Sri Lankan Dal With Coconut and Lime Kale

On a cold night, this dal is just what you’ll need to warm up. Not only is it warm and delicious, it is FULL of great flavor. The lentils get spice from serrano chiles (I amped it up a little with more than the recipe called for) and ginger, alongside the traditional coconut, garlic, cinnamon and cardamom flavors that you’ll find in dal.

My favorite part of this dish is the super flavor-packed kale that you heap on top. It is sauteed with mustard seeds and mixed with some of the onion/garlic/serrano mixture that forms the base of the dal, and hit with lime at the end. It gives just the right hit of acid and freshness from the greens, to offset the comforting lentils.

TW’s Tips

  • If you don’t have cardamom pods, replace with a teaspoon or so of ground cardamom.
  • It’s worth it to use coconut oil instead of olive or vegetable when sautéing for this recipe. It adds a much different undercurrent of flavor that you shouldn’t miss out on!
  • Make sure you taste and salt the dal well to really bring out the flavor.
  • If you like spice, add an extra chile!

Enjoy!

Sri Lankan Dal With Coconut and Lime Kale

Ingredients

  • 1 pound red lentils
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 small white onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¾ inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 green finger chiles or Serrano chiles, stemmed and finely sliced
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 large bunch kale (about 9 ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 7 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) canned coconut milk
  • Yogurt, for serving
  • Rice, for serving

Directions

Wash the lentils in a strainer in cold water until the water runs clear, then place in a medium bowl, cover with water and set aside. Bash the cardamom pods with the side of a knife so they crack open.

Put 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil into a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and cloves. Fry for a minute, then add the onions. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are browning and soft. Add the garlic, ginger and green chiles and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove a third of the mixture from the pot and set aside. (Leave the cinnamon stick behind.)

Drain the lentils and add to the pot, along with the turmeric and 4 1/4 cups of hot water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once they are boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft and creamy.

While the lentils are simmering, chop the kale into thin strips and discard the thicker stems. Put the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil into a lidded frying pan (keep the lid off for now) over medium heat and, when hot, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the reserved onion mixture and fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the kale, shredded coconut and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Stir-fry for 1 minute, add 1/4 cup of hot water and put the lid on to steam the kale for 2 minutes, or until soft and tender. Add the lime juice and stir.

When the lentils are soft and creamy, add the coconut milk and remaining salt and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat, and pick out and discard the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. To serve, ladle into bowls and divide kale over the top. Serve with a side of yogurt and rice.

Curried Chickpea Lentil Dal

My husband has been eating a mostly vegan diet (gasp!) for several months now, and although I’m not vegan and never will be, I’ve been eating vegan dinners with him almost every night. We love to cook and eat together, and honestly, I don’t miss the meat! What I DO miss are some of the great flavors you just don’t get (or are more difficult to get) from vegan food, like — my favorite — cheese. So, I’ll sprinkle parmigiana on my pasta and goat cheese in my salad to get those tastes. What I’ve learned over the past few months is that there are some excellent vegan dishes out there. It’s definitely more difficult for me as a cook, and I’ve been cooking much less as a result because it’s harder to find recipes, it takes more time to plan and it’s obviously limiting. But I’m giving it a go!

This recipe is a fantastic vegan dish — a dal made of lentils and chickpeas, flavored with coconut milk and curry, spicy ginger and garlic. It’s bursting with flavor with some good spice as well from the cayenne pepper. Last night we curled up with bowls of this and watched the Red Sox win the World Series (yeah!).

My favorite are the toppings. Freshness from cilantro, an awesome mustard seed turmeric oil, a chutney made from sweet raisins, onion and lime juice, toasted coconut and spicy sliced chiles (we used jalapeños we had on hand). There’s a lot going on, and it’s delicious! I especially loved the mustard seed oil. I’m not quite sure how to describe the taste — it’s a little smoky and toasty, a little spicy and pungent. It adds an awesome layer of depth.

