Friday, January 4, 2008

Dinner: Red Lentils with Cumin-onion butter

When I was in New York last March, Anna and I checked out Kalustyan's, and that's where I saw a bag of red lentils and could not resist buying it: the color was fantastic. Alas, I had no clue what to make with them. I asked Edward, who is in charge of Sur La Table's culinary program, where I work part time, and that's how I learned about Red Lentils with Cumin-Onion Butter recipe. I've made it once before and loved it, and decided to make it again tonight.

Pick through 1/2 cup lentils and remove any stones or other foreign matter. Place lentils in a bowl and wash them in several changes of cold water. Drain in a fine mesh strainer.

Put the lentils and 2 cups of water into a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Skim off the foam, add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, partially cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30-45 minutes. The texture should be like a thin pea soup. Add 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon ghee or butter in a small skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds and brown them for about 15 seconds. Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion and cook on medium heat for 8 minutes. Add 1/8 teaspoon red chili powder, stir once and immediately add to the lentil mixture. Serve garnished with cilantro.
I put the lentils over basmati rice: I first toasted the rice grains in some oil until they turned a nice light brown color and gave off a nutty aroma. I then poured enough water to be 1/3 inch above the rice level, added some salt, brought to a boil, covered with a lead, lowered the heat to simmer and cooked covered for about 12 minutes. Perfection.
Note: the original recipe is double the amount I made.

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