Spicy Dal

Recipes by Nancy Johnson | Wine Commentary by Gary Twining

Dal, or lentils, peas and beans, are staple ingredients in India. There are many ways to prepare Dal. This particular version is redolent with spices, and is delicious when served with buttery rice and a dollop of yogurt. I keep the heat down by adding just one small seeded jalapeno (a good substitute for Indian chili powder). If you like your food hot and spicy, add the seeds or an additional jalapeno.

While not all Indian foods are cooked with ghee, it is a rich and nutty addition to many dishes. You can purchase ghee in the international section of most grocery stores, or you can make your own by melting 2 sticks unsalted butter in a saucepan over low heat, while skimming off as much milky solids as possible. Cook until butter has turned a golden caramel color. Let cool slightly. Pour through cheesecloth into a clean jar or container, leaving the milky solids behind.

3 TBS ghee or butter, divided

1 onion, diced

1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 TBS minced ginger root

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

Salt, to taste

1 cup red lentils

2 cups water

1 can (15-oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes

Minced cilantro and sliced lime, for garnish

3 cups cooked rice, mixed with a bit of ghee or butter

Whole-milk plain Greek yogurt, for garnish

In a large saucepan, heat 2 TBS ghee or butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened. Add jalapeno, garlic and ginger and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt, stirring to coat onion mixture. Sauté 1 minute or until fragrant. Add lentils, water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30-40 minutes or until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1 TBS ghee or butter. Garnish with cilantro and sliced lime. Serve with rice and a dollop of yogurt. Serves 4.

Gary: With the heat of the jalapeno and ginger, look for a white wine with a hint of sweetness and acidity to match the intensity of flavors and quell the heat. An off-dry Gewurztraminer, Riesling or similar wine, such as Silvaner or Muller-Thurgau, a softly sweet Vouvray/Chenin Blanc, crisp, lightly-dry Verdejo or Sauvignon Blanc, or a Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris should work wonderfully.

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