Every time I want to make dal, I look at all of the other recipes online, and then I come back to Mark Bittman's. It is simple, as the name promises, and delicious. But I do miss the richness of tomato in it, and I do wish it had a bit more variety from bite to bite. Sometimes I will stir in some chopped greens, as recorded below, other times I'll add roasted cauliflower and mushrooms, or steamed chunks of potato and peas, or even steamed green beans, to give it some substance. Bittman's original recipe works best as a room-temperature dip with pita wedges, but this way, it is a hearty meal.
A variation on Mark Bittman's Simplest Dal
1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over [Other beans you can use: brown lentils, yellow split peas, split mung beans without skins] 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger 1 tablespoon minced garlic 4 cardamom pods 1 tablespoon mustard seeds 2 cloves 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper 1 serrano pepper, minced 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon tomato paste 2 cups (packed) spinach leaves, washed and roughly chopped or torn Chopped fresh cilantro leaves lemon wedges, hot sauce, and cooked rice, for serving
Combine all the ingredients except the tomato paste, spinach, and cilantro in a saucepan, add water to cover by about 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and keep cooking to the desired tenderness.
The lentils should be saucy but not soupy. Remove the cloves and maybe the cardamom pods (they're edible, though). Stir in the tomato paste and spinach and leave until the spinach is wilted Taste and adjust the seasoning, then garnish with cilantro and serve.