Dahl Fit for a Saint

My first internship when I got out of culinary school was in the kitchen at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, where they had an entire wall filled with dozens and dozens of spices. I swear that wall looked like a piece of art—in the form of a jigsaw puzzle that I had to figure out. The way you knew you had earned your stripes in the kitchen was when the executive chef finally let you make their famous dahl. Wouldn’t you know, the very first time I made it, an honest-to-goodness Indian saint had come to visit. There are rules regarding saints, and at mealtime, the first and foremost is that no one can try the dahl before she does. I must have done something right, because she tasted, smiled, and kissed me gently on the forehead. I treasure that memory, and also appreciate the experience of making that dahl because it taught me that spices—which have phenomenal healing properties—can be the heart of a dish, rather than an add-on to enhance flavor. Here, the blending of spices is what really gives this dish its power, both nutritionally and on the palate.

MAKES 6 SERVINGS

2 tablespoons organic ghee or extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons black or brown mustard seeds
1 onion, diced small
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Sea salt
2 cups chopped tomatoes, or 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained and juices reserved
8 cups Magic Mineral Broth or store-bought vegetable broth
2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed well
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups loosely packed baby spinach
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Grade B maple syrup
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro or mint, for garnish

Heat the ghee in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and sauté until they begin to pop. Immediately add the onion, ginger, turmeric, ground cumin, and a pinch of salt and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the drained tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and sauté for 2 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of the broth and the reserved juice from the tomatoes to deglaze the pot, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the pot.

Cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the lentils and stir well, then add the remaining 71/2 cups broth and the cinnamon stick. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in another 1/4 teaspoon of salt and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the spinach, lime juice, and maple syrup. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Reprinted with permission from The Longevity Kitchen: Satisfying Big-Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age-Busting Power Foods Copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson, Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.