The other day I got a massive craving for this. I’d never made it before, I just knew I wanted this exact taste in my mouth immediately. I was not disappointed in the least; there is something about the flavor combination in this dish that is deeply satisfying.
1 cup green lentils
2 cups water
1 carrot, grated
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
2 Tbs canola oil
1/4 cup Earth Balance
2 Tbs cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 Tbs fresh minced ginger
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 yellow onion, diced small
Cooked rice (I like basmati but the Mr. likes jasmine better. Choose your own adventure)
Fresh cilantro for the top
Spread the lentils in a dry towel or flat surface and pick through them to remove any debris, small stones, or dirt (trust me, this is a good idea). Rinse the lentils using a fine mesh strainer and cold water, then drain. They don’t need to be soaked in water before you cook them like dry beans do.
Now get your lentils going, and at the same time start your rice if you don’t have any lying about in your fridge. I’m sure you know how to cook rice, and if you don’t you can easily Google it or look at the instructions on the packaging, so let’s forge ahead with the lentils:
Boil the water in a medium sized pot, adding the lentils once the water boils. With a lid on the pot, allow the lentils to boil in medium to high heat for 3-5 minutes and then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Check regularly to stir and add water if necessary (you don’t want the lentils to burn or stick to the bottom of the pot!). During the last 5 minutes add the grated carrot and stir. Once the lentils are done cooking add the tomatoes, salt, and vinegar, give them a good stir, and set them aside with the lid on to retain the heat.
Tadka is one of the names used to refer to an Indian spice preparation that is fried briefly in hot oil to liberate essential oils from cells and thus enhance the flavor experience you receive from the spices. It is delicious and you’ll find that I do this in more than one recipe. You’re going to make a tadka now, as follows:
Heat your canola oil and Earth Balance in a medium sized skillet over high heat. When the oil is very hot, add the cumin, cayenne, ginger, garlic, and onion and saute over medium heat until most of the onion has turned dark brown, 5-10 minutes. Make sure you stir this frequently so it doesn’t burn. After the onion has turned dark brown add the mixture to the lentils, stir, and you’re ready to serve.
Serve everything in a bowl with the rice as the base layer, a healthy dose of lentils over the top of that, and chopped cilantro over the top of the whole thing (this is absolutely not optional. The cilantro makes this dish pop like you won’t believe).
If you decide to change up this recipe a bit, here are some things you should know:
1. You can add onions, garlic cloves, or fresh herbs into the boiling water when you add the lentils, but don’t add salt to while they’re cooking, as this tends to harden them. Any acidic ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar or tomatoes must also be added after the lentils have thoroughly cooked.
2. Personally, I like to add a dash more rice vinegar on my rice before I put the lentils on.
3. You can switch up the green lentils for yellow lentils (also called dal, which apparently indicates they have been split and hulled). Just be aware that the yellow lentils do not maintain their shape and instead become something of a mash. Shorten their cooking time by 5 minutes, too, because they cook up much faster without the hull.
4. This is amazing as a cold wrap. Especially at Burning Man. But then again, everything tastes better at Burning Man.