This simple lentil stew, cooked with Indian spices, uses three main ingredients that are great for your health and great for your skin: lentils, tomatoes, and spices.
Lentils are considered powerhouses of nutrition, due to their high levels of protein, fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. I consider all types of lentils to be great power carbs. They combine energy-providing carbohydrates with high levels of protein and fiber.
This means that while lentils are a great source of energy, they don't lead to rapid rises in blood sugar levels. Their protein and fiber help to stabilize blood sugar levels, which makes lentils one of the best sources of low-glycemic index carbs.
In this recipe, the lentils are combined with tomatoes and a healthy dose of spices. Black mustard seeds are one type of spice known for its powerful abilities. The mustard seed is derived from the mustard plant, a type of cruciferous plant. This plant family, which also contains broccoli and Brussels sprouts, is known for its high levels of phytonutrients, including compounds that in the laboratory have demonstrated anti-cancer properties.
Cumin seeds and tomatoes are also known for providing powerful antioxidant abilities.
Dried lentils are cheap, they last for many months in the pantry, and they're a great example of a whole, unprocessed food that's cheap and easy to store. Why, then, aren't more people incorporating lentils into their family's meals?
My guess is just unfamiliarity. If you've never cooked with lentils, they can seem intimidating. Once you start, though, you realize that they're simple to cook. If you can cook pasta, you can cook lentils.
u prefer Italian flavors, try lentil soup, made with French green lentils. You can also use cooked lentils as an ingredient in many throw-together meals. If you cook lentils on their own, they keep in the fridge well. You can toss cooked lentils onto salads, use them in vegetable burgers, or mix them in with rice or couscous.
I grew up with dhal, a seasoned lentil stew. Dal or dhal [both spellings have been used, and are pronounced dhall] is a dish that's commonly eaten in Indian households, and often served with rice. It can be made with different types of lentils.
For this recipe, I've used red lentils, which are easy to cook on the stovetop. You can find red lentils in larger grocery stores or in ethnic grocery stores. (I bought mine at Whole Foods). For this particular dhal recipe, I've added tomatoes and spices, which boost both the flavor and the nutrient profile of this recipe.
Red Lentil Dhal
The Basics: Can you cook pasta? Then you can cook lentils. Just boil water and red lentils for 20 minutes. To make this seasoned lentil stew, add some spices.
1 cup split red lentils [uncooked]
3 cups water
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt [or to taste]
1. Add lentils, water, tomatoes, and turmeric to saucepan
2. Bring to boil, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes
3. Add salt and stir
4. When lentils are fully cooked, may add tarqa for extra flavor (see below)
TARQA (aka "seasoning")
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 dried red chili, broke into large pieces
5-8 fresh curry leaves
1. Place oil, cumin seeds, and mustard seeds into skillet
2. Heat on medium-high
3. Stir occasionally until mustard seeds start to "pop", usually about 2-3 minutes. You'll need to watch closely, because the spices can burn quickly.
4. Add chili and curry leaves and stir for 1-2 minutes
5. Add to dhal
Dr. Rajani Katta is the author of Glow: The Dermatologist's Guide to a Whole Foods Younger Skin Diet. To receive future updates on preventive dermatology and the role of diet, sign up here.