Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Coconut Split Pea Dahl

A few days ago I shared my discovery of Nami-Nami, an intriguing food blog written by a talented home cook in Estonia.  Upon perusing her site, the photo (and corresponding recipe) for simple coconut lentil dahl caught my attention.  It was a perfect match for two of my current food goals:  eat more legumes and spend less money on food.  As we all know, beans are an inexpensive super food.  A great source of protein and fiber and a hearty substitute for meat.  I've talked before about Mark Bittman and his quest to get people to eat less meat in favor of legumes, whole grains, vegetables and fruits. We still eat our fair share of meat in this house, but the concept really resonates with me and the benefits are simple:  better health, environmental stewardship, and money saved.

So when I saw the recipe for dahl, it struck my Bittman chord.  Problem was, my lentil supply was depleted.  Instead, I grabbed a bag of dried split peas and decided to go for it.  Like lentils, split peas require no pre-soaking and break down really well when exposed to moisture and heat.

The recipe couldn't be easier--the only hard part was waiting for it to cook down and reduce to a wonderfully creamy consistency.  If you are in search of another simple and hearty dish to add to your mealtime line up, you cannot go wrong with this recipe.  Plus, make the crispy onions for the top and you get an additional level of, uh, excitement.

So, crispy onions.  Pille (the Estonian woman) refers to them as crispy, but many of us also know them as caramelized.  Whatever you call them, I have developed an abiding fondness for this version of one of the best kitchen staples known to man. (This from a woman who detested onions until her early 30s.  But the onion and I--even raw--are becoming better and better friends in recent years).

It's too bad that I'm not very skilled at cooking them.  Despite paying close attention to the amount of oil and level of heat, invariably I end up with a bunch of onions that are caramelized and crispy, yes, but also verging on burned.  The proof is in my rather sad photo.  They still tasted terrific, but can I tell you I woke up in the middle of the night freaking out about all the carcinogens I ingested?  True story.  I told Alan how worried I was, and he said Well, it's not like you eat them every day. That made me feel a little better, but it was still hard to get back to sleep.

At any rate, I urge you to make this delicious dahl--with or without the onions.  Perhaps you are better skilled at achieving the perfectly caramelized onion.  I don't want you waking up in the middle of the night either.  At least not because of burned onions.

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