TW’s Tips

  • Instead of using dried chickpeas, I used canned. I realized too late that I didn’t need to add all the water called for in that case, so I added additional chickpeas and lentils in to thicken it up. If you use canned chickpeas, add just a cup of water, and combine with the next step (adding coconut milk and lentils). If it gets too thick as you go, thin it out with water.
  • The recipe calls for adding two whole heads of garlic with the top third cut off. The recipe calls for plucking them out — feel free to press out the cloves into the dal — that’s what I did! They’re nice and sweet.
  • Any type of lentil will work, though this calls for red.
  • Serve over rice with pita or naan on the side to sop up the goodness.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

Mustard Seed and Turmeric Oil

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. ground turmeric
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt

Cilantro-Raisin Chutney

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped golden raisins
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro stems
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Stew and Assembly

  • 3 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 2 heads of garlic, top third removed
  • 1 3″ piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. curry powder
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained
  • 2 13.5-oz. cans unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1½ cups split red lentils
  • Store-bought unsweetened toasted coconut flakes, thinly sliced Fresno or serrano chiles, and/or cilantro leaves (for serving; optional)

Directions

Mustard Seed and Turmeric Oil
Cook oil and mustard seeds in a small saucepan over medium-low, swirling often, until mustard seeds start to pop. Remove from heat and stir in turmeric and cayenne. Season with salt; let cool.

Do Ahead: Oil can be made 1 day ahead. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Cilantro-Raisin Chutney
Mix shallot, raisins, cilantro stems, lime juice, and oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Do Ahead: Chutney can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Stew and Assembly
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. Cook onions and garlic, cut side down, and ginger, stirring onions and ginger occasionally, until onions are translucent and garlic is golden brown, 5–7 minutes. Add curry powder and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chickpeas and 5 cups water, stirring to release any bits stuck on bottom of pot; season with several pinches of salt. Bring to a simmer; cover with a lid, leaving slightly askew so steam can escape. Cook, adjusting heat to maintain a very gentle simmer and skimming foam from surface as needed, until chickpeas have swelled about 50 percent in size but are still crunchy, 25–30 minutes.

Add coconut milk and lentils to pot; season with more salt. Return to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until chickpeas are tender and lentils have broken down to form a thick broth, 30–35 minutes. Pluck out and discard garlic heads (don’t worry about any cloves that may have escaped into stew). Taste and season with more salt if needed. Ladle dal into bowls and serve with toasted Mustard Seed and Turmeric Oil, Cilantro-Raisin Chutney, coconut, chiles, and/or cilantro as desired.

Do Ahead: Dal can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.

Lentils with White Wine, Herbs and Tomatoes: La Cuisine Francaise First Edition

Last week I hosted the get together for my monthly book club, and in honor of “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain, I prepared a French feast for my lovely book club ladies. It was the perfect match for me, as I have a soft spot for France and all things French. I started taking French in seventh grade, all through high school and minored in it in college. One of my few regrets is not studying in France for a year (despite the badgering of my professors)  so I could become fluent. Zut.

Add to that being a food and wine lover, and it doesn’t get much better than France. We started our book club French evening of indulgence with baguettes and some decadent French cheese, including some melt-in-your-mouth Saint Agur bleu cheese — so creamy and sharp — and my favorite Saint Andre triple creme. And then…lentils with white wine, herbs and tomatoes.

I got this recipe from the book “Lunch in Paris” by Elizabeth Bard (which is also a wonderful book) — and while it sounds rather ho-hum (lentils?), it’s packed with flavor and I practically licked my bowl clean.

I think the key is slowly simmering the lentils in a mixture of chicken stock and white wine. Plus, the finish — topping the lentils with a squeeze of lime, dollop of creme fraiche and sprinkle of cilantro — gives them a pop of brightness and acidity from the lime and cilantro, and rich creaminess from the creme fraiche. You can also use sour cream in place of the creme fraiche, but I highly recommend the creme fraiche. It has a decadence you just don’t get from sour cream. Very French.

This is one of those meatless meals where you won’t miss the meat. And I don’t just say that — I’m a strict meat-eater. I served this with a salade Nicoise — coming up in my next post.

So how was the book? I loved it. It tells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley Richardson and their tumultuous relationship. They lived in Paris for a good portion of it, spending time with the likes of Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s heartbreaking but beautiful, and it made me want to read “The Sun Also Rises” again. I recommend! And while you read it, eat some lentils and drink some French wine. You’ll fall in l’amour, mon ami.

Lentils with White Wine, Herbs and Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot roughly chopped
  • 4-5 small shallots or 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups dried Puy lentils (I wasn’t able to find Puy lentils so used regular dried lentils and the dish was excellent)
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 16 oz can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Creme fraiche/sour cream
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • 3 limes

Directions

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots/onions and carrot and saute for 5-10 minues until the onion is translucent. Add the lentils and stir to coat with the oil. Add the broth, tomatoes, wine, parsley, bay leaf, and a good grinding of pepper. Leave to simmer over a low heat with the cover ajar until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (about 1 hour). Serve in shallow bowls with a dollop of creme fraiche/sour cream, a sprinkling of cilantro, and (essential!) half a lime for squeezing. Serves 6.