By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff
The word dal (also spelled daal or dahl) comes from the Sanskrit phrase “to split” and refers to a soup-like preparation of split peas, beans or lentils, which are staples in Indian cuisine. The practice of milling beans to split them must have been invented by a culinary wizard, as split peas or beans are quicker to cook and easier to digest than whole ones.
The consistency of a dal varies according to its intended use. A thinner dal may be served as a first course, and a thicker more substantial dal, such as this one can be served as an entrée or a meal in itself. This dal chowder recipe was inspired by a co-worker who had dental surgery and asked me to prepare her a soft, nourishing soup at work. I invented this recipe, at the co-op, with minimal cooking facilities, limited time, and ingredients, including a leftover salsa from a previous day. This has become my favorite quick soup!
For Dal Chowder
4 cups water
1 cup red lentils, thoroughly rinsed with hot water and drained
1 tablespoon oil
1½ cup cooked tomato salsa (use the recipe below or any store-bought salsa)
1 tablespoon ginger root, finely chopped
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt to taste
For Mexican Tomato Salsa Roja (cooked)
1 pound of fresh red tomatoes
½ – 1 chopped jalapeño or serrano pepper, seeded and deveined
1 – 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped
½ cup onion, chopped
2 – 3 tablespoons water
1 – 2 tablespoons corn or safflower oil
1 teaspoon or more salt to taste
First prepare the cooked salsa. If you have a store-bought or homemade salsa in the refrigerator, that will do too. To prepare the salsa, place the tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until their skins split. Transfer them to a bowl of cold water, peel them after they cool and cut them into chunks. Place the tomato chunks, peppers, cilantro, onion and water into a jar of a food processor and blend the mixture into a coarse puree. Next, heat 1 to 2 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and add the tomato puree mixture. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the sauce becomes somewhat thick. Add the salt to your taste. You will only need 1½ cup of salsa for this soup recipe. The remainder portion can be refrigerated for a future use.
To make the soup, bring the water to a boil in a pot and add the rinsed lentils. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Then whisk the lentils to break them down.
In a separate pan, heat a tablespoon of oil. Add the ginger and stir-fry for a minute. Next, add 1½ cup of the salsa and corn kernels to the pan and sautee for 2 minutes. Add this mixture to the pot of lentils. Simmer the soup for 5 -7 minutes. Add lemon juice and additional salt, if needed. Serve hot with rice, tortillas or bread.
NOTE: I like this soup with some texture. For very soft soup, puree the dal in a processor for 2 minutes. Serve hot.
Makes four to six servings.
This recipe was modified from Shanta’s cook book “Cooking Together: A Vegetarian Co-op Cookbook” Copyright © 2017 by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff.
Shanta is a Sunset District resident and the author of “Cooking Together” and “Flavors of India,” both available at Other Avenues Food Store on 3930 Judah Street. Shanta writes recipes and articles on food and nutrition. She also teaches vegetarian and vegan cooking classes and shares recipes via videos via youtube.
Categories: Cooking Together