by Dan Moore, Prepared Foods Manager
It’s kind of funny, but when you work in a grocery store you often find that you don’t have any groceries in your house. On weekends I can spend hours wandering the aisles and checking out various cool foods, but during the week it’s akin to punching out and wandering the cubicles in your office building. Then, our beloved editor hands me an assignment that is going to require me to do some cooking and I have to scramble. “Do one on soup, and make sure you incorporate some of the superfoods we’ll be featuring in this month’s Reader,” she says. Great. So, off I went to inspect the cupboards. Turns out this is going to be an easy one after all.
If you’re going to write about soup in January, and you want a healthy soup, there are a few requirements. First, the soup has to have a lot of flavor to provide comfort and make the house smell good. Second, the soup has to be substantial but without heavy cream. Lastly, the soup should have a fair amount of protein so you have the energy to write an article after supper.
Upon inspection, I found that my spice rack was full and in my pantry I still had the three staples I try to never be without–cans of tomatoes, a bag of onions, and a head of garlic. And there, behind a bag of flour, was about a quart of rather aged lentils. Voila, tomato dahl. I even had a great recipe: the Willy Street Co-op Deli’s.
The Deli’s Dahl
Dahl (or dal, or daal, or dhal) is a generic term in Indian cuisine that refers to just about any puree including peas, beans, or lentils. Basically, it’s a food arising from a culture with very low animal protein intake—so dahl is a staple food that supplies protein as well as B vitamins and plenty of fiber.
We make our dahl as a soup, adding tomatoes and replacing the chili powder with turmeric. This adds some antioxidants to make it an even healthier dinner. Here’s the recipe:
Directions: The first step is to cook your lentils. I’ve read about a hundred variations on the best way to do this; they all agree that you should start by rinsing them until the water runs clear. After that some say soak over night then simmer, some say boil them for a couple of minutes then simmer for two hours, some say just buy them canned. With fresh lentils you can just cover them with water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender. This usually takes me anywhere from ten minutes to two hours. You just have to keep an eye on them and make sure there’s still water in there. My lentils were pretty old, plus I’m making soup, so I start with quite a bit of water. I also add one of my three onions to the water so the lentils can absorb some of the flavor.
Once your lentils are tender, add the remaining ingredients excepting salt, vinegar and tomato. Adding salt too early can make your lentils tough, and acids like vinegar and tomato can also affect the cooking time of your lentils—so add these ingredients once the onions are tender and you’re sure the lentils are done cooking. Red and yellow lentils also have their hull split, and will break down in the cooking process unlike brown lentils. So you might want to have some extra veggie broth and water ready.
There is one other item I add to this recipe. I add a small cinnamon stick with the spices. It gives a rich flavor that also makes your home smell wonderful.
And, now that this article is done I guess I’ll have to grocery shop after work. I’m out of lentils, tomatoes, onions, and garlic.