the wonderful cookbook The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook by Kim O'Donnel.

Red Lentil Dal with Cumin Fried Onions and Wilted Spinach

2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed
6 cups water
1 (1 x 1 inch) hunk fresh ginger, peeled but left whole
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
2 cloves of garlic, 1 peeled but left whole, the other chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 bunch spinach (about 2 cups) washed thorough, stemmed, dried and chopped coarsely
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium sized onion, sliced in half and then into half-moons
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 dozen grape or pear tomatoes, halved lenthwise
a squeeze of lemon (optional)

1. Place the rinsed lentils in a heavy-bottomed pot and add water. Add the ginger, turmeric, whole garlic clove and the cinnamon stick. Bring to a lively simmer, then lower the heat, cover and cook the lentils at a gentle simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the ginger, garlic and cinnamon stick. Add the salt, taste, then add more as needed.

2. Add the spinach, give it a quick stir, and return the cover to the pot. The spinach will wilt quickly.

3. Meanwhile, in a 9 or 10 inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the cumin seeds. Cook briefly (15 seconds) then add the garlic and onions. Cook over medium heat, allowing the onions to brown at the edges, at least 5 minutes. Add the cayenne and tomatoes, stir to coat, and taste for salt. Transfer the fried onion mixture to the dal, stir, and serve. If using squeeze the lemon over the dish as a last minute flavour spritz.

More Recipes from The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook
Lentil and Spinach Ragout
Kale Pesto
Braised Squash with Black Bean Sauce

